The Oregon Trail: Days Four to Five

A display showing an aerial view of Three Island Crossing
A display showing an aerial view of Three Island Crossing

After leaving Twin Falls, we headed toward Three Island Crossing State Park, a stop along the Snake River, where emigrants traveled after they left the Platte River way back in Wyoming.  The western desert of Wyoming was treacherous, and there were days of travel between leaving the Platte River and finding the Snake River.  For much of Wyoming and Idaho, the Oregon Trail follows some unreliable creek beds, so water was pretty scarce, potentially for weeks, depending on the time of year you were trying to cross the territory.

Thus, in this whole region, the landmarks for us to see were a bit more sparse.  It was very much like crossing a desert: few gas stations, not much water, not many communities.  Harsh territory where many emigrants lost their lives, unfortunately.

Three Island Crossing was a more lush area though, with grass and water, and a thriving Native American community (i.e. supplies).  In this area, the pioneers shared resources with the Indians, at least for awhile.

We didn’t take a plane with us, so getting this aerial view of Three Island Crossing wasn’t doable.  Thus, I present this picture (above) to illustrate how difficult it was to cross large rivers (like the Snake River, here in Idaho) and how there are certain locations (like this one) that are targeted by emigrants heading west to Oregon and California.  The yellow line on the display shows how the wagons got across, moving from island to island until they got to the other side.  Even with this crossing, many wagons still didn’t make it, or got stuck on one of the islands while trying to cross.

Alternatively, if you had the money, you could always take the ferry across, nearby.

A full-scale replica of a ferry at Glenns Ferry, ID.
A full-scale replica of a ferry at Glenns Ferry, ID.

At Three Islands State Park, they also had a full-scale ferry you could see, but sadly couldn’t actually use.  Again, this wasn’t a cost-effective option for many travelers, but in 1869, if you had the money, it was safer than trying to ford the river.

From Three Islands State Park, we continued west along the Snake River toward the Columbia River, but again, there wasn’t much to see on this leg of the trip.   We did stop near Boise, ID at the Oregon Trail Historic Reserve, which is really just a walking park around some distinct wagon ruts.

Some more wagon ruts.
Some more wagon ruts.

It was nice, but nothing worth writing home about (except here…obviously).  Again, there just wasn’t much we were interested in seeing as we went through Idaho.

For example, there are multiple forts along this track, however a). we’d already seen a bunch of cool forts, and b). the “forts” that they had to see were replicas, not actual buildings from the time period.  Fort Hall was an important stop along this portion of the trail, but the only thing there is a “replica museum” that over-charges people to see it.  Fort Boise was a British garrison, and also important, but again, there’s a monument left in Parma, ID and a “replica site” of the trading post open limited hours.  Thus, we found these sites to be skippable.

Fort Bridger was on the Wyoming side and we skipped it.  It’s possible this site would have been cool, as it had a few buildings left and some museums.  However, the Oregon Trail diverges at this point where some emigrants didn’t actually go that far south.  Depending on whether you were on the Mormon Trail or the California Trail, you’d want to head through Fort Bridger on your way to your destination.  The early travelers of the Oregon Trail likely went through Fort Bridger, but it looked to us like the trail heads north along Hams Fork and Craven Creek (current highway US-30).  Perhaps it depended on the time of year for whether you’d stop at Fort Bridger, or if you’d keep on heading westward.  Either way, it shaved a few hours off our trip, so we skipped it.

Back to Boise, ID though.  We passed through Boise (and stopped at a local Sierra Trading Post, which was sadly disappointing) and then crossed into Oregon.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Oregon doesn’t have an Oregon Trail Guide available through the National Park Service.  Crazy, I know.  All the other states have them, but not the state the Trail ended in.  Therefore, we didn’t really have specific sites to stop at.  Also, at this point, the trail kinda just follows I-84 all the way up to the Columbia River Gorge, so that’s what we did: drove on the interstate for awhile.

