Category Archives: Camping

A crazy-busy season has passed, and a regular-busy season is here!

I truly still love writing.  I’ve just been insanely busy.  My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog.  (Note:  I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post.  Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it.  Sorry-not-sorry.)  Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.

  • obscuredMy oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University.  I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned.  I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is.  I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed.  I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”.  Ethan turns 18 this month.  He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood;  it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank.  I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.”  We’re all learning.  It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable.  So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party.  And, whaddya know?  He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town.  Not purposefully;  that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting.  However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge?  GREAT!  But you left me out of it completely??  Sad face.”  LOL!
  • Grant is the second face from the right.

    Grant is the second face from the right.

    Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer.  I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me.  Grant is the opposite of Ethan;  he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university…  He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life.  A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy.  To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off.  It’s hard to get into the USAFA.  Really hard.  It’s even harder for homeschoolers.  And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person.  I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim.  However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted.  I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them.  I remember what it felt like to be blown off.  So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals.  I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes;  I wanted to assist him in every way possible.  So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official;  you need the child’s Social Security number, even!  I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly.  And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program.  I first thought of Junior ROTC…  But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms.  Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling.  He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this.  Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy.  But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago.  In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home.  Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition.  Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant.  Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition.  Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year;  his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me.  I’m totally OK with that.

  • Wes and Jeanie

    Wes and Jeanie

    My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible.  He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”.  He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened.  Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little.  He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie.  He’s in the teen youth group at church.  It just feels odd to me, still.  Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall.  None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before.  But…  I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language.  He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level.  However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong.  There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us;  I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach.  It’s a small school:  this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders.  Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day).  And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there.  This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher:  brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader….  I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject.  The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school.  My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED.  However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God.  We both feel like He’s saying, “All right.  It’s up to you.  You can give it a shot.”  I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that.  But…  It’ll do, for now.  This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.

  • Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    This past year was our busiest ever, for school.  With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me.  In other words:  the bare minimum.  I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers.  However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them.  With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls:  art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum!  It should be a wonderful year.  As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD.  All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well.  I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent.  It’s charming.  Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive.  She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s.  She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me.  It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does.  All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her.  If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday.  That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.

  • Fiala, me, Jean

    Fiala, me, Jean

    Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy.  I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child.  Seriously:  up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop.  Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means.  So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper.  It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area.  Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained.  We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it.  She just isn’t serious.  She is a joyous little bundle of… everything.  She’s still chubby and overall large for her age.  She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing.  She is bossy.  Charmingly bossy.  “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!”  She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply.  Or, “Hi!  Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her.  For unknown reasons, “Hi!  Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!”  Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!”  Then, “O’er side!!”  Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!”  We all adore Jean.

  •   This past spring just about did me in.  I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong.  Well, guess what?  We became that family in 2015.  Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend.  Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP.  Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group.  I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader.  I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well.  So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday.  I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April.  And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts.  Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so…  It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table.  When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect.  I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together.  Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work…  Lordy, I was stretched.  But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter.  I feel much freer!!
  • My other big things for the spring are:  my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision.  I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully.  I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting.  It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer.  The bed that is growing, I planted in late April.  I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures.  I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers.  I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose.  I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants.  There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants.  It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February.  But, I can’t bear to yank them.  We’ll see what happens.  My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment.  It keeps me sane.  To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.0618151352Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface.  There is much more happening in our home…  An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more.  But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.
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The best-kept secret of the Grand Canyon

I’m torn.

Have you ever visited somewhere so amazing, so wonderful that you want to share it with others, so they can experience your joy?  Then, you think, “But if I tell anyone, it’ll become overrun.”

Well, friends, I’m running that risk of beautiful-site-overpopulation and the risk of you thinking I’ve crossed the line into hyperbole to tell you about a place that is beauteous in the micro and in the macro.  I mean, things up close to wonder at and turn over in one’s hand, and sights to see that stretch beyond the horizon, where you feel like you are a part of eternity.

Part of why I find myself so willing to share is because my camera really isn’t that great, so you’ll probably look at the pics and think, “Hmm… looks nice,” but since the majestic splendor of the place is not quite captured in pixels, you just can’t understand how much you MUST visit here.  🙂

First, you enter through a little drive we called The Enchanted Forest, where the aspens and firs are dense, close to the road, and hang overhead, creating a tunnel:

The Enchanted Forest

Then, you park your truck under a huge tree:

Ethan with Grandma Detta

At the edge of the field, where the trees are, evidence of campers abound…  GOOD campers.  Campers who are appropriately in awe, and don’t wreck the place.  Campers who have not — bless God — come out to this lonely and beautiful spot to swill beer and break their glass bottles on the rocks, but campers who make a fire ring out of boulders, leave firewood for the next family who comes along, and pack out every scrap of trash.  I guess this would be due to the fact that if you come out here, it’s not to fish.  It’s not really to hike, even (though hikers tend to be tidier campers than beer-swilling fishermen).  It’s just to be gather in the sights grander than one’s eye can behold, breathing deep the breath of God.  And possibly to collect fossils.  (More on that in a bit.)

