Journey for Pure Life

That we may be overwhelmed by the wonder and beauty of it all.

Page 3 of 5

Haywood and Jackson Counties

#2 Haywood County and #3 Jackson County

Please read the very first 100 NC Counties post for background info on our quest here.

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As I drove away from my house and headed west for our mini mountain vacation, I seriously thought, “Oh Lord, what have I gotten myself into?” I was actually already exhausted from the full day of packing I had just spent. At one point my husband, who wasn’t joining us on the trip, said, “It’s going to take you all day to pack?” after I hesitated on something he asked me to do. Oh, if he only knew. Yes, it did indeed take the entire day! Plus, my littlest has been…well, a challenge…and we have mostly held off on traveling with him, or going to restaurants, or doing things in general.  At that point it crossed my mind that our trip may be more work than fun.

After I picked my grandma up on our way out of town I never thought that again, not even once. It turned out to be a busy trip, but an energizing busy. A new-discoveries-are-being-made-everyday-so-this-is-awesome kind of trip.

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When I got the idea to visit North Carolina’s 100 counties I thought, “How am I ever going to do that? We never go to the mountains.” Barely any time after that thought the way was provided. I received a text from fellow homeschool mom, photographer, artist, Classical Conversations tutor, and friend, Rachel Howard, asking if I wanted to join them near Asheville at the end of May. I never say no to such a question if I can help it, so I was in.

Cabin

We stayed in cabin #7 at Pride RV Resort in Waynesville, Haywood County. I expected bare bones. We had stayed in the Outer Banks before in cabins that were bare bones (no sink, no stove, certainly no bathroom), and also more expensive. This cabin was not that. It had a bathroom, kitchenette, even décor on the walls. Small but comfortable, with plenty of space for all the groceries I brought in. Well-worth the $65 a night. But better than the inside was the fishing pond just feet from our screened-in front porch. At 8 o’clock that first night I was out buying fishing poles because we hadn’t thought to bring ours and the kids were dying to fish. After that they spent hours at the pond’s edge, catching fish and throwing them back. And I spent about half that time untangling fishing line, and cutting it out of the nearby trees.

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The Howards showed up after dark that first night. I parked my car in the middle of the gravel road and shone my headlights into their spot so they could see while they hooked up their RV for the very first time. As I sat there and watched (I could be no other help!) I only wished I could have been equally as large a blessing as Rachel and her family had been to me these last two years.

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I remember the day I met Rachel. It was 2012 and it was both of our first year as a part of Classical Conversations (CC, a homeschool group and classical curriculum), and her first weeks as a resident of the Crystal Coast. She had just moved back from Japan. We were at a CC practicum and she was easy to talk to. She had two boys, and my oldest was sandwiched in between their ages. So we kept on talking.

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Sometimes, without realizing it, people we believe to be in our lives for convenience’ sake, turn out to be there for so much more. I happen to speak the “words of affirmation” love language. (If you’re unfamiliar with those terms read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages.) I believe that if people are important to you, you should let them know. Life is too short to do otherwise. I know the Howards may not be people of mushy-gushy words, but they chose me as their friend, and I am.

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I could not talk about Haywood County without them in it. In fact, we did less actual activities than I had intended in these two counties(I carry a three-ring binder packed with historical information and maps and places to visit, don’t you?), and more enjoying the people and surroundings. This was a goodbye trip, you see. The Howards had lived 10 or so minutes from us but it had been two years and now they had to move on. They were military, and orders had been sent. The Howards had bought an RV and were traveling across country to California, after which they would be LIVING in said RV for six months….or six to eight…now I hear it’s eight to ten. Apparently military time is a bit like Costa Rica time. After that, it was Japan again. Being a younger couple in our area, we are mistaken for a military family all the time. We aren’t, and we certainly aren’t accustomed to the goodbyes.

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What we did see of Haywood and Jackson counties was beautiful. We saw tree farms on the side of sloping mountains. Wood carvers in the midst of their work.  As we made our way along the winding mountain road between Maggie Valley and Cherokee on our way to Soco Falls we learned from my grandma how moonshine is made and what it’s made in, and then happened to come upon one such “still” (which I thought was “steel” because of her thick Greene County twang until I googled) in an adorable roadside store. Should you ever find yourself in this spot on HWY 19 and you see signs for Frog Jam and Moonshine Jelly, stop there. A cute little man may turn on Buck the Deer, which he fixed up himself, for the kids while you pick out fresh produce, jams and ciders, admire the hundreds of antiques lining every inch of the store’s walls, and find out where you may be able to pick up your own blue spruce.

