Saturday, December 31, 2011

Did I mention...

we had fun just hanging out in Arkansas?

Mills Cabin

We had so much fun this week at Mills Cabin!  Mike and I have always dreamed of owning a log cabin, so it was awesome to live in one for the week!  I didn't think about taking pictures of the cabin when we arrived, but Daddy Steve took a few before they left today.  Here are some of the pictures he took.  We didn't get any of the bedroom Daddy Steve & Namaw stayed in or of the bathroom....but most of the rest of the cabin is pictured below.  We'd love to go back to Ponca again and stay at another one of Buffalo Outdoor Center's log cabins!  Next time we want to go when the trees are green...or maybe in the fall when they're changing colors.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Don't forget to yell "ROCK!"

Can you find me in the picture below?  I have a black jacket and white stocking cap on.  This is the only picture that I have to go along with the adventure I'm about to tell you. 
After we tired of playing football, Mike and I went for a walk.  Our plan was to go check out the two cabins down the road from us.  From the last cabin we decided to make a path through the woods back to our cabin.  When we were at the point you see in the picture above, we were enticed further into the woods up the mountain.  There was a moss covered creek bed that looked like a "follow the yellow brick road" to two explorers.  We couldn't resist the tug of nature and were soon climbing up the side of the mountain.  At first it was an easy climb.  The rocks had fallen down the creek bed in an almost stair step pattern.  Then we reached an area that was more like bouldering.  Before long we were having to navigate through a maze of briers while trying to stay on our feet on the steep incline.  The path was covered with leaves which made it difficult because we weren't certain what was under our feet with each step!  When we ventured outside the creek bed the terrain was loose which caused us to lose our balance, however the mossy creek bed was becoming slippery.  After climbing for a while it looked like we were nearing a ridge, but there was an obstacle.  During the spring, I'm guessing that water cascaded like a waterfall down the small bluff in front of us, however, during the winter it was just a moss covered bluff of rocks.  We decided to try to climb the bluff rather than going around...because that's where the adventure was!
I began to climb first.  I found some good hand holds and a few good foot holds, however as I climbed farther up I couldn't find anything to hold onto that wasn't a mossy, muddy, slippery mess! There was a huge oval rock that was sitting on the top ledge of the bluff.  I told Mike (who was climbing up behind me), "There's a big rock up here that has an edge I can grab onto, but it's just sitting on top of this ledge and I'm afraid it'll move!"  He told me to try pulling on it really hard...putting my weight on it.  I pulled hard and the rock didn't budge, so we decided to keep climbing using the rock as a hand hold.  I reached as far as I could around the rock and put all my weight on that hand hold to pull myself up to the ledge.  As I did, I felt the rock give way!
Suddenly I was watching a 200+ pound rock as it came lose from the ledge and fell straight towards my husband!  I yelled "Aaaaaaah!" (you're supposed to yell "ROCK" when you knock a rock loose while climbing...but I think adrenaline took over...besides...Mike knew there was a boulder headed for his head!).  Then (as I fell) I looked back to see Mike throw his body backwards off the bluff and saw him tumble back down the mountain head over hills for about 20-30 feet.  Praise the Lord that he threw himself to the right and the rock went to the left.  I saw the rock banging into other rocks and trees until it came to a stop 10 feet past Mike.  It was at this time that I realized that I had slid straight down the bluff and landed straddled on a tree that was growing sideways out of the mountain. 
Mike slowly got to his feet as I called out "what's broken?!?" He stood there for a few minutes taking inventory of his body parts.  It was nothing short of a miracle that he was able to walk away with just some scrapes and bruises.  He must have hit a rock or tree pretty hard with his left butt cheek (it was swollen and red/green/purple)...but besides that he just had some scrapes on his arms and legs and quite a few briers stuck in his hands.  I was shaking...but besides a scrape on my leg, I too was no worse for the wear!  If Mike had not thrown himself off the bluff...or if he had jumped left rather than right, the rock could've killed or maimed him!
We took a few minutes to regroup.  After we realized that we were ok...we both looked up towards the ridge and then back at each other with grins on our faces.  We decided to take the safter, round about way up to the top of the bluff and were surprised at what we found at the top.  It was a huge cave!  It was at least 8 feet tall at the top of the opening and 10-15 feet wide.  We could see that there were lots of tunnels that went back deep into the cave, but without a flashlight...there was no way we were going to explore a cave that was off the beaten path!  I was just a little paranoid that there would be a bear hibernating in there (although Mike saw no signs of bear...only deer).  It was then we realized that we didn't even have a phone with us (not that we'd get cell service...but we didn't have ANY source of light).  Since the sun had already disappeared over the peak of the ridge, we decided we better began the trek back to the cabin.  We didn't want to have to hike through the moss covered rocks and briers in the dark! 
We arrived back at the cabin as darkness set in and when we walked in the door I announced, "Well...we're alive!"  (This is something we usually say to Namaw after we've done something that she wouldn't approve sky diving.)  She wasn't thrilled with our adventure story and reminded us that we have 2 little boys to take care of.  We know that...and that's why we headed back before dark!  ;)
This is one of the things that I love about Mike.  He thrives on adventure.  Some of my favorite memories are of the crazy adventures we've lived through.  I see this same hunger for adventure in our boys and it makes me so happy to know that our life will be full of many adventures as a family.  We don't ever intentionally put ourselves in situations that endanger our lives....but I have a feeling that Namaw will hear "Well...we're alive!" a few more times over the next couple decades.