Columbia River Gorge
Columbia River Gorge

After hours of interstate driving though, we reached our destination: the “end” of the Oregon Trail.  Technically, this was the end of the overland portion of the trail, as following the Columbia River into said gorge meant that at some point, wagons could no longer actually follow the river and had to travel on the river to get to the Willamette Valley.

So, on July 9th, we reached the “end” of the Trail.  But, it wasn’t the “official” end.  That’s in Oregon City.  However, the End of the Oregon Trail museum closed after we got there that night.  So, we stayed in Portland (more on that in another post) and went down to Oregon City on July 10th.

The End of the Oregon Trail Museum
The End of the Oregon Trail Museum

This museum was a bit disappointing, methinks.  Maybe we played it up in our heads a bit.  Perhaps we’d just seen a lot of other museums on our trip.  Who knows.  Regardless, while the outside of the museum was pretty cool (with the large structures resembling wagons), the inside was disappointing.  They had a mock General Store (representing the beginning of the trail); they had a display of “Trail Medicine” (which looked like an undergraduate history project…mostly some written displays and some antique bottles with spices in them…); and they had a genealogy station set up in a room mocked up to look like a place to register your land.

Which, by the way, is the reason Oregon City was the “official end” of the trail: Oregon City was the closest location in the region where you could register your land claim.  If you came to Oregon on the Trail to get land, you had to go there.

The video shown at the museum was actually pretty interesting, as it just consisted of readings from diaries of emigrants on the Trail.  Though it largely told the same story that we’d heard for 2000 mi, it was interesting to hear it from a first-person perspective.

The Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley

While in Oregon City, we took a quick walk along the valley to get a better look at what emigrants saw when they got here.  Sadly, it’s a bit more “industrial” than what was there 150 years ago, but we got a sense of the place.  It was definitely a far cry from the landscapes we’d seen on our travels through Nebraska, Idaho and Wyoming.  A fitting end to a treacherous journey.

That was it!  We’d made it!  It took us 4 days (technically, though we didn’t visit this museum until Day 5…) to cover what used to be a 4-6 month journey.  By this point, we were ready to not be in the car for 10+ hrs a day, so we enjoyed Portland a bit.

But that’s for another post…

The Oregon Trail: Day Three

Independence Rock
Independence Rock

Day three started off at Independence Rock.  It got the name because if you weren’t as far as this landmark by July 4th on your trip to Oregon or California, you probably wouldn’t make it before the first mountain snowfalls west of here.  Technically, we were there after July 4th, but we didn’t run into any snowfall.

"B. Snow, June 10, 1853"
“B. Snow, June 10, 1853”

Names were carved into the face of the rock. We only got pictures of a few of them, as neither one of us wanted to ascend the entire formation, and there weren’t exactly signs pointing to the specific locations where these carvings were to be found. Still, we saw a few of them. It was one of those times where you think about how “Wagon Train Along Oregon Trail” is non-specific, where you don’t necessarily think about individuals along that trip that made the journey and survived or perished.  Here are instances where you see evidence of “B. Snow,” or other specific people that were at that specific location 150+ years ago.  Crazy.

Near South Pass.
Near South Pass.

From Independence Rock, we continued another few hours to South Pass, which is at the Continental Divide.  It looks quite a bit different up in Wyoming than it does down in Colorado (we saw that too, incidentally, on the return trip), as it’s flatter and eminently more “passable” for a group of wagons than the Rocky Mountains are.

Of course, now, there’s an interstate highway system (Interstate 80) that makes its way just south of this location, but being the historically accurate explorers we are, we took WY-28 to get here.  Technically, there’s only a brief rest stop at this location, but nearby, there’s a dirt road that goes off into through some fields to get to the real “South Pass.”  And guess who has all-wheel drive?

The crazy people that went to the real "South Pass."
The crazy people that went to the real “South Pass.”

