After last year, I wasn’t sure Meg would want to try backpacking again for awhile, but late last summer, it came up again and she seemed interested. Since then, every once and awhile, she framed it as “when we go back to Bell Mountain next year,” so it appeared that she had forgotten the serious amount of crying she did a year ago…
We had a limited window to pull this off, as I’m doing summer classes again starting in early June, and importantly, Calvin will be home for most of the summer, making it difficult to make a trip like this. Combine this with the fact that the high temp is in the low-90s for the next week, we opted to do a one-night trip down on a Tuesday when the high was 83 F and the low was 60 F.
It rained the day before, so by the time we got down there (four hour drive…), it was pretty moist along the trail.
Taking a step back, I should also note that we learned a fair bit about the trail and opted to start from a different location. Last year when we did this, we parked at the southwestern end of the loop and had to hike uphill along a rocky creek bed…and infamously, we missed the turn and went the wrong way. This time, we parked at the northeastern lot and had a much easier time. The trail in was mostly flat, though, again, somewhat muddy from the rain the day before.
We took a left first to head up to the Bell Mountain peak to get some pictures, then turned around and headed down to the creek we never found last year. When we got there, we found plenty of water to make our evening run far more smoothly than last year! We did about 5.4 mi that first day.
It was pretty easy to entertain Meg at this site. She waded across the creek with her sandals on a few times, threw some rocks, drew some sketches in her notebook, and filtered some water for me. That latter part was of particular interest, so she made us keep hydrated so she could filter more water.
The site was perfect, of course. The creek was next to a permanent fire pit and in a semi-open area that was flat and cleared for tents. Again, this is where we wanted to go last year, but never made it. I’m pretty sure Meg would have enjoyed last year quite a bit more had we actually found it…
We had macaroni and cheese (again) that night and, having the water source nearby, it was easy to do dishes with plenty of water, making the cooking experience more efficient than last year. I couldn’t get a fire going because the wood was so wet, so we ended up playing card games in the tents. Crazy Eights, Go Fish and Memory were the choices, and I’m pretty sure Meg won them all. It was pretty hot still, as it didn’t cool off into the 60s until after midnight. We stayed up until 9:00ish and fell asleep quickly after that.
The next day, we packed up quickly and made it back to the car around 10:00. It was about 3.5 mi or so and Meg didn’t start flagging until toward the end of it. The drive back was mostly uneventful and we made it back to Marshall by mid-afternoon, plenty of time to air things out and grab showers.
It was a great trip! Two nights may have been better, but one night was plenty. Perhaps next year we’ll try somewhere else!
We own quite a bit of backpacking gear, much of which I’ve had since before Brooke and I were married when I’d go on trips over Spring Break in high school and college. After we had kids, obviously, it got a little more difficult to be gone for multiple days on trips without the family. Thus, now that I’ve got a 7-year-old to indoctrinate in my interests, I thought this summer would yield an opportunity for a little daddy-daughter time out in the wilderness.
I hadn’t done much backpacking in Missouri, as most of my trips were to Tennessee and Arkansas (with a single trip to Colorado back in 8th grade). The trails I’d done in Missouri were relatively far south and didn’t have much access to water. In searching for “beginner backpacking trails” that would be suitable for a 7-year-old first-timer, I came across the Bell Mountain Loop Trail near Salem, MO, as part of Mark Twain National Forest. The trail represented a 10 mile loop that had good overlooks, had access to water at least at one point, and was rated as relatively easy for beginners.
Things started out pretty good, really. In many ways, this is the most “in shape” I’ve ever been for backpacking, as the last time I did this, I was a good 30 pounds heavier. Meg, of course, had gone hiking with us in limited settings, but never with this length of time, or overnight in the wilderness.
We got started on an Ozark Trail spur that would lead us to the Bell Mountain Trail Loop. The OT section was mostly a dry creek bed, which isn’t great to hike on if you’re an adult, let alone a 7-year-old. Meg and I had good hiking shoes on, so we were relatively fine, but it did get tedious, and we had to go slower than we otherwise would. Still, we continue onward and upward until we hit the Bell Mountain Trail (or so we thought…).
