Friday, August 29, 2008

A Day with Friends

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for
that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy.
Let's face it, friends make life a lot more fun.
~ Charles R. Swindoll

A few days ago I had the pleasure of getting together with two great friends. We met each other when we were all still teaching and as fate would have it, we all decided to become stay at home moms to our boys who are now friends. Since then, the three of us have also added daughters to our families, and like the boys they are also close in age. We are all in the same playgroup, but with busy summer schedules we haven't gotten to spend much time together in the last few months. So, we planned a trip to take the kids to a local farm which is run by the state park service.

The boys were instantly excited as the first animals they saw were cows. They were able to get up close and personal with a few of them since they were happily lounging in the shade.

What could three boys possibly be looking at down in the grass? I know I don't have to tell you that.

A surprise came when a ranger pulled up and as he did this large momma cow got up from her resting position to reveal a calf. The female calf had just been born two days before and the ranger encouraged the boys to offer a name for her.

Look at that fuzzy little newborn face. Now, seriously, how cute is she?
After ooohing and aaahing over the calf we headed to the barn to see the piglets that had just been born that morning. We obviously hit the farm on a good week.

The pink piglet was one of the ones born that morning. Unfortunately, only two of the piglets in that litter survived so they brought in some other piglets to help the momma and babies out.
The ranger was kind enough to let the boys see one of the older piglets and they even got to pet it. Very exciting!

Then we were off to see the goats. When we first arrived there were some other kids there who were feeding the goats the grass from the "greener side." The boys quickly followed suit and could hardly get enough.
They giggled with excitement over the very attentive goats who were eating from their hands.

I think the goats were the favorite animal that day as we had to visit them twice.

And, of course, it wouldn't be a good farm if there weren't tractors to sit on. Austin is tractor obsessed. He would have sat there all day, but being a good friend he got down and let the other boys have turns. I honestly don't know what we said to them to get them to finally leave that barn.

Visiting the horses was also a lot of fun. We can see horses from our back deck, but Austin never has an opportunity to get this close. He was more than a little intimidated.
My friend Patty and I had both packed carrots in our lunch bags, so we pulled them out and let the boys feed the horses.

Austin was too scared, but Gavin and Sebastian loved it. There was one little horse, which may actually have been some kind of donkey, that was trying hard to get a turn at the carrots. He was getting blocked for awhile, but eventually he managed to squeeze his head through the fence and score a couple carrots. The boys really liked that little guy!

We had a fantastic day and plan to visit the farm again soon.
I can't tell you what a blessing it is to have friends that I love to hang out with. Our boys are friends and love to play together, and we have a chance to look at our sweet daughters and think of all the fun that is ahead when they start to play together. It doesn't get much better than that.

"Friends are the sunshine of life."
~ John Hay
"A friend is someone who reaches out for your hand...and touches your heart." ~ Anonymous

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Waves of Fun

The part of the Outer Banks where we vacation is a trio of little towns on Hatteras Island. One of them is about to get a lot of attention with the release of the movie "Nights in Rodanthe." One of the other towns is called Waves. For Austin there could be no better name for a place that he enjoys spending time, as playing in the waves is one of his favorite things.

It is not that the waves are anything spectacular.

In fact, most days they are fairly calm.

But, Austin has an odd relationship with the waves. He sees them as friends that are playing with him. I swear this is true! He talks to the waves and giggles uncontrollably as they chase him up the shoreline.

Big or small, he enjoys them all. But, it hasn't always been this way.

There were a few days this year that the waves were actually quite intimidating. Though that only seemed to spur Austin on. He was fascinated by their height and was surprised a few times by their power.

Because he is practically fearless when it comes to the water, we had to keep a firm grip on him during those days. The pull of the waves was really strong and almost knocked him off his feet on more than one occasion.

I had to use my 300mm lens and sit way back to keep from getting water on the camera. As you can see in the picture above, the sand is wet way up near where I was. Every once in awhile a huge wave would come and surprise everyone with it strength. We moved our chairs back several times that day.