The road really wasn’t all that bad, but we were still glad we had the additional ground clearance and AWD, as there were more than a few times where one side of the Forester was a good 12″ higher than the other side of it.  Rain was coming in, so we didn’t stay too long, but we got a feel for how high up we were (about 7,500 ft), yet how flat it was.  It was no wonder why the wagons went this way rather than through the Rockies.

Stone markers commemorating Ezra Meeker and Narcissa Whitman.
Stone markers commemorating Ezra Meeker and Narcissa Whitman.

While we were at South Pass, we also saw a few markers left in honor of two famous travelers: Narcissa Whitman (left) and Ezra Meeker (right).  Whitman was the first European-American woman to cross the Rockies.  She was a Christian missionary that made the trip around 1836 and largely proved that women could make the trip, paving the way for families to come out.

Ezra Meeker made the trip in 1852 when he was 22.  From 1906 to 1908, convinced that the Oregon Trail was going to be forgotten, he made a much publicized trip along the Trail by wagon, placing monuments along the way (including this one).  He did it again by ox cart from 1910-1912, and by plane in 1924.  Note that he was in his late 70s when he made these wagon trips.  Regardless, his work is largely responsible for the trip we were able to take 100 years later.

Soda Springs.  Free-flowing Pepsi, mostly.
Soda Springs. Free-flowing Pepsi, mostly.

By this point in our journey, we were running low on things to see.  That is to say, points of interest along this portion of the trail become more sparse.  At least, monuments and big things become more “sparse,” while grave sites and famous Indian War battle sites start to predominate.

Soda Springs, however, was mentioned in the Oregon Trail game and was definitely worth the stop.  Sure, we’ve got spring water in Missouri, and “hot springs” down in Arkansas (among other places), but at this intriguing site, the spring water is naturally carbonated.  There are multiple springs in this area, and Hooper Spring was one of the more famous locations.

Probably didn't look like this when they were getting drinks 150 years ago...
Probably didn’t look like this when they were getting drinks 150 years ago…

Obviously, this isn’t what it looked like back then, but you can still hear the water bubbling as it comes up out of the ground.  It’s a nice little stop, though this particular spring is surrounded by mining and construction, so it isn’t quite as picturesque as some of the other places we stopped.  Still, if you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a quick stop.

After stopping at Soda Springs, we booked it across Idaho to the Twin Falls/Jerome region, had dinner, and stayed at a KOA in the back of the car for a night.

Only one more day on the trail!  Next stop, Oregon City!

The Oregon Trail: Day Two

Which way are we going, again?
Which way are we going, again?

So, after the not-so-awesome first night’s sleep in the back of the car, we continued toward the nearby Fort Kearny State Park.  Fort Kearny was one of the early well-known stops along the trails, a trading and restocking depot along the California, Mormon and Oregon Trail systems.  It went through a few face-lifts during its years of existence, but importantly, it was established by the US government as a service to pioneers heading west along the Platte River.

Fort Kearny...an early stop along the trail for supplies.
Fort Kearny…an early stop along the trail for supplies.

The Platte River, we would find, was an essential lifeline to the early pioneers as they crossed Nebraska and into Wyoming (where things would get a lot worse).  It’s an odd river in that it’s somewhat shallow at many points, but it also gets muddy and changes its shape/location readily.  It was also important to the Native Americans of the area, which means the pioneers and Indians were in close proximity, sometimes leading to conflict (hence the need for a Fort at this location).

The state park grounds were interesting, including quite a few replica buildings and the outlines of where previous buildings were.  This site wasn’t well-maintained from its time as a fort, as most of the materials were dismantled around the time the transcontinental railroad was completed (another theme throughout the trip, as nearly every museum would bring up that the trail effectively ended once the train system was completed).  After that point, there wasn’t much need to protect travelers, so the fort was abandoned and eventually turned over to the Nebraska state government.