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There were friendly people at every single place we stopped. Even my Ingles (pronounced Ingalls) grocery store clerks were smiling and laughing, in no hurry and chatting away. No one behind me seemed to mind. Are all mountain people really this nice or did we just catch everyone on a great day? Rachel Howard fit right in there for the entire 36 hours she was there.

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Over the past two years, Rachel had given me countless photography tips, sharing any and all of her knowledge with someone who bought a camera and a fancy lens with very little background info on what to do with them. I know this would have been a frustrating task to many other skilled photogs. She gave my oldest incredible art lessons which he LOVED and I can never thank her for enough, and that we may never find an equal to. She included me at times when I probably wouldn’t have typically been included. She was giving and unselfish and almost always up for whatever anyone suggested (my kinda gal!). Most importantly, she taught me about the kind of mom I want to be. The kind who teaches her children to be polite and respectful at all times, much like those amazing moms of decades past. The kind who teaches them to look people of all ages in the eye and communicate clearly to them. The kind who asks questions of her children and teaches them to be inquisitive, and who patiently and thoroughly gives or finds answers. The kind who realizes she has a small window of opportunity to instill some character and integrity into the world’s next generation. The kind who has her own dreams and desires, but knows that her first calling, in this moment, is mom. And she gives 100% everyday in order to live up to that calling. Jim Elliot, missionary to Ecuador, once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” She does just that every single day. She is the kind of mom who has high standards for her children, and never lets the world shake those down.

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So I’ll always remember Haywood County with them in it, and how they immediately made friends with the park owner and manager and exchanged email addresses with the retired couple in the RV next door after ONE night because they are just those type of people. They’re the kind who remember a name the first time it’s said, and your cat’s name even when you don’t. They’re the kind who stop what they’re doing to say hello when everyone else is too “busy” to acknowledge you. They’re Marys in a Martha world, if you will. They’re the kind of people I strive to be more like everyday.

I’ll always remember that I drove away from this mountain trip a tiny bit sad, but mostly inspired and with a full heart. Great beauty tends to do that to a soul.

 

Until we meet again,

PURA VIDA

100 NC Counties: The Quest

     A memory came to me recently of something I must have said over 20 years ago. I was a little girl, and one day I turned to someone I loved and said, “When I grow up, I want to be an explorer.”

“I think everything’s already been found,” he said, shutting me down right there. What he and I both failed to realize at the time is that those places and people that had already been discovered or “found,” hadn’t been explored by me.

A year or so ago I had been really praying about the direction God wanted me to take. I should be “doing” something “big” and “successful” with my life after all, right? It isn’t as often that I feel I hear from God now (who can hear anything with all these kids around all the time?) but I feel like I clearly heard Him say two things.

1. Focus in. Focus on my family, my children, my husband. Focus in. Not out at the world and things I think I should be doing to be “somebody.”

2. Enjoy. Enjoy the beauty of creation and all that has been given to me. God created this amazingly gorgeous world for us and so often I get distracted by what MAN has created that I forget to relax and take it all in and stop doing and simply enjoy it.

That memory came to me around the time of my 30th birthday, and it has helped me begin to understand myself and my tendencies, to know that they are deep-rooted, to peacefully know that God made me just as He did for some purpose that I usually don’t see, that He put some desires in me that haven’t changed for 20+ years.

I get excited by new and different things, people and places. I get bored with the familiar. I thrive in the sunshine and outdoors. I am passionate when learning new things and gaining new skills. I lack passion when I’m not. My decision to homeschool was made in a foreign country and with the motivation that we could go and come as we please. I live on whims and when I get an idea in my head there’s usually no stopping my determination until the thing gets done. I, of all people, know these traits can work in favor of good OR evil, and have done both countless times. But I am what God made me and if I let HIS creativity flow, there’s no limit to the beauty that will result.