Arkansas Day 4 - Xbox, Elk, and Football

This morning Caleb and Mike hooked up our Xbox Kinect and the competitions began.  Somehow Brody was in on almost every game.  His favorite (surprise surprise) is baseball.  Here Caleb was pitching to Brody.  It made for a funny picture from my point of view!

After a breakfast of eggs, sausage, and biscuits, the whole crew headed into town to go to the Ponca Elk Education Center.  We spent a good amount of time here playing, reading, and acting. 

I'm not sure that Axton wanted to learn about Birding Ethics with Caleb & Audria.  Can't you see his eyes saying, "Please put me and camo and give me a gun like my cousins!!!"

During nap time Mike, Brody, Daddy Steve, Caleb, and I headed outside for a competitive game of football.  The flattest spot in the area (since we are kind of on the side of a mountain) was down by the road (where we parked our Durango).  Playing on rock isn't very forgiving, so we didn't have any diving catches in the end zone.  The weather was absolutely beautiful...not too hot and not too cold for playing outside. 

While the guys and I played football, Audria, Namaw, and Axton watched from a safe distance and relaxed on the porch swing.  Audria got Axton to laughing one time (which is hard to do...he smiles soooo easy...but is so hard to get to laugh) and we could hear it down below.  Such a sweet noise!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ponca Elk Education Center

When we left the Elk Education Center, it was the perfect time to stop alongside the road and watch the heard of elk that was grazing in one of the fields.  Again...I was kicking myself for leaving my telephoto lens at home!!!

The photo below is the one that got away.  We drove by this barn several times, however we never made it there in time for the light that would've made a gorgeous picture!  See the sunkisssed hilltops in the background?  Well...I wanted to get there was the whole valley was lit up by the setting sun...but it didn't happen. 
Mike made yummy hamburgers for dinner tonight and then we played games together as a family.  We stayed up late talking and laughing.  So much fun!

Lost Valley Trail

click on the collages below to view full screen.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arkansas Day 2- Hide-Out Hollow

click on the collages below to see full screen. 

Here's video proof of Barrett's rock obsession...


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ponca, Arkansas

We left bright and early this morning to drive 7 hours to a dot on the map in Arkansas...a log cabin in an itty bitty town called Ponca.  We took the scenic route through the Ozark National Forest.  What we didn't realize was that there weren't many restaurants to eat at along the scenic route...and that's where we were when the boys were hungry for lunch!  We finally pulled off at a country market (aka gas station with enough bread and milk to classify as a grocery store for a town of 50 people) that had a restaurant inside.  The pizza was really good (and made fresh to order) so everyone was happy!  The boys thought it was a little funny to be eating in the middle of a "grocery store".  It was actually the cleanest and most organized gas station/grocery store I've ever seen!  It looked like a family (parents and kids) were running the store and we were impressed!