Courthouse and Jail Rocks
Courthouse and Jail Rocks

After leaving Fort Kearny, we passed multiple rock formations that were frequently mentioned in the diaries of those traveling the trail.  Courthouse and Jail Rocks were the first…

Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock

…followed by Chimney Rock.  Courthouse and Jail Rocks had a pull-out off the highway near Scott’s Bluff, but no visitor center.  Chimney Rock, however, had a decent visitor center with some displays of artifacts and another video.  By this point, we were noticing that most of these videos told the same story for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes that discussed the exact feature you were seeing.  Still, it was interesting to listen to the evolution of how the trail was discussed, where early sites appeared to focus on the railroad system coming in, while later sites seemed to shift that focus more toward how Native Americans were more of a help than a hindrance to the pioneers.

Fort Laramie
Fort Laramie

The next stop, just over the border into Wyoming, was Fort Laramie.  Here, in one day, we had a stark reminder of the difference between a state park and a national park.  Where Fort Kearny had replica houses and somewhat chintzy displays, Fort Laramie still had original buildings and displays within those buildings to show how things were set up, including period-specific furniture, clothing, dishes, etc.  If you’re going to pick one, you definitely want to visit this one (mostly because it’s free…your tax dollars at work!).

Much like Fort Kearny, Fort Laramie was there as a service to the emigrants as they crossed toward Oregon, however it ended up having a larger role in the Civil War and in multiple wars with the Native Americans of the region, so it ended up being a larger and longer-lasting establishment.  It wasn’t officially abandoned until 1890, almost 20 years after Fort Kearny was opened up to homesteaders.

Stuck in jail at Fort Laramie...
Stuck in jail at Fort Laramie…

The buildings here were pretty cool, so I think we both agree it’s worth the visit if you get the chance.  It has quite a few descriptive signs, lots of artifacts, and is big enough that you could spend a morning or afternoon exploring all of it.  We only spent an hour but felt like we could have stayed quite a bit longer.

It also sits on the Platte River, so it was also important to the same emigrants who traveled multiple trails.  It would be days between these two forts for a wagon train, a distance we traveled in a few hours.  Thus, this establishment had much needed supplies and defenses to allow for oxen to rest before the arduous journey that was to come across the deserts of Idaho and western Wyoming.

Stuck in a rut in Wyoming!
Stuck in a rut in Wyoming!

The last place we stopped was a set of permanent wagon ruts dug into sandstone near Guernsey, WY.  Apparently, the pioneers couldn’t find an easier way around this terrain, so they drove their wagons over it, digging up to 5 ft into the rock face.  Kinda crazy enough wagons passed through that one spot to dig a hole in rock that deep!

After that, we stopped at a hotel in Alcova, WY.  It was called the Riverview Inn.  It’s attached to the Sunset Grill.  Never stay at this hotel.  I’ll leave it at that…

Onward!

The Oregon Trail: Day One

At the start of the Oregon Trail!
At the start of the Oregon Trail!

We started our trip at the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, MO, where we got our first introduction to the Oregon Trail and the other trails that started from this area.  The museum itself actually set the tone for the rest of what we’d see, in that much of what we saw there was similar to what we’d see most other places: artifacts, a video, some diary entries, regionally specific displays, etc.  It’s a decent place to go if you aren’t planning on driving the whole thing (like crazy people…), but it didn’t really add much to the overall trip, aside from serving as a primer on what was to come.

From here, we hopped on the trail!  Wanna see what it looked like?

Here's the trail...in suburbia...
Here’s the trail…in suburbia…

Cool, eh?  Yeah, this was our view for the first few hours of the trip as we rounded Kansas City through the southern side of town.  We probably could have skipped this section, but especially early on, we were pretty committed to following the exact route of the trail as far as we could.  Unfortunately, this meant driving through Suburban Hell for longer than anyone should.

Once we were out of the KC area, though, we traveled on state and federal highways as best as possible.  We were on I-70 only briefly after Independence, and then started heading north.

Cholera Cemetery!
Cholera Cemetery!