There’s another “explorer” I know of, Chris Guillebeau, who wrote The Art of Non-Conformity, among other things. I read his book and then watched through his blog as he completed his goal of visiting EVERY country in the world. All 193 of them! Of course I thought, “I am totally doing that!” But then I remembered my three kids…and our local business…so, scratch that. Besides, that was HIS thing. But the inspiration stuck.

Then, last summer we visited some friends in Florida. While it was lovely to see them it was a long and hard trip with three children, one of whom still wasn’t (and still isn’t!!) sleeping through the night, by myself. After some challenges on the long drive back home to NC, I had never been so happy to see Carolina pines in all my life. I had always wanted to drive AWAY from my home state, never towards. But God had been working behind the scenes to give me fresh eyes with which to see my home. Furthermore, over the past year I had been digging into my family history only to find some rich and affirming information about my family line and where they all came from…and where I come from. It may have taken 30 years but suddenly NC had captured my heart in a way it never had.

With American history coming up on the homeschool agenda for the 2014-2015 Classical Conversations year, I realized what my new practical, completely attainable goal for my family would be (that’s another thing, I like to have a goal and a vision at all times!):

     We will visit all 100 counties of North Carolina!

Obviously, we have already been to many. We will start at the beginning, with fresh eyes, and a focus on history, culture and recreation as much as possible, and thoroughly enjoy all that our state has to offer to us as locals, as visitors and as homeschoolers. We won’t be thorough, of course, but will highlight what is special for our family during a particular visit. Tag along if you like, and please, throw out suggestions if you have stops in mind that absolutely shouldn’t be missed!

Keep reading to hear about COUNTY #1: Swain County, and our new favorite NC spot within it.

The town of Cherokee is technically located in both Swain and Jackson counties, as is the reservation. For my purposes, this post will only be on Swain County.

Indian Dance in Cherokee

Cherokee was a hopping little town while we were there during Memorial Day weekend. We saw Native American dances, we danced Native American dances. We met a guy in the KNIVES and LEATHER store that Carver had to go in who showed us an old New Testament written entirely in the Cherokee language. He taught us how to say Cherokee in the native language. I assumed he was a native but, “no, I just have a deep appreciation.”

Gem Mining

We went gem mining on the main strip in Cherokee, and it proved quite educational and informative. The kids spent hours in creeks afterward looking for similar stones and gems. Carver came home and, at the suggestion of some other homeschool moms, immediately made himself an organized rock collection in a tackle box. Rock-savvy I am not, but we are learning.

Mingo Falls

From the town center we then headed 10 or 15 minutes northwest to Mingo Falls. At 120 feet tall, I gasped when I saw it. Located at the end of a dirt road and up a steep staircase/trail, it was my first waterfall. Ever. And it was perfect. Absolutely stunning and, as everyone on the way up told us, “worth the climb!” I think even my grandma, who had to stop and rest a few times, would probably agree. There’s a fun little trail off the main trail. It’s a bit sketchy and I ended up scaling the space between a mountain rock and a tree to reach the top because we thought the kids had gone through there. They hadn’t gone through there. They were waiting patiently on level ground at the bottom. Of course.

I hadn’t thought to change my lens at the bottom, so I couldn’t even attempt to capture its entirety in a frame. Unless I climbed back down and back up again with two kids and a toddler, which I wasn’t. Just go there if you ever have the chance. Go there first.

And then, we came to the best place of all. The simple flyer had said “Trout Farm, No License, No Limit.” It sounded great for us beginners but I hesitated a little because I wasn’t sure of the quality of the place. Located down a looooooooooong dirt mountain road just outside of Bryson City, you are met at its entrance with quaint cabins on a large property with a well-stocked rainbow trout pond. When we came through to the farm it was even more glorious because we had just come back DOWN the mountain after taking a wrong turn. The signs said all the way in, “Stay to the right” and “follow the creek.” Well, eventually the brush gets so thick you can’t see the creek. Long story short, I took a left when I should have STAYED BY THE FRICKIN’ CREEK and was in full panic mode trying to get my minivan up steep, pot-holed, Costa Rica-like (I was having flashbacks) mountain roads. I can barely breathe just writing about it. So, today’s lesson should you ever visit Cooper Creek Trout Farm, never go even slightly left!