We went for about as far as we could, but we were hoping we’d get to the main creek for our first night of camping, as it would provide some entertainment for Meg, and a solid water source to get us going the next morning. We kept going as far as we could, but it was getting darker and we had already gone a good 4 miles with no creek in sight. Meg was pretty tired (we didn’t start hiking until 4:00 pm, and there was a slight rain threat hovering about), and we were on a flat section of the trail that had some good camping spaces for our tent, so we went ahead and parked for the night.
The first night went remarkably well! It dipped down into the low-50s overnight, but we were pretty warm in our tent. We bought a 2-person Kelty backpacking tent, as traditionally, I’d always relied on a hammock and a tarp – something that doesn’t work quite as well for a 7-year-old. The tent worked very well, so I think that purchase was well-founded.
Also, the macaroni and cheese I made for dinner that night went over pretty well with the kid. 🙂
Anyway, we kept hiking the next morning and still never ran across the creek. We did spot a really nice overlook and took a few panoramic pictures with my phone. We did eventually spot a fire pit that we thought we recognized from our map, so we continued onward.
Eventually, we’d gone so far that it was getting late in the morning and we still hadn’t found water. Not that we needed water right then, but we would need it for cooking later in the day, so I was getting a bit worried. I was also very confused by a fork in the trail that shouldn’t have been there, at least according to the map.
Thus, we opted to turn around and start heading back. We figured that there were some ponds we had passed that weren’t ideal for filtration, but could still be used to keep us going until we could get to the car the next morning. We were also hoping to get moving relatively early the next day so we could hit up Heinrichshaus in St. James before getting to Marshall in time to pick up Calvin from school.
Anyway, we kept going for a few miles and, at this point, I was keeping an eye on my LTE signal so I could try and download a Google Earth file that would show us where, exactly, on the trail we actually were.
Basically, we saw that sign early in the trip that’s pictured at the top of this page, and it pointed to the left. We also knew that we needed to take a left to head toward the Fire Ring indicated by the star above, as it would take us down toward Joe’s Creek for water (and there were two creek crossings on the map). Well, we thought that sign was at the trail fork circled in red. Instead, that sign was way before that, at the hairpin turn indicated by the red hexagon.
So, we took a left, but we were still on the OT spur and not actually on the Bell Mountain Loop yet. When we got to the real turnoff, we just kept on heading straight and didn’t notice that there was another trail heading off to the left just over our shoulders. Literally, there was a small orange flag that was practically impossible to see from the direction we were coming from.
So yeah, instead of eventually seeing the fire ring indicated by the star, we instead saw the fire rings that were actually on Bell Mountain, and the scenic views they entailed. Also, based on my step tracker’s GPS, we ended up heading toward an entirely different parking lot before we turned around: the “extra fork in the road” we saw, we should have taken a left instead of a right. Of course, we thought we were heading clockwise on the loop, but instead, we should have been going counter-clockwise.
Anyway, we had turned around, we figured this all out, and we kept trekking back to the car, knowing we wouldn’t cross the creek for water. We pushed it quite a bit and ended up going 10 miles that way.
Meg was not happy about this. There was yelling, there was screaming. There was a lot of “I thought you said we were close!!!” Technically, we were “close,” but considering that Meg had to stop literally every 2 minutes because her feet hurt, it was taking forever.
I even ended up carrying her backpack attached to mine in order to keep us moving. So yeah, my feet hurt, too, but she didn’t really care…
So yeah, we kept on going and eventually made it back to the car, where I had some water packed for our arrival. We also drove to a nearby creek passing so I could filter some more.
It was quite a bit colder the next night, dipping down into the upper-40s, so that was a little less fun, but we still survived the night. Meg hobbled along for awhile and didn’t really want to walk at all after we got to camp, though she was fine by mid-next day.
All in all, if you ask her about it, she’ll tell you she had fun with the camping aspect of the trip, but the hiking part wasn’t her favorite. I think I can convince her to go again someday, but we may want to shake these memories a bit before I try again!
Ultimately, it was good to get backpacking again. If I have to wait until Calvin’s ready, I can live with that.