One of our first stops was a Cholera Cemetery near Belvue, KS.  It was somewhat off the beaten path, but as disease was commonplace on the Oregon Trail (and in the game), we thought it would be interesting.  There were only a few stones there, and they were kept behind a chain-link fence, but the informational display nearby was interesting.  It wasn’t the most exciting thing we saw on the trail, but it was a good reminder that a lot of people ended up dying of cholera before they even made it a few hundred miles past Independence…

From here, we kept heading north into Nebraska toward a Rock Creek Station State Historical Park.  It was a relatively early stop on the way to Fort Kearny for trail travelers, but wasn’t necessarily an important stop.  On our first day of traveling, however, we thought it’d be nice to go somewhere else before we reached our destination for the day.

At this point, I should take this time to point out that Nebraska, apparently, doesn’t believe in gravel roads.  Instead of gravel, they use dirt.  And in the event of rain, that dirt turns to mud.  When did it last rain?  I don’t know.  But it must have been a lot, because the dirt road Waze took us down to get to this particular park (which, granted, was a road you don’t have to use – it’s just the one that let us cut over from the highway we were actually on to get to where we wanted to go) was filled with mud.

There's the road...that our beautiful Subaru destroyed...
There’s the road…that our beautiful Subaru destroyed…

Luckily, Brooke was driving, otherwise we probably would have been worse off.  This is probably the most harrowing experience I’ve had in a car, mostly because we were in the middle of nowhere, and if our Subaru Forester got stuck down one of those hills, it was likely a tow truck wouldn’t be able to get down there to get us out.

Thankfully, our car is awesome, and Brooke did a great job of driving it.  She dropped into low gear and took it slow down and up the hills.  As you can see in the picture above, the “ruts” we dug into the road were rather squiggly, as the car was sliding back and forth constantly up and down the hills.

Victory is ours!
Victory is ours!

Ultimately, though there was mud caked in our wheel wells, we survived and made it back up to the top.  Brooke and I were shaking for awhile after that…enough adventure for our first day on the trail…

Rock Creek Station
Rock Creek Station

Rock Creek Station doesn’t appear to get many visitors…certainly not down the crappy mud road we took to get there…  Still, it was a good reprieve from the last 30 min, so we took our time to walk around and see the re-created period-specific buildings they’d erected.  There were wagon ruts visible, though somewhat obscured by the tall grass.  The rain was starting to come in, so we didn’t hang around too long, yet long enough to watch a video about the site and learn a bit about that era.  It sounds like Rock Creek Station’s main claim to fame involves a story about “Wild Bill” Hickok and his first gunfight, which took place at the station.  It looks like they do re-enactments somewhat frequently, though I hope the participants are better actors than those in the video they showed us.  Still, they’ve got quite a few buildings on display that make for an interesting visit.  I wish we’d had more time, but with the rain coming in, we didn’t want to get stuck in a wood building a mile from the car.

Thus, we continued onward toward Windmill State Park, where we stayed for the night.  The pricing was reasonable and we’d already paid our daily fee for use of Nebraska state parks, so it seemed like a good option.  That, and Windmill was relatively close to Fort Kearny, where we’d start the next day.

Car camping....not the most comfortable?
Car camping….not the most comfortable?

This was also our first attempt at car camping in the back of the Forester.  We’d practiced this before leaving, though didn’t actually try sleeping in the car until then.  Still, we put in some eggshell foam pads and a bunch of blankets in the back of the car, folded the seats down, and did our best to get comfortable.  Unfortunately, the way the seats fold down causes a substantial “dip” between the back of the rear seats and the cargo bay, so if you’re my height, it means your hips land exactly at that dip, making it kinda uncomfortable.  By the second night, I figured out a reasonable sleeping position and it got better, but that first night wasn’t great.

We also ate dinner in town at Sportsman Bar and Grill.  After a day like ours, that burger was pretty spectacular!  Definitely an old establishment that has seen better days, but hey, the food was good and the beer was cheap: we weren’t arguing.

More on Day Two in another post!