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The staff were super helpful, on the phone as I was freaking out, and when we arrived. They helped the kids fish every step of the way. I was able to take pictures and take care of my littlest one. They had everything we needed, fishing poles, bait (worms), everything. $2.00 per person to fish, $4.50 per pound, you must keep what you catch (rainbow trout don’t have scales as other fish do and will die after handled), $1.00 extra for cleaning. I realized quickly that we could easily have spent several hundred dollars that afternoon. Fish were on the hook almost as soon as the line was cast. The kids were ecstatic. (I had to get a fishing license almost as soon as we got back home.)

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The owner spoke with me for a few minutes as I was admiring the farmhouse on the property. Built in the 1860s, he is doing the necessary upgrades to make sure it and its original stone chimney (unseen in the photo below) remains standing.

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There is also about a 1.5 mile trail leading to falls on this property. We weren’t able to get to it this time, but hopefully on our next trip. We’ll have to start training grandma now.

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We were even able to see fish eggs as the trout were being cleaned. Yum.

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When I asked the kids what their favorite part of our trip was, Cooper Creek Trout Farm was their answer. The property was beautiful and the staff were awesome. They were friendly, helpful, and they made it possible for my 6 and 8-year-olds to bring home dinner that night, and for many nights in the future. We will certainly stop in again.

I called my husband at one point, who was surfing in Hatteras while we were fishing in the mountains. “I feel like I’ve had a mini-vacation in another country,” he said, refreshed and stoked on his trip. I felt exactly the same way. North Carolina, you are pretty good to us after all.

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Thanks for reading and please share your favorite NC spots with us!

PURA VIDA!

A Treehugger’s Manifesto

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From my back porch I can see my two oldest kids playing in the thin strip of pine trees between our house and our neighbor’s house. Depending on the season, I can almost be fooled. When the leafy vines that grow wild grapes are full and green it can seem as though there are no neighbors on the other side, quiet as they are. But when the leaves have all fallen to the ground, the vines hang bare and the few evergreens are young and small, I am able to see right through the line of trees to the backyard on the other side. The house that stands with it is just 30 feet from my own.

This particular row of trees runs from about the midline of our front yard to the very end of our backyard, where it meets the side yard of the neighbors behind us. It is from this small piece of “wilderness” that we hang fruit for the birds and many squirrels that visit our yard, where we collect various leaves for rubbings and leaf creature creations, where we lay to rest a dry Christmas tree, and where I gather red holly berries for the natural garland I decorate my front doorway with each holiday season. It is where my kids now play and explore and discover, at my encouragement, the natural world that is left for them. Just last night, as I look over my daughter in her pretty dress for a year-end ceremony, I see the long red scratch down her arm and ask where it came from. “A thorn,” she replies. I know it is from her most recent trek in our tiny woods, and I smile.

This is normal and good and healthy to me. This decorating with the beauty provided to us and checking for ticks at the end of a warm day. Even my husband has hesitated at the kids’ recent fascination with the woods. “No, let them go,” I say, because the world before me is becoming something that is not so normal and good and healthy, at least not to my eyes. It seems likely that there may come a day when there are no woods left for them to go and enjoy, or worse, a day when they don’t want to.

Yesterday evening I sat on my front porch and, horrified, watched a tall pine fall to the ground. I heard the crackling as the excavator continued to clear the lot down our road. My husband jokes that I heard an Indian cry. My heart broke for the life that had been growing, for the Earth that had grown it, for the countless little lives that had made their home in that lot, and for the people who consider our neighborhood a beautiful one…because when the landscape is taken away, what beauty will be left?

This is my mini-manifesto to say that I will never be happy to see trees go down and a house go up. I will continue to plant and plant and plant, even on my small piece of earth. I will continue to see Pocahontas and Laura Ingalls Wilder as heroines, those who had the skills and means to live off of the land. I will continue to look at my garden, overflowing with peppers, potatoes, corn and tomatoes in the summer months, as a miracle, that the natural world we live in could offer us so much if only we sacrifice a little for it.  I will continue to gaze at the beautiful white-capped Andes, or reach the top of a mountain in Colorado just in time to see the sun rise over the trees, or be awakened to the sound of Costa Rican birds and howler monkeys, or meet a penguin after sleeping on the sand of a cold Chilean beach, or catch my breath at the shocking beauty of the sloping landscape of Barbados from a surfboard, or kayak across the quiet and calm Bogue Sound just before a sunrise rain, or walk deep into the fields of Greene County where all that is left to see is cotton and trees, or stand in awe at stars brighter than I have ever seen them before from the Jamaican countryside…and I will know that it is in these places that I have felt closer to God than ever before. And if I am hearing Him correctly He is telling me simply, enjoy. Enjoy all of this now, for it is the very magnificence of Who He is. And it is slowly being taken away.