Once the waves had beat against the shoreline for awhile, the erosion of the sand created a nice little bleacher for the boys to watch the show the sea was putting on.

It was a great time whether in the "bleacher" seat or back where I was.

Having grown up in Florida, there is something so deeply peaceful and soothing to me about the sound of the waves. I could sit and watch them all day long. In fact, I often found myself just watching the waves instead of reading a book (that is if I was not needing to keep my eyes on children).
Mark was so good about letting me have a little time to myself each day so that I really felt like I got a vacation. (Sometimes he was able to join me which was nice too!) I often retreated to the beach to let myself, and all the stresses surrounding me, drown in the sound of those amazing waves. What a blessing it was to have those moments!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Boy Loves Monsters

On the way down to the Outer Banks we pass the home of "Grave Digger" the monster truck. Over the last couple years it has changed from an old monster truck sitting in a grassy area with "no climbing" signs on it, to a tourist attraction.

Everything there is big huge and Austin can hardly contain himself he gets so excited. As soon as he spots it, he starts wiggling in his car seat and saying, "I need out pleeeease. Out pleeeease!"

He often just stands in awe of the enormity of the trucks and we wonder exactly what is going through his little mind.

I am not kidding when I say he could stand and stare at those trucks all day.

He is absolutely mesmerized by all the stuff (awesome mechanical term right?) under the belly of the beasts. Our boy loves monster trucks...not in a redneck way (though I have nothing against rednecks)...more in a "fascinated by all things transportation or with wheels" way.

Within the last year they added a gift shop with all sorts of monster truck merchandise. The last time we were there, in May, it was closed because the team was at an event. This time we were able to go inside and Austin had fun sitting in the shiny championship chair a good 5 feet off the ground. Honestly, I think he was a bit intimidated and scared at first.
In addition to the gift shop they have also, in the last couple months, added a diner with a surprisingly wonderful crab melt and...

a MONSTER TRUCK RIDE!!! Initially, our plan was just to let him go see the monster truck run the course because he was too little to really appreciate or enjoy riding it. Austin had other plans. "Ride the truck pleeeease Daddy? Mommy, ride the truck pleeease?"
We walked over and discovered that there was a $5 a person fee. Mark asked the attendant at the ticket counter if he would have to pay for Austin since he was only two. She said they would both be charged, but Austin could ride it by himself. I. don't. think. so!!! He may be tall for his age, but he is still only two. So, we forked over the $10 dollars (ugh!) for the boys to ride the monster truck.

Who looks more excited in this picture, Austin or Mark? Boys will be boys!

Anyway, notice the little girl climbing the steps to the truck? She and three of her sisters/cousins joined the ride without a parent. In fact, Mark was the only adult on the ride. (Apparently, at that price, the other parents weren't going to pay to accompany their kids.)

As the truck pulled away from the loading dock Austin was beaming and VERY excited. That is until the four little girls started to scream and cry as the truck went over the first little bump of the course. It scared Austin that they were so upset and he started to cry as well.

Honestly, it was probably the noise of the truck that was scary to the girls because this bump is really not worth losing your mind over. And, Mark said they were losing their minds screaming, crying and asking the driver to stop and take them back to the dock. Of course, the driver could not hear them over the roar of the engine.

Now this is a little more worthy of freaking out. For goodness sakes the truck is going over a bus! By now Mark had calmed Austin down and the girls had resorted to whining since their cries were "ignored."

Mark said the course felt like a roller coaster and was "AWESOME!" He loved it! Mark, I mean. Austin liked it, but was glad to be away from the high pitched screams of scared little girls.

All in all it was a great break from our hours upon hours in the car. Had we known we would be sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for three and half more hours, though at that point we were only an hour away, we would have at least had some ice cream before leaving!

(**Notice he was appropriately dressed for the day in his monster truck t-shirt. I have to hide that shirt and his John Deere tractor shirt or he would insist on wearing them everyday.**)

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