Monday, September 15, 2014

Really vacationing, this time in Shawnee

It doesn't seem all that long ago that we were vacationing with the family in Michigan.  But were Jill and I up for a short trip without the kids?  In a word, yes.

Jill's parents paid us a visit, and then really paid us by (a) paying for our hotel for 2 nights and (b) watching the kids while we were away.

We decided to visit Shawnee National Forest because it's not too far away (3 hours) and though we had been to the area before (WildCard spring cycling camps), we haven't done any exploring off road.

The photos below are not in the order of our visits (frustrated with blogger).  The common theme is rock, a rare site in our town.

Below is the view from just inside Cave-in-Rock, located just off the end of Highway 1 (one could take the ferry across the Ohio River in a car, but the road ends here).  We had lunch at one of the 2 restaurants in town, chatting up some of the old-timers from town.  We didn't get a chance to meet the 102 year old guy, who was at the restaurant the previous evening.  Anyway, pirates, counterfeiters, and all-around bad guys used the cave as a hideout.  Now that's it's a state park, it's a bit harder to use it as such.
Cave-in-Rock has a painted bike decorating theme.  Here's the pink one, with the lovely Jill in the foreground.
On the way back from the Cave, we were deciding between Iron Furnace, an 80 foot tall rock structure that was used to make iron during the civil war, and Rim Rock State Park.  We chose the latter, and were rewarded with natural 80 foot tall rock cliffs.  Highly recommended.
Our first day, we visited Giant City.  Look how surprised Jill is to see a large rock.
That is a natural rock wall canyon (er, gap?)  right here in Illinois.
The visual highlight of the trip was Garden of the Gods.  I don't know how this ended up in Illinois.
A Mennonite group was there at the same time.  The young men climbed the rocks, while the young women sat together singing.  It was really lovely.
At no point during our trip did anyone cry about eating food, ask to stay up late, not share, or make a giant mess and refuse to clean it up.  In fact, there was no complaining at all.  

Now we're home, and we're glad to see the kids.  Somehow, we did miss them.

We're nuts, like all parents.

Monday, September 1, 2014

ready... go ... set

Real life took off like a shot after we got back from vacation.  We got home during our temporary resident's stay (Katy needed a place for a week between leases and had moved in during our vacation) and a few hours before our long term boarder arrived.  Nikki is a Parkland freshman staying with us for the school year.  Very soon, she will be an expert at the local busing system.  She is also using Clara's race bike to do some multi-modal commuting.

Clara and Janny started preschool already.  This is Janny's first year and Clara's last.  They are in the same class at Wee Disciples, just down the road.  Jill say's the couple hours without the kids goes by VERY fast. This photo was from the first day of school, 2014.
Clara now has a career path picked out:  she wants to be an artist.  For now, I'm doing my best to teach her to keep costs down.  Janny is not quite clear on the concept:  she wants to be Sleeping Beauty when she grows up.  At first she also wanted to have white eyes, but just today she accepted that her eyes will remain brown.  I've yet to figure out if she wants to the sleeping phase or the post-waking up phase.
Below is my favorite Clara project to date.  She found a double-kinked stick (which she then lost amongst hundreds of similar sticks, but daddy found it again after a few minutes), and came up with the idea to make a Pteranodon.  In the photo, the leaf wings have dried out compared to when new.
Having a boarder and growing kids inspired us to reconfigure the bedrooms.  We had a local guy build a loft over a queen bed.  Clara sleeps up top, and tiny Janny gets the queen bed.  When guests come, we'll move the kids to our room so that guests can use the queen (or the loft, if they want).
Jill continues to be excited about gardening. Check out her latest project:
Just kidding!  That's the arboretum!  We paid a visit to be inspired and grab some ideas.  I'm hoping for some Lantana and a blueberry bush.  I'm still scheming about the best place in our yard for the blueberries.
Fun fact:  both Clara and Nikki were born on Labor day!  Soon we're off to celebrate with some canoeing on Crystal Lake.