We were trying to come up with something special to do for Meg’s birthday this year when Brooke happened to notice one of our favorite “family friendly” musical groups, The Okee Dokee Brothers, were coming to Kansas City. The concert fell around Meg’s birthday, so close enough, right?
A bit of background: Brooke ran across their music 5 or 6 years ago and, though I can’t remember why exactly we listened in the first place (let alone how we discovered them…), my recollection mostly surrounds their fourth album, Can You Canoe?, which was inspired by their trip down the Mississippi River from St. Paul, MN to St. Louis, MO. For Meg, it was a collection of creative and catchy tunes. For Brooke and me, it was intelligently produced kids’ music that hearkened back to our own childhood experiences in this region, while also representing great bluegrass-style music. That album went on to win the Grammy for Best Children’s Album in 2013. They have since come out with two other albums, one inspired by their hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and another around their trip to the Rocky Mountains.
Thus, after church this morning, we went ahead and hit the road for Crown Center, where we ended up at Fritz’s again. I think we waited a good 45 minutes to get into that place last year before going to Legoland for Meg’s 6th birthday, but this time, the line was considerably shorter (read: non-existent). We were in-and-out relatively quickly and moved on to the Kansas City Folk Festival.
The event itself was pretty well organized, taking place at the Westin hotel in most of its various conference rooms. Each show took place “on the hour” and ran for 45 minutes, and 5 or 6 shows were going on simultaneously, allowing listeners to move between rooms and get a good sampling of musical styles. A substantial number of the acts were Spanish language-focused, which was very interesting musically, though difficult to deal with lyrically. Still, Meg seemed like she was “bobbing her head” quite a bit, even if she didn’t know what exactly was going on.
The Okee Dokee Brothers went on at 2:00 and were great. In the picture above, Meg and Calvin are sitting on the floor just in front of the stage, so they had a front row seat to all the action.
This room was packed with families. The organizers probably should have seen this coming, though to be honest, how all these people had heard of The Okee Dokee Brothers is beyond me. Still, Brooke and I had to hold up a wall on the side of the room, with Calvin running back and forth from where Meg was sitting and where we were standing. We weren’t next to Meg at all during the music, but we could see her copying the motions and singing along, as she knew many of the songs already. So far as concerts go, they did a good job mixing their older stuff with their newer stuff, so that helped out quite a bit, as we haven’t listened to their newest album as much as their older ones.
It ended up being a fun time! Not a particularly cheap experience, as were were also funding our “attendance” to all of the other bands that were there, but ultimately, I think we all agreed it was worth the trip. The music was great, the experience was something different from what Meg’s used to, and it was an excuse to get out of the house for a day.
I know it’s been awhile since I posted anything, but this particular post has been bouncing around for a bit and I didn’t want to jinx anything.
So far this season, “sickness” has passed us by. This isn’t to say we haven’t felt ill or anything, but the week-long, knock-out D.B.D. that we tend to experience each Winter has, thus far, eluded us. Meg had a bout of strep throat two weeks ago that kept her out of school for 3 days, but the antibiotics took care of it, and really, by the third day, she was back to normal and just couldn’t go to school.
Calvin, somehow, hasn’t really come down with anything. He’s had a lot of gunk in his eyes the last few days, but that’s begun to subside. It was probably connected with the runny nose he’s had, but again, nothing to keep him from school. Thus far, he hasn’t missed any days because he’s been sick, which is craziness compared to the last few Winters.
I can only assume that he’s been infected by literally all childhood diseases at this point and he’s now built up an immunity.
Regardless, we’ve been pretty good on the illness front. Even Brooke and I have resisted sickness pretty well, with the exception of the odd runny nose and headache.
The weather is the other story of the season, where we had a high of 72 F yesterday. On February 20th. In Missouri. It was nice enough late this week that I pulled out the bike trailer and hooked it up to take the kids to the park on Thursday and Friday (pictured above). Yesterday, since the sun was out and the temperature broached the 70 F mark, we went out to the garden and started working the soil a bit.