“When we are content with who we are, we treat other life forms with compassion and kindness.” (SACRED PLANET, 2005)

(The photo above was taken as another once-wooded lot in our dear neighborhood was being cleared. Others are being marked for clearing.)

Me, Two Chickens, Three Kids

This is who I informed my grandma (“Ma”) would be coming to Snow Hill over the weekend. And that, obviously, I would need HELP! Juggling a camera, a baby and a chicken is no easy task, my friends.

 

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Around Easter I had been looking for a 4-H club to get involved in. After getting the run-around from local groups I came across some new clubs in Greene County (the small-town, farming community where I was born). They were offering a project called Greene Chicks, in which a child would receive two baby chickens, learn to take care of them, and show them several months later at the 4-H Rabbit and Poultry Show held during the Sweet Potato Festival in Snow Hill, NC. Perfect!

 

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I had seriously been wanting to add chickens to the homestead for some time. Only two problems.

1. We aren’t allowed. Nasty HOA and everything.

2. We couldn’t tell if the chicks were male or female. Roosters or hens.

Solutions to said problems?

1. Did it anyway.

2. Called my friend and next-door neighbor, Norma, who knew exactly how to “fix” our little problem when one chick loudly went through some changes.

 

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Above is said chick who soon became a rooster. We couldn’t exactly tell because he still looked just like the other Cornish/Buff Orphington we had picked up. But I was pretty sure he was the source of all the noise. And I was settled on what his fate would be. Smile Any guesses?

 

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Yes, I wanted to cook him up. It may sound horrible, but think about it. Most of us eat meat several times a day, and those animals are raised (and killed) much less humanely than mine was. Plus, he was raised and fed completely naturally. Perhaps out of sight is out of mind but it doesn’t change the truth of what goes on to most animals.

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Norma, who grew up on a farm, came bearing her knife and pot. She did the actual deed and then a very pregnant me helped to pull the feathers off. All the children watched. It was actually a second for my children. But what a learning experience! And quite yum, when all was said and done! Oh yes, and we were happy to learn that this chicken was the suspected rooster. Whew. Apparently the male parts of a rooster are found inside the bird.

 

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After living with Mike, Yerlin and Michelle on their butterfly farm in Costa Rica one summer and having fresh eggs every single day, I was dying for them myself. Above is Carver holding our very FIRST egg! Exciting times we live in. Winking smile

 

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Emma showed her hen, all grown up now and whom she named Emily, in a laid-back setting to an NC Cooperative Extension’s Livestock Agent. This was a first poultry show for many other young children that day as well so all was kept low-key.

 

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Carver showed off a feisty Madeline the Hen. This one likes to peck.

This is one adventure that wasn’t exactly on the bucket list (never thought we would actually show a chicken), but it’s been great. I adore hearing my grandparents talk about farm life when they were young. I love getting back to basics and sharing in a tiny piece of that.  A big thanks to Emily Herring and Eve Honeycutt of Greene County 4-H and NC Cooperative Extension for allowing us the opportunity. For more information on involvement with Greene County 4-H clubs, visit http://greene.ces.ncsu.edu/get-involved-in-4-h/.

PURA VIDA

Hangin’ With the Cicadas

If you were ever curious to know what a cicada looks like while molting or just after, here it is. After finding dozens of shells on our trees we happened to come across one little guy in the act.

 

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To tell you the truth, until this year I never even knew what a cicada was or that it was the little creature that left those shells behind. All I know is that during my awesome preschool years we would find those little brown shells and walk around the playground with them stuck to our shirts. Yeah, I don’t do that anymore. Ok, I did show the kids once. They didn’t get it. I wonder if anyone else from preschool remembers doing this…

 

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It was a pretty cool process to watch as Carver held the little bugger. When it slowly came out it looked a little funky because its wings were kind of folded up. It eventually unfurled them to reveal light green, super fragile wings. We made sure not to touch them and set him under a nearby bush at that point. Be free, little Cicada.

