Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Labor Day Camping Trip to Curtis Creek

Well, we did it. We finally took the family camping.

We set off in the 2011 Sienna, two adults, three kids, one dog, and about 600 pounds of assorted gear, food, equipment, clothes, stuffed animals (yes, seriously), and a healthy sense of adventure in the left seat. The healthy sense of trepidation sat in the right seat.

Notwithstanding the typical crowds that can be expected on Labor Day weekend in the mountains of Western North Carolina, we managed to snag a drive-up campsite at the NPS' Curtis Creek Campground, just a few miles up a dirt road from the small town of Old Fort, NC. Continuing up that same dirt road about 5 miles and 3000' of elevation gain, one will pop out on the Blue Ridge Parkway at around milepost 350 or so.

We stopped off at Curtis Creek and briefly set up camp at Site Number 11, then piled back in the van with GG, who met us at the campsite. We headed up that little dirt road, winding and wending higher and higher through the tulip poplars, oaks and laurels as we watched the outside temperature gauge on the van drop from 71, to 68, to 64, to 62 (you'll lose around 3 degrees per 1000' of elevation gain). Once we hit the Parkway, we rolled west and North about 5 miles to Hwy 128, the turnoff into Mt. Mitchell State Park. You gain another 1200' or so before you reach the summit parking lot - by the time we got there, it was down to 57 degrees and alternating between sunny blue skies and misty foggy interior of passing clouds.

Mt Mitchell Overlook

We had packed a picnic lunch and feasted among the stunted pines, spruces and firs on the north side of the summit. Once sated, we loaded up and trooped off through the woods for the 1 mile walk to the summit of Mt. Craig, 6647' high and just up the ridge from Mitchell.

The last time I had passed through these woods, Anna and I had just finished the Black Mountain Crest Trail. It's hard to believe that was more than 7 years ago. The trail, though short, had a lot more up and down than I remembered. We made it mostly up Craig to a nice little rock outcrop, took a break, and then turned back. The kids were amazed to be able to see clouds passing by and around us at the same altitude. They are some good little troopers, scrambling up and down the rocks and running through the pines and ferns. They almost made it back to the parking lot before the issue of being carried ever came up.


Basically atop Mt Craig

Amidst the boreal conifers, on the trail back from Mt Craig
Upon our conquest of the balsam highlands, we returned to "Base Camp" where evening preparations began in earnest. There was a lot of "Why don't we have a . . .?" and "It's over there . . . no, not there . . ." as Doc attempted to navigate Matilda's backcountry packing routine. We got to try out our new Kelty Trail Ridge 8 tent, which slept 6 comfortably (including Dean, GG slept in her new van). Then Matilda and the kids went in search of firewood - which quickly turned into Matilda collecting firewood, while the kids and GG went rock-hopping in Curtis Creek. I went ahead and got the fire started and cut up some wood, and then turned to dinner - Hot Dogs and Mac & Cheese, with fresh-cut Canteloupe and S'mores for dessert. Yes, this was what you would call an "all-inclusive vacation."

Doc bemoaned the lack of wine in our alcohol-free campsite - surely the only drawback of this location is being locating in the "dry" McDowell County. I will concede than GG and I shared a small nip of single malt, purely for medicinal purposes. Doc can't quite stomach the heavy peat odor.


Monday morning comprised possibly the best part of the trip, waking up early and cooking breakfast in the out of doors, brewing up coffee and cocoa for my ladies. Doc and GG took Caroline out for an early morning stroll beneath the hardwoods while I put the finishing touches on the bacon and eggs and pancakes.


Monday, August 24, 2015

First day of school

Well, we now have two elementary attendants in the Shaw household. Jackson started first grade at Sternberger under the direction of Mrs Rogers and Caroline has the great fortune of being the pupil of the Great Mrs Poage (also known as Jackson's kindergarten teacher).  I thought it would be hard on Sissy, given her incredibly shy nature in unfamiliar settings.  But that girl relishes in opportunities to surprise me and I could not be more proud of how both of them have adapted to the life of a student.


We walked to school as a family on the first day.  It's 2 blocks up the street and the weather but about as perfect as it could have been.  I was the most nervous, wondering how it would go when we dropped Sis in her room.  So we opted to take Jack first and let her see how it went.  Thank goodness for our Aquarius.  He has so much of his Grandpa Bud in him.  He has never, ever, ever met a stranger.  He lights up the room with his quirky smile.  And he modeled a smooth transition perfectly. Not to be outdone, Sis stepped up to the plate. She may have been terrified on the inside but she didn't let it show. She walked right into her classroom, sat down at her desk, and kissed me goodbye.  No crying.  No fussing.  No "one more squeezie hug, Mommy!! Please!"  Just a smile and a wave and on to the next adventure.