Pack Your Wagons…

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A few months ago, we started thinking about what trip we’d like to take for our tenth anniversary (which was June 25th).  With the kids, we hadn’t been able to take an extended vacation for the past few years, so we had accumulated a few ideas.  We knew we wanted to drive somewhere (and would, thus, leave the kids with the grandparents) and discussed a few routes, including a trip to Maine or down to the Florida Keys.

Ultimately, the Oregon Trail won out.  I can’t remember how exactly that idea came up or who first suggested it, but Brooke looked into it and the National Park Service has a series of maps available to give you a driving route that’s relatively close to the course the pioneers took.

Thus, we will embark soon on an excursion that takes us from Independence, MO out toward Oregon City, OR (near Portland).  We’ll spend a few days heading out, stopping at some of the key locations (Chimney Rock, Fort Kearny, etc…mostly the locations from the classic game…) on our way.  Then, we’ll spend some time in and around Portland, followed by heading south along the coast toward San Francisco, CA.  After a few days there, we’ll head back toward home.

Aside from the ultimate destination(s), we aren’t really planning the trip that carefully.  Like the pioneers of old, we’ll take our time, sometimes staying in hotels, sometimes sleeping in the back of the car at state parks.  We haven’t made any reservations, so we’ll take what we can find as we find it!

It’s an adventure.  Looking forward to it!

Calvin’s Word List

"I don't know!"
“I don’t know!”

Though Calvin started off pretty slowly, so far as the whole “talking” thing goes, he’s been picking up pretty rapidly in the past month. Meg had 35 at this point in her development, but Calvin’s been able to rely on his big sister to help him out up until now.  Still, it looks like he’s running a bit ahead on language than she was (though, again, it feels like an explosion in the last month, whereas Meg got them a bit more gradually).

Anyway, here’s a non-exhaustive list.  I’m probably missing a few…

Words/People:

  • Mama (“Mama”)
  • Daddy (“Dada”)
  • Meg (“Meh”)
  • Sam (“Hem”)
  • Nana (“Nana”)
  • Mimi (“Meh-meh”)
  • Harper (“Hah-pah”)
  • Emma
  • Banana (also “Nana”)
  • Milk (“Mah”)
  • More (“Moh”)
  • No (“Nooooo”)
  • “Cow” (“Boo”)
  • Pig (“Pih”)
  • Snow (“No”)
  • Snowman (“No-MEN”)
  • Please (“Peas”)
  • Baby (“Beh-beh”)
  • Books (“Boo”)
  • Bed (“Beh”)
  • Bath (“Bah”)
  • Shoes (“Soos”)
  • Socks (“Hoks”)
  • Moon (“Moo”)
  • “Shh” (“Ssss”)
  • Water (“Wah-wah”)
  • “Rock rock” (also “Wah-wah”)
  • Elmo (“Meh-mo”)
  • Bye bye (“Bah-bah”)
  • Night night (“Nah-nah”)
  • Tractor (“Tac-tah”)
  • Bird (“Bih”)
  • Truck (“Tuh”)
  • Dog (“Dah”)

Body Parts (Identification, mostly):

  • Mouth
  • Nose (“Noh”)
  • Belly (“Beh-beh”)
  • Toes
  • Feet
  • Head
  • Hair
  • Cheeks
  • Hands
  • Arms
  • Knees
  • Eyes
  • Teeth
  • Ears
  • Fingers

Meg Turns Five

She turned out alright...
She turned out alright…

Granted, we’ve gone through more than a few adjustments in the last five years, but it’s still difficult to believe we started out with the one on the left up above, and currently have the one on the right.

Yes, Meg was born five years ago today at 8:57 am.  At the time, it was difficult to imagine how the next five years would go, and now, I don’t even know how this next one year will go for her as she begins <gasp> Kindergarten.  Since Calvin was born, she’s taken to the role of “Big Sister” more than we thought she was capable of, sometimes making me forget she’s still extremely young, yet perhaps more responsible than some of my college-aged students.