Brooke went ahead and started on the new garden plot, a third one to complement the other two we made last year. She nearly completed it too, as the ground was soft enough to work efficiently and turn it over in a few hours that morning. I turned over about half the old, large plot to prepare the way for some carrots, radishes and peas Brooke wants to get started with. The weather should be in the 50 F range this week, so while it’s going to get colder again, I’m hopeful I’ll have at least one warmer day over Spring Break in a few weeks so I can get out there and turn over more of the garden.
For now, Brooke started up her seed warmer and a lamp down in the cellar. So far, she’s got mostly herbs planted, as well as peppers, tomatoes and some flowers. This is a bit sooner than she started them last year, and we had them on the back porch last year, where the temperatures got a bit hotter earlier than we expected. Hopefully, the cellar will maintain it’s temperature better and the seeds will be a bit happier.
Last night, Meg had a church kids event to go to. I took her, expecting to need to wait until the event got going. The organizer was there, along with a few kids, but they were going to wait upstairs for more kids to get there before getting started.
I asked Meg if she wanted me to stay for a bit.
“No. Bye, Daddy.”
Hug, kiss, and I was out the door. With Meg left in a new situation with mostly new people. Bonkers.
We’ve struggled with leaving Meg places for, oh, her entire life. Any time we’d switch to a new school, we’d have to plan for, literally, weeks of struggling to get her situated and used to the new place and new people. Every morning, we’d have to build in an extra 10 minutes or so in order to extract ourselves from the “dropping off” stage of our day. By the end of the session, be it school or some kind of day camp, she’d be just fine! But that initial “drop off” would be a huge hassle, as Meg tried to exert her dominance and ultimately would fail.
We expected the same thing with Kindergarten this year. As recently as a few months ago, it took a few weeks before she’d stay at the YMCA without throwing a fit. We had to resort to bribery to get her to do it. And last year when we started at the Lab School, even with taking Calvin along to the same place, she’d cry as we tried to leave.
Yet Kindergarten? Shockingly, it only took a day. After only one day, she was good to go. Yes, there was crying that first morning, but after she realized there were a few people she knew in her class, she did alright.
And at church last night? A place we’ve attended a few times, but never in this context and never with these kids? I was practically shoved out the door.
Likely, this was because the adult is a woman who’s also a Kindergarten teacher and who we’ve connected with on Sunday mornings. But still, this is like a whole other child. One I don’t recognize.
A big day in the Linsenbardt household! And a long time coming…
For the past few weeks, Meg has been pretty apprehensive about starting Kindergarten. Then again, we run through this every time a new school comes into play, and this has happened more than a few times to her. As the drill usually goes, on the first day, things are fine until you get to the room you’re going to leave her in, then she wells up with tears, and then she starts bawling…with a mix of a few screams… Typically, you end up just leaving her there, crying, because the teacher says “It’s okay – just go.” Eventually, she makes it through the day and you pick her up, and you repeat the same process for 2 or 3 weeks.
So far as the first day is concerned, today was no different.
Again, she’s been dreading this for a bit, telling us she didn’t want to go, that she wasn’t excited, that she was scared of going to Kindergarten. Perhaps we noticed it more because she’s been home with me (near constantly) for the past month, so it’s inescapable. Last night, when Mimi called to say “good luck,” Meg at least said she was excited, though that’s the first time I’d heard that expression from her. Perhaps the Open House on Monday night helped a bit, introducing her to the new environment, her new teacher, and that at least one or two old friends from her previous preschool would be in her class. Either way, yesterday was seeming a bit better.
Today? Well, she got up, she ate her waffles, I bribed her with 5 M&Ms to get the picture above (which totally has syrup spilled on her dress…lovely…), and then we left for school. Brooke and I both went this time, though Brooke will take over “drop-offs” from now on and I’ll handle “pick-ups.”
We got there and walked toward her classroom and were then directed toward the gym. We unfortunately didn’t make this clear to Meg that there was a good possibility they’d gather in the gym before going to their classroom, so it’s likely that disrupted her plans a bit.
Before we even hit the gym, the tears were already rolling.