 

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Carver shared these pictures with his group at Classical Conversations a few weeks ago. We hope you and your children can enjoy them as well!

 

PURA VIDA

Sunday at the Shore

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I adore a day when no one has to be anywhere and we can stay in our jammies with messy hair all day long if we want to. I mean I really, really do. Don’t you? After a couple hours of waking up slow and lounging around I decided to take the kids for a walk down to the water. It felt so amazing out that we decided to pass the first water access and head to the second. Mama needed some calorie burn, anyway.

 

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This super quiet spot at the end of our neighborhood is the perfect place to unwind, explore and enjoy a little sunshine after a busy week of lessons, extracurriculars, and mounting exhaustion from too little sleep. Seriously, I need my 8+ hours.

 

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Rief took a lovely little nap while Carver and Emma searched for any critters they could find.

 

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Emma built a clam shell creation on our small piece of shore, which she called her clam shell “firework.”

 

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Carver found some live creatures of some sort that he said we could take home and eat. Luckily, we left them on the dock.

 

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The kids found about one thousand hermit crabs and snails, and showed me every single one.

 

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From where we were standing we could see Jones Island, a small island in the middle of the White Oak River used occasionally for research and preservation activities. I decided then and there that Carver and I would kayak over this coming week and do our schoolwork there…until I remembered that I have a two-month old. Dang.

Ah well, we may just have to spend every Sunday at the shore.

PURA VIDA!

My Little Snuggle Bug

 

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Rief arrived about seven weeks ago now and was my biggest labor of love yet. In addition to being informed of his cleft lip during pregnancy, and a little concern about low fluids during the end of it, there were labor room difficulties that I certainly didn’t foresee. Say, “Can you imagine what women back in the day had to go through without epidurals?” enough times and you might just get the opportunity to have a dud of an epidural and experience the whole darn thing for yourself! (Ask me about the Ring of Fire. I know.)

So when the cute little thing finally made it out, I felt like, together, we had conquered the world. I mean, we had really done something! Some of you will know what I mean.

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Needless to say, there has been so much love in our house since then that I can hardly stand it. Many have asked me how Rief is and I wanted to collectively let you know and shout my thanks from the rooftop of my blog because he is PERFECT. I mean, of course he has the cleft lip. But in my eyes, he just looks like Rief. Sweet, snuggly, adorable baby Rief. My hubby would also add spoiled in with that description. I don’t care. He’s beautiful and deserves it if he is!

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The cleft is minor in comparison to many cases. The doctors at UNC called it an incomplete cleft, for it doesn’t go very far up or wide. There may possibly be dental work in his future due to an extra tooth, but we won’t know until later. And who doesn’t need dental work anyway?

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He is set to have surgery on the lip on October 24. And until that time I will be looking up to those brave and strong moms who have also had to hand over their teeny child to a team of doctors. Sad smile And know that it WILL be okay! Smile

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All that being said, Rief is completely healthy and growing quickly! My worry about how he would eat is now a total nonissue. He weighed 7 pounds 6 ounces at birth. The child is already at 12 pounds now and in three-month clothes! He is smiling and coo-ing and so precious.

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Every single day I think of those I know going through similar issues or more involved ones than we are. You all know who you are and you inspire me continually. Not long ago I told someone close to me that we ALL go through horrible, terrible things. Or just plain difficult and unexpected things. I now believe that how we handle those things determine whether they remain horrible and terrible or become an extraordinary blessing to us and those around us. If played right, they serve to remind us that all those little things we used to worry about…well, perhaps they weren’t so much to worry about after all.

 

PURA VIDA

Baby #3 Update

“There are no accidents, no mistakes, and everything is still on schedule.” –                                                              -C. H. Spurgeon

In two days, on Wednesday the 11th, we will drive up to Chapel Hill for what should be our final prenatal doctor visit. My original due date was the 24th, but last Thursday they told us to pack our things and plan on staying this time.

After experiencing the care and talking with lactation consultants and others at Carteret General in Morehead City, Pitt Memorial in Greenville (now Vidant Medical Center), and the UNC Women’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, we decided to continue care and deliver at UNC due to the baby’s birth defect. Although I prayed and thought A LOT about it, I still wasn’t sure if I was overdoing it and UNC was unnecessary. Now, I’m absolutely sure we are at the right place. When the risks go up for my baby, there’s nothing more reassuring than being where the education, the technology, the equipment, the specialists and the caring doctors are.