So now there is only one left at Children's Corner Daycare.  Sam has been proud to announce to all the ladies at daycare that he is "the last Shawberry left here!"  I thought I'd be more nostalgic for our days of wrinkled knees and drool and thumb sucking.  I thought watching them go off to elementary school would be harder than this.  But, somehow, their eagerness to tug my hand down the path of life is just so much fun.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Great Day at the GSO Science Center

Well, after a hellish week of illness, late nights, meetings, other adult crap, elementary school open houses, and general end-of-the-summer craziness, we couldn't figure out where to go for lunch today. So we went to the Greensboro Science Center's The Fresh Market Cafe. A short lunch trip turned into a delightful and relaxing 3 hours cruising around the science center, checking out the new-born gibbon (Duke's little sister), the new Monkeys, the old Tigers, and a couple of copulating tortises. Just what we needed to restore a little sanity to our lives.

The floor of the lobby, by the big plate glass windows, also appears to be a great place to take pictures:


We would have taken a picture of our third child, but it took Jack a long time to poop. So he missed out.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Are You Ready For Some Futbol??

We got all the kids kitted out for soccer this fall while we were down at the beach, ransacking the Dick's Sporting Goods out on Mt Pleasant.

Of course when we got back to the condo everyone wanted to play. Sam surprised me by putting up some great defense against Jack's burgeoning dribbling skills, the post-block hand violation notwithstanding:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Aquarius of the Aquarium

On the way down to the beach this month, Jackson really got going with some coloring and ginned up this prized piece of art entitled the aquarium. featured are all of the various sorts of sea creatures that Jackson expected to find down at the beach:

Little did we know we would have such a prescient Aquarius with us in the car. we ended up finding about half of the described number of animals plus a few more that were unexpected.

In total we saw: two bucks, several stingrays, a dozen or more sand dollars, a few starfish, eight or nine hermit crabs of varying size with shells from the size of a quarter to the size of a softball, schools of fish from minnows to menhaden, a whole lot of egrets and seagulls and pelicans, and a few dead jellyfish.
Oh, and Doc is pretty sure she saw a shark in shallows, stalking her and the young 'uns.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer Camp with Nana

In between Art Camp, and Spy Camp, and Cooking on the Farm Camp, and trips to the beach and the blueberry farm, Jack has won himself an all-expenses-paid trip to Camp Sparty to hang out with Nana for a week. And boy does it look like they are having fun!

Jack even decided to show off his new-found swimming skills at the CCS pool (where one summer, many many years ago, Matilda and Bud think they won first place in the Father-Son 100m Relay).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sweet Caroline

My little girl turned five today - FIVE - holy smokes. She's a princess now, but she is going to be a queen before we know it.

We've been building up this birthday into something special, and she's been enjoying every minute of it. On Sunday she got to pick out her cupcakes, and yesterday we had a small party at school. Matilda managed to pull all that off by himself (cupcakes, plates & napkins, gift bags, emergency re-allocation of gift bags due to extra kid in the class, etc etc) since Doc was out of town attending to urgent matters of familial import. Last night, we got some cool gifts from Aunt Rae and Callie & Emma and made them into jewelry in the oven.

Today we all slept in, had breakfast together, and then Caroline and Doc played hooky all day while Sam went to school (Jack is off at Nana-Camp). First they got a check up (but no shots!), then they got their hurh did. Caroline loved every minute of the salon, especially the wash / blow dry part.

We had a great lunch date at Mad Hatter, and there was cake baking and decorating this afternoon, and cupcakes left over. GG came up for dinner and we just had a grand old time. The whole day, Caroline was just glowing, gliding around and glancing approvingly at everything that was happening. Just like all was right with the world, and everything was as she expected it to be, a perfect birthday.


It was great to have GG here - Caroline always shines from a special place when she is with either one of her grandmothers. We've got another party slated for Friday night in Sparty with Bud and Nana and Brother Jack.

Sammy played the role of the adoring little brother to the hilt, doting on Caroline and eagerly devouring at least two portions of cake. He helped Caroline open some of her gifts, but not so much as to be grabby. He managed to score a pretty sweet kiss from his big sister as compensation.

Dean Dog even got in on the action:

All in all, another fantastic princess-edition party, one more year down the road. This year has big adventures in store for Caroline: graduation from Children's Corner, starting Sternberger, turning 5, first soccer season coming up. She's really coming into her own - it will be amazing to see what joy the next year holds.

I love you, girl.

Happy Birthday Pookie Face

Dean the Dog officially turned 8 years old today. It's been quite a journey since that fateful trip down to Harker's Island to pick him up one October day. He's a good dog, and he's not at all jealous that he shares his birthday with his younger, prettier sibling, who turned 5 herself today.

There were plenty of snack treats for the ol' Deando, and a couple choice photographs. Doc even got him a special bone, which he sat patiently for while wagging his tail.

 He even got a little bit of Sister's cake, too..

[cross-posted from]