To save some text here, I’ll just say that it took about 10 min for us to get out of there. Her teacher came in to help her feel more comfortable (and offer that she could help hand out name tags to her peers), and when that wasn’t quite enough, I offered to take her to Dairy Queen today after school.
That calmed her down. Bribery will get you everywhere with Kindergarteners.
Ultimately, we survived the first part of what will be a long, long story this year!
So, it’s been quite awhile since I last posted something. There’s a lot I could delve into, but for now, I’m going to bullet a few points of “updates” to get you a cross-section of how things have been going.
1). We closed on our house on August 6th, and there’s a whole story behind how that went down, but suffice to say, we successfully closed and got everything moved in. The house is doing pretty well, but we’ve got some long-term projects in process that prevent us from unpacking all the boxes. I’ll go into this in a later post, but for now, know that we had some plumbing done, getting me all squared away for brewing and getting us a new (more functional) toilet installed upstairs. Hopefully tomorrow, we will have electrical work done, where our house is going to be effectively re-wired. This is stuff that needs to get done and we’re glad we can get it moving within a month of moving in!
2). Brooke’s new job (with the same company) is going well, but she has her work cut out for her. Lots of things to get done, so she’s been busy incorporating her old duties at Bridges CSS (St. Louis) into her new duties at Bridges of Missouri (Sedalia). She’s enjoying it and things have been steadily improving this past month, but there’s lots more to do!
3). My job is going well so far, but this is only the second week of school. Our first exams will start late next week and continue into the following week, so while I’m trying to keep ahead on lectures for three separate classes, I’ve also got to do the “in the present” kinds of stuff like grading and test design. It’s work, but I’m enjoying it so far!
4). Calvin is sleeping through the night. It started August 23rd, on his 11 month birthday, and has continue on and off. Some nights are better than others, but aside from a few cries in the middle of the night, he’s staying down from 7:00 pm to 6:00/6:30 am. Oh, how long we’ve waited for this…and we hope and pray it continues…
5). Meg and Calvin are enjoying their days at the Missouri Valley Lab School. They started on August 18th and Meg took to it immediately. Like, I’m surprised just how well she’s done there. Compared with previous places, where she’d cry for 2-3 weeks as I’d leave her there, she’s been nothing but easy to deal with there. Calvin, on the other hand, took about a week-and-a-half to get settled where I can leave him with a teacher and not have him scream as I walked away. Still, that’s been better in recent days, too.
6). I got a new router and a new Linux server, so that’s why the site’s been down recently. I think I figured it out so it should be working fine, albeit a slight bit slower than it used to be. We’ll see how it goes…
That’s enough for now! I’ll expand on some of these points in the future, but this should tide you over for awhile!
So, Meg was born in early March, meaning she turned 6 months old in September. Her first six months involved the experience of Spring and Summer. Calvin, born in September, just turned 6 months old this past weekend. His first six months involved the experience of Fall and Winter.
Guess which one got sick more often?
We’ve added it up and came to 11 days. That’s just 11 weekdays of illness from Calvin since January, not even accounting for all the snow days we had to take off for Meg (where Calvin frequently stayed home, too, whether daycare was open or not). Here’s the run down:
4 mo vaccinations- 2 days
Random Virus – into – Bacterial Pneumonia (4 mo) – 5 days
A few of those only seem short because they started over a weekend. For example, this most recent bout of RSV started last Friday and Cal held a fever all weekend (thank God it started over a weekend, though…). On Sunday at Urgent Care, he didn’t have an ear infection. He started feeling better Monday, then got worse Tuesday. I took him to the doctor and found he had fewer signs of breathing difficulties and instead had an ear infection. The “Unnamed Stomach Virus” started on a Sunday and kept him out on Monday. By Tuesday he was fine, but Meg and I had contracted it, so even if he got to go to school, two of us became afflicted.
Just can’t win.
More generally, this Winter has been pretty disruptive, largely because of the onslaught of snow, ice, and blistering cold (that mostly affected Meg), and also because Calvin just got every sickness imaginable for an infant. Brooke and I have weathered all this by splitting days at work, or taking turns taking days off here and there. It’s great that we both have flexible jobs, but I can’t imagine what this would be like if we didn’t.