Originally they began checking my fluids (amniotic fluid) to see if they thought the baby did have a cleft palate or not. If there was too much fluid it was likely he did, as he wouldn’t be able to take it in as well. That wasn’t an issue. (Yay!)

However, three weeks ago they let me know that my fluids were looking low. Could just be dehydration, they said, and I assumed the same after helping with a couple of camps during those weeks. No big deal. Nothing to worry about.

Last Thursday we returned and my fluids were checked again. They had dropped from 7.3 to 5.6, 5 being the low point and time to be concerned. Awesome. Both doctors I saw that day said that at this point it wasn’t a case of dehydration, but perhaps my placenta giving out…or who knows, really. I don’t. In any case, I asked what “low fluids” meant in terms of me and the baby. Higher risk of a stillbirth.

Some would say they shouldn’t have told me that. But I asked. And I would rather know the risks, take seriously what needs to be taken seriously, and do all I can to ensure that does NOT happen. Otherwise, I usually am going to assume that doctors are just telling me to come in for unnecessary appointments when everything is really fine. And it could totally be fine. But I am praying more than ever….just in case. Smile And drinking my 2 1/2 Liters of water everyday. And counting baby kicks for two hours. And planning to take my penicillin during labor because, apparently, I also tested positive for Group B strep this pregnancy (which is no big deal, I have been assured by other moms and doctors).

My pregnancies with Carver and Emma were perfect. Not one tiny thing went wrong with them from start to finish that was cause for worry. And I never considered the possibility that anything could go wrong. Does anyone remember that feeling of being young and invincible? Somewhere along the way my outlook has drastically changed. I see things that do go wrong for people, or at least, not the way we would want them to go. What makes me immune to that? Nothing. Nothing at all.

So what’s a girl to do? For starters, be thankful. I feel more thankful than ever before in my life. Thankful for all that I have been given that I don’t feel I always deserve. For my beautiful and loving kids, who love no matter what. Who I can wake up to every single day and snuggle with and play with and learn with. For their joy and innocence. For the simple fact that I can have children, even with the difficulties, because so many desire to and can’t. For a husband who doesn’t give up on me, even when I would give up on myself. Who doesn’t leave me, and most likely never will. Who puts up with all that I hand him. For Baby #3. He can come out with two healthy heads at this point and I would be grateful. Smile For family and friends who truly care and take the time and put in the work to understand and be there. How special and rare that is. Life is simply far too short to NOT be thankful for all of those things.

And second, I pray. For whatever good or bad happens now or in the future, that I will handle it with wisdom, love, peace, maturity and dignity for the sake of my family. I fail a lot, and that’s why I pray. Oprah calls it “mulling things over” when she prays. The Secret (remember that book?) would probably call it sending positive thoughts into the atmosphere. Whatever you call it, I believe in it. If for no other reason than for reassurance, peace of mind, and gaining perspective.

Thank you all again for the kind words. Hopefully after Wednesday we will be sharing the good news of our new arrival with each of you! And hoping that each of you will focus on the amazing in your life in the midst of bad. It’s there somewhere. Smile

 

A Week-Long Quest to Find Local Fun For Free! (or almost): Day 2

Day Two:  Fort Macon

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Fort Macon, which took 9.2 million bricks and eight years to construct, was used to fight against pirate attacks, during the Civil War and World War II, as a prison, and is now a state park located at the eastern tip of Bogue Banks.

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I happen to love historical houses and buildings, so to walk across hundreds of years old pine wood and through original archways and thick wooden doors gets me excited. You would think that maybe the kids wouldn’t be quite as excited. Yet, they were! Really! They loved exploring the little nooks and crannies of the fort, some of them super creepy. They loved climbing in one former cannon hole and out another. They loved looking out from the very top of the fort, to where they could see Beaufort Inlet, the ocean, and Shackleford Banks, where their daddy was surfing at that very moment. They especially loved the cannons, climbing on them and pretending they were firing red hot cannonballs at enemy ships.