We haven’t camped there.  I must admit, I’m partial to water.  I mean, a water spigot from which one can get the essential liquid for washing dishes and dirty hands.  I’m OK with pit toilets, and I can do without a shower, but I really need water.  We’ve never camped anywhere without water, but we’re sure considering it, now.

After the truck is parked, you race to the edge of the pebble-strewn, high-altitude Indian Paintbrush colored field, and look out.  The Grand Canyon is grand.  It’s close by to this spot, and it is beyond beautiful.  But no where else did the breath catch in my throat and tears spring to my eyes.  It’s just that beautiful.

To the north, miles away and far below you, you see the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument and the Paria Canyon Wilderness.

The day was a little misty, sprinkled with showers, which made it a bit hazy (and made us appreciate our jackets).  In real life, though, the cliffs are a striking shade of deep orange-red.

To the northeast, divided from the Vermilion Cliffs by the Colorado River and Marble Canyon, lie the Echo Cliffs, almost matching the Vermilions in splendor.  Due east is actually the Grand Canyon, which makes a jog to the north, turning from the East Rim up through Marble Canyon.  Below this point — which, by the way, is called Marble Viewpoint — between you and the canyon, lies House Rock Valley and House Rock Wildlife Area.  It’s cut by only a very few dirt tracks…  Most of the scenery appears pristine clean, remote, gorgeous.

Grant is there, in the middle, dwarfed by the grandeur

That is the Grand Canyon in the background... where it's (comparatively) smaller. Martin and Audrey kneel on the right.

It’s difficult to explain Marble Viewpoint.  It just out to the north, a narrow finger of land, perhaps a couple of hundred yards wide and an eighth mile?  quarter mile? long.  Along the edges are dropoffs of a couple thousand feet, leading down from the Kaibab Plateau.

To get the scale of it, somewhat, that’s my 9-year-old son, Wesley, one arm raised, in the middle of this picture:

Here, my 11-year-old and mother-in-law venture out with an umbrella (which was quickly abandoned):

The view due east:

Of all the places we roamed in our camping trip, Marble Overlook was by far the favorite of our dog, Tally.  She ran and ran and ran, joy in her step and excitement in her eyes.

Grandma Detta, Ethan, and Tally

Run, Tally, run!

I was delighting in the flowers — penstemon and Indian paintbrush of unknown varieties…

Penstemon

Indian paintbrush and some sort of scrubby grass and all variety of small plants carpet the floor of the overlook.

When I looked down and exclaimed, “Hey!  That’s a fossil!”  Suddenly, we were all hunched over or on our knees, or sitting and sifting through pebbles.  Fossils were EVERYWHERE!

And… since were in the Kaibab National Forest, and not within the boundaries of the Grand Canyon National Park, I already knew the rules:  One may take specimens home — including minerals — for one’s own enjoyment, but may not sell them.  So, we took samples.  🙂  And you may not buy any from me.

Me 'n' my mountain man

We capped off the trip with a photo of everyone in the waning light.

If you go, enjoy it.  Keep it clean.  🙂  And take lots of pictures for me.

To find Marble Overlook:  Take Arizona 67 south from Jacob Lake.  Just south of the Kaibab Lodge and General Store, take forest road 610 east.  Continue on 610, following the signs for Marble Viewpoint.  Travel for… ten miles or so until you reach the turnoff for forest road 219, which will be on your left, leading north.  The number of the road is signed, but there is no additional sign that tells you that this is the way to Marble Viewpoint.  Continue on 219 about four miles.  Towards the end, there will be an area on the left/west that even has a sign proclaiming “Marble Viewpoint”.  DO NOT BE FOOLED.  This is not the true viewpoint.  To reach the viewpoint, continue to travel north about 1/4 mile to the north (through the above-pictured “Enchanted Forest”) until the road ends at the true Marble Viewpoint.

(By the way, for long-time readers, if this sounds familiar, I blogged about a similar adventure in June 2007, when I visited the viewpoint with my mom and children.  Unfortunately, I was swayed by the sign, and we stayed almost the entire time at the not-really-a-viewpoint, and didn’t see the actual viewpoint until it was almost dark.)

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