This year also marked the first time for two birthday parties: one “Kid Party” this past weekend, when three of her best friends from preschool came over for a “dress up party,” and then the next one coming this weekend for “Grown-ups” (i.e. family).  I think the “Kid Party” came off pretty well, as the girls mostly played by themselves and stayed out of trouble (mostly…).  Meg got some play makeup, a “Cinderella” costume, and a copy of Tangled (which she’s been asking for since December…).  She requested lemon cake with blueberries, and that turned out pretty awesome (thanks to Brooke, of course).  I think she’s requested spaghetti for the “Grown-up Party” this weekend, as well as a strawberry cake.

Personally, I don’t see how it’s fair that she gets two cakes, but whatever…

This morning, she woke up to a bike at the bottom of the steps, so surely that will present its own new challenge for 2015.  She literally, finally, learned how to make a tricycle “go” in 2014, so it’ll be interesting to watch her fight a 16″ bicycle with training wheels this time around.  Good thing my schedule’s pretty flexible this summer…

Aside from the presents and parties, the crazy part still remains: Meg is five.  She’s been with us for five years.  Half a decade has blown by.  She’s entering a stage of development that I actually remember in my own life.  Which is to say, these are years that she’ll start remembering 10, 20, 30+ years down the road.

Happy birthday, Margaret Jean.  I hope it’s great. 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at Nana and Papa's house.  Jake, Kristen, Andy, Meg, Calvin and Brooke
Christmas at Nana and Papa’s house. Jake, Kristen, Andy, Meg, Calvin and Brooke

Again, haven’t posted much recently. I’m still on Break for another two weeks, but much of that has been taken up with various projects around the house (which I still need to take pictures of and post…) and various travels around the state for Christmas.

That, and I’m still fighting with access to this blog from within my own network at the house, as our router isn’t very happy about that…for some reason…

Anyway, Christmas has been pretty fun this year.  Meg has been pretty hyper all week, so my patience has been strained recently, but we’re in Hannibal now completing our week-long Christmas celebrations, so that should subside soon.  Calvin still doesn’t quite understand the concept of opening presents yet, but he certainly enjoys the new toys he’s been getting.

Regardless, this is mostly a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” post.  I’m still working on getting everything working properly with the system at home, so once that’s done, I expect to post quite a bit more often.  There’s much to catch up on!

 

Oohhhh, I’m behind…

Meg and Calvin on Halloween
Meg and Calvin on Halloween

Let’s get this out of the way, first: Yes, we’re still alive.

Seriously, this semester has been crazy.  A good kind of “crazy,” but still quite busy, nonetheless.  There’s actually been quite a bit to post about here, but I simply haven’t had the time.  That, and the new router I picked up a few months ago, for some reason, makes it difficult to actually access my own website from my house.  Long story short, we’ve all been very busy and I’ll be back to posting more regularly soon.

Briefly though, a post about Halloween…which was a few weeks ago…  Meg had originally wanted to go as Doc McStuffins this year, a character on Disney Channel she’s been exposed to in recent months.  However, as these things tend to go, she had seen all those episodes enough times and wanted to watch something else, so Word Girl took its place (though she’s been watching Doc McStuffins again, recently…I dunno…goes in phases, I guess…).  Regardless, she  changed her mind and opted to go as Word Girl, which gave Brooke the opportunity to actually make the costume instead of just using the store-bought version Meg got as a gift from Aunt Mal back in September.  This actually worked out in our favor, as the costume for Word Girl’s side kick, Captain Huggyface, worked pretty well for Calvin to wear.  Brooke did an excellent job with them, but as very few people in Marshall really know who these PBS characters are, we had to explain the costumes to more than a few people.

I don’t have much to do on Friday afternoons, so I picked Meg and Calvin up from school and brought them over to the college, where multiple offices have candy available for trick or treaters to come by and visit.  This actually worked out pretty well, as that way, we could get Calvin in his costume for awhile, get some pictures taken, and then he wouldn’t necessarily have to go out for the real thing with Meg later.  It happened to be pretty cold that day, so walking around campus for a few minutes was a bit warmer than the alternative.