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There are tours held at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. We did listen in on about the first ten minutes of a tour, until the kids were ready to explore themselves. I listened intently while I could, knowing I would later hear questions about the very same information we were being given. Now I was able to tell them that, no, those aren’t doggie doors but wicket doors. They were the only way a soldier could get out of the fort at night once the heavy wooden ones were locked with an enormous key. And no, those aren’t tiny windows but holes where soldiers would stick out their muskets and fire against the enemy. Carver loves anything to do with guns and weapons. (Is this all boys?)

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There is now a visitor’s center at the fort, including a small museum area and gift shop. There is no cost to visit the fort, and there are even frequent musket demonstrations, cannon firings and ranger-led hikes.

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Just up the road is a huge beach access, bath house and picnic tables. We brought our packed lunches to the tables before heading the half hour back home.

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As a kid I had visited the Fort plenty of times, but certainly hadn’t been in years. I felt just a tad touristy, and yet my heart is happy when my kids give me the chance to experience something like it’s the first time. These days my body basically feels like it would like to stay on the couch and do nothing, but their fresh excitement and constant joy makes any effort I give so worth it. No couch-lying can can give me what they do in those moments.

For information on this and other parks, please visit www.ncparks.gov.

 

 

A Week-Long Quest to Find Local Fun for Free! (or almost): Day 1

After two weeks of busy, busy, busy at camps (that I signed up to help with at 8 months pregnant in the middle of summer for some reason), we decided to take it a bit easier and have fun at our own pace. We are spending plenty of time at home with inexpensive, local thrills thrown in. Call it Mama’s Day Camp, if you will. Particularly since the baby will be here in four weeks or less, I feel the need for fun times now. Once #3 arrives, those times may be put on hold for several weeks!

All this week the kids and I will look for a few hours of fun each day out in the community, and we will share our adventures with you! Our goal is little to no cost.

DAY 1:  Cedar Point Trail

 

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On Monday we hit the spot where we recently went camping, Cedar Point Trail in the Croatan Forest, not far off of HWY 58. This time, we knew just what to bring! Water shoes, bottled water, snacks, and bug spray are a definite plus if you plan to spend any time on the trail or at the water’s edge. Only one viewpoint has a decent place for the kids to play and chase the thousands of fiddler crabs that live there, but there are also shells and larger crabs in the shallow water. Watch your step!

Also, unless you want to end up carrying a hot and tired toddler on a miles-long trail, stay to the left when you first hit the trail. NEVER, EVER go right!

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Obviously, the trail is totally free. The kids spent about two hours running along the shore trail, collecting fiddler crabs (even finding one that was as tiny as a “piece of dirt!”), swimming, and identifying poison ivy and poison oak (a recently learned skill from Boy Scout camp).

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For those with more time and energy, take the scenic long trail. Plenty of dog walkers and runners do. Or, bring some kayaks and take the ramp that’s just left of the trail. Pack a lunch and hit the picnic tables afterwards.

Sometimes the simplest trip down the road can turn into the best day. I’m currently reading Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, which states that my generation didn’t grown up in the outdoors. That may be mostly true for some of us. But I did. And I remember my outdoor times more fondly than most others. I didn’t move to Morehead City, NC and an actual neighborhood until I was about 4. Before then and during those growing-up years I spent a lot of time at my grandparents, which was out in the country, surrounded by fields and woods. I played for hours, alone, in a creek I called “Cow’s Creek.” I’m now pretty positive I was also playing in cow’s poop, but hey, what’s done is done. I’m still alive. I ran through tobacco fields. I pretended I lived in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh. I tamed kittens, fed goats and chickens and rabbits. I walked the paths and made new ones. I found places behind the usual fields and trees I had never seen before. And I had the absolute best time.

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We think our kids need more stimulation. They don’t. Monday I gave my kids a bucket in a salt marsh and set them free. Their growing minds were free to explore, become curious and creative, and gain knowledge and appreciation for the world around them.

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I still remember what it felt like to be a kid in a corn field. Free, with the natural world and endless possibilities all around you, places and creatures to explore in every direction, one-ness with something much larger than yourself, peaceful, content, full of wonder and awe.  I want my kids to know that very same feeling, and as often as possible.

 

For more information on camping and hiking at the Croatan National Forest Cedar Point Trail, please visit http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/southern/crocmp.htm.

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