Needless to say, we’re ready for some consistency in the weather. And by “consistency” I mean “Spring.”
I’ve been meaning to write something on this subject for a few weeks but never seem to get around to it. From the beginning, we were curious how Calvin would integrate into our existing threesome (or nine-some, depending on how many creatures we’re including…), and more specifically, how Meg would deal with him and how Brooke and I both have to shift our attention from entirely on her to entirely on her andhim (that’s 200% “attention,” for those keeping count).
Surprisingly and thankfully, it’s been shockingly easy. Meg has displayed nary a hint of jealousy toward him, though she certainly still wants more attention than we can sometimes give her. In general, she’s actually been pretty helpful these past few months, frequently grabbing a rattle or other toy when we can’t reach one, or staying in the room to watch him as we go downstairs to exchange the laundry. If he starts crying, she’s quick to say “It’s okay, Calvin. I’m here!” This rarely helps, but it’s still kinda sweet…
The more surprising aspect of their burgeoning relationship is how Calvin looks at her. I mean, he gets excited when one of us walks into the room after we get home from work, but when Meg walks in, he lights up like nothing else. The other day, I was driving the two of them home and Meg was facing forward singing some song she’d made up. She wasn’t even singing toward Calvin, but he was just staring at her, laughing randomly. Meg didn’t think she was saying anything funny, of course, so she didn’t really understand why Calvin was reacting this way. Still, it’s pretty obvious that she amuses him greatly.
As I’ve mentioned to Nana and others, I’m just waiting for the relationship to turn toward the typical hostility one would expect between a brother and a sister. Clearly they aren’t going to wait until their teenagers or anything, but will it happen when he starts crawling? Walking? When he starts recognizing her toys and messes with them? There’s already some element of this, as most of “his” toys were previously “Meg’s” toys, and she’s fully aware of this. It isn’t like she says “No, Calvin, you can’t have that,” but sometimes when she’s playing with him, she’ll take a toy he was currently chewing on as she’s done playing with it, so now he must also be done.
Regardless, he almost always wants to be around her (or, at least, he is happier when she’s around), and she usually wants to be around him. She still asks to “play with Calvin” just before bedtime, despite being bored with it after maybe 15 minutes of actual “playing.”
Brooke and Calvin went to Kansas City this past weekend for a baby shower, so Meg and I were home on Saturday by ourselves. For once, Meg did a wonderful job of staying upstairs in her room playing after she woke up and didn’t come downstairs to wake up Daddy until 8:15 or so. Believe you me, this was great.
She comes into our room and points out the time, I ask her if she slept well, and we go through our usual morning routine. I then ask her whether she closed her bedroom door so that Sam doesn’t go in (as that’s where her fish resides and I’d prefer not to deal with a half-eaten fish). She says she closed her door, and Sam’s in Calvin’s room. She also said…
“There’s a bird in Calvin’s room.”
To which I replied…
I turn on the TV for her, get her some cereal, proceed to check the internet to see what happened overnight. Nothing too crazy. But then she brings up the bird again.
“There’s a bird up in Calvin’s room.”
“Meg, there’s no bird in Calvin’s room. Please don’t make things up.”
“But there’s a bird in Calvin’s room.”
“Meg, lying is not okay. Please don’t make things up. It isn’t very nice.”
We continued with our morning. To help entertain her a bit, I grabbed a few games for the Kindle and she sat on my lap while I showed her how to play.
A bird flew from the dining room into the living room, landing on our window blinds.
“There’s a bird, Daddy.”
Needless to say, I apologized to Meg for not believing her, followed by me locking Sam in our bedroom while I opened the kitchen door in order to convince the bird to kindly leave our home. Thankfully, it didn’t take long and he/she left without much of a fuss.
How did this bird get in the house? No idea. Our landlord poked around yesterday and couldn’t find anything obvious, either. Best we can tell is it came in through the basement somehow, and then during the night, made its way up to the main floor and then the top floor where, thankfully, Calvin wasn’t sleeping that night.
At the very least, I know to listen to my almost-4-year-old a bit more carefully when she makes wild claims. About birds being upstairs.