Still, we ended up going out trick or treating anyway.  Calvin was in a good mood and Nana came along to help out.  That way, Brooke could hang out at home for other kids to come by and Nana and I could take both kids out in the wagon.  We only ended up hitting maybe 7 or 8 houses, but as cold as it was, I think Meg had her fill of it.  Really, Calvin didn’t have any idea what was going on, but I think he enjoyed going on a wagon ride close to his bedtime.

Ultimately, Meg had a pretty good haul of candy, combined from daycare, a visit to Missouri Valley, and then walking around our neighborhood (which, apparently, has a pretty good participation rate on Halloween, so walking around our block will probably be “enough” for the next few years!).  All in all, a pretty good Halloween!

Other than that, again, we’ve been busy.  Lots of work around the house has been completed (and I’ll still post about that…I promise…), and much has happened with both of our jobs out here.  For my part, I’m now within a few days of Thanksgiving Break and, thus, within only a few weeks of the end of the semester.  Time flies!  I’ve enjoyed my time thus far, despite the number of hours I’ve been putting in.  Next semester should be markedly easier, as I won’t have to develop three courses worth of material again.

Onward!

The Boy Turns One

Here's our Little Man
Here’s our Little Man

A year ago today, we welcomed Calvin into the world.  And what a year it’s been.

Granted, the last half of this past year blew by incredibly quickly because of Life Changes for the whole family.  I barely remember what we did 4 months ago, as most of our time was spent packing and cleaning and looking into buying houses.

Through all that time, though, Calvin kept getting bigger!  It’s amazing how much progress he’s made, especially in comparison with his big sister.  Due to ear infections, it took her a bit longer to be mobile.  Perhaps Calvin is more motivated to follow Meg around though, because he’s been crawling for a few months now and late last week started to try taking a few steps for the first time.  He’s routinely standing up from a squat all by himself, standing for nearly a minute at a time before sitting back down again.  He’s ready to walk, but hasn’t quite taken the plunge yet.

Within the last month or so, he’s also finally, finally, slept consistently through the night.  He’ll cry out occasionally but can usually get himself back to sleep.  I’m thinking the creepy peacock wallpaper in his room has something to do with it, but it seems like shortly after the move to the new house in Marshall, his sleeping situation (and ours…) improved dramatically.

Now that he’s a year old, we’re also in the process of weaning him off of Brooke faster than we were before.  Meg was on a bottle long before this point in her life, but Brooke’s been able to keep feeding Calvin.  Generally, she’s only doing it first thing in the morning and right before bedtime.  We don’t even have to do it at naptime anymore to calm him down.  She’ll slowly scale it back, but at this point, it seems like he can make it pretty well without needing that particular form of comfort.  Big boy finally growing up a bit!

Other than his progress, life has been busy for the rest of us.  They say your first semester is the hardest and they aren’t kidding.  I’m frequently working 12 hr days during the week in order to stay ahead, but I don’t mind it so far.  Brooke’s still getting settled with her job in Sedalia, but things are starting to look up on that front, too.  I’ll post more about the house later, but we’ve got half of the electrical system done, some important plumbing done, some new appliances, and we re-did the bathroom upstairs by ourselves in a little over a week (there will definitely be a post on that one).  Long-story short, we’re making progress with the house and are nearly “settled.”

Because of that, we were able to have a birthday party for Calvin this past weekend at the house.  We had around 16 people over and, as the weather was gorgeous, we set things up outside.  Grilled burgers, had many sides, and of course, birthday cake.  Calvin napped through half the party and wasn’t exactly “smiley” after he woke up, but I think he still had a fun time, and definitely got some fun toys.

Regardless, Calvin’s done well this past year and, though his sleeping schedule was terrible for, oh, 10 months of his life, I think we’re finally past it.  At least we’re to the point when he and Meg can play together in their room(s) by themselves, giving us a few extra moments of peace.

It’s worth something, for sure.