As soon as his belly was full, Barrett was out! 

Brody was too excited to sleep.  He spent most of his time talking to us about the views out his window. 

We were all excited when we saw an elk grazing in the field along the road!  We pulled over and watched it for a while.  I was kicking myself for not packing my telephoto lens!

Now this is a vacation home!  Check out the log cabin that we get to stay at this week!!!
Did you notice the hot tub that's just outside the doors to our bedroom?  How about the wrap around porch, stone chimney, or unlimited supply of firewood (under the awning on the left side of the picture)?  How about the unbridled enthusiasm of our 3 year old running down the hill to go explore?!?

The boys were eager to help.  The first thing on Mike's list (after unloading the Durango) was to start a fire in the enormous fireplace that was in the living room.  Brody and Barrett carried firewood (one log at a time) up the stairs to the cabin.

They took a break to test the porch swing...

and took turns jumping off rocks...

A little while after we got to the cabin, Daddy Steve, Namaw, Caleb, Audria, and Axton arrived!  We took the bedroom downstairs (with a king bed and a pull out couch for the boys).  It was the coldest room in the cabin which was perfect for Mike (and the boys and I are used to cooler temps).  Daddy Steve and Namaw took the room off the kitchen with a double bed and Caleb and Audria took the room upstairs with 2 double beds and plenty of room for Axton's pack-n-play.  Caleb and Audria's room was the hottest in the cabin (perfect for Audria! lol).  There's only one bathroom and we were all thankful when Namaw announced that she brought her air freshener for the bathroom! lol  The one oddity is that none of the bedrooms have doors.  Maybe that's why they're all on different levels of the cabin?  It may make it harder for Axton to sleep, but I love how the cabin creaks with every step you take!  There's not doubt that this place is all wood!  When I say it creaks...I mean it CREAKS with EVERY step! lol  If anyone has to walk through the house to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night...we'll all hear it!  I think it just adds to the rustic cabin feel.

Daddy Steve brought his travel guitar and Barrett was eager to sit in front of the fire with him and listen to music.

After we got settled in, the guys headed to Jasper (1/2 hour away) to get groceries at the nearest grocery store.  It was dark before they got home and we had some hungry little ones that were excited when we finally got to cookin' some dinner!
It was so nice to relax and talk after the kids went to bed.  There were not any distractions from the TV (we don't get any stations out here), cell phones (no cell service), or texts/emails/facebook alerts (nope...not Internet either)!  We may have media withdrawals...but it'll be nice to be totally disconnected from the rest of the world for a few days! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas with the Jacksons

The Abilene crew was sick last week which delayed our December 23rd traditions until today.  We didn't have time for all our normal traditions (birthday cake for Jesus, driving around to see Christmas lights, and watching Elf), but we did have time to eat, visit, and open presents!  We also found time to play a little Xbox Minute to Win It ;)

I wish I had on video the expression on Brody's face when he opened his present from Grammy.  She gave him a baseball that was autographed by Craig Gentry.  It's like he was so excited that he was trying to reign it all in and not let it show.  It looked like his cheeks were gonna burst as he tried to contain his grin!  He kept saying, "Craig Gentry has touched this baseball!!!" 

Barrett was equally as excited (although he let his excitement show) about the RC truck that Grammy gave him!  He was a little disappointed that the battery had to charge for 8 hours, so he set the truck on manual and played with it anyways.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas with the Hakers

We had fun getting together tonight for a Christmas dinner with the Hakers!  We missed Jon & Cindy (who just had baby Emma last week!) and Tyler & Ann (who were on their way to Indiana to visit Ann's family) but were happy that Grammy made it to town in time to join us for the celebration!  As always, the kids had so much fun playing together and there were lots of laughs and storytelling among the adults.  I'm so thankful God gave us families!

The guys table:  Matt, Mike, Caleb, Josh, Daddy Steve, Ron, Brody, Collin, and Barrett

Silly boys....

Barrett (and all the guys young and old) loved the RC card that GG gave him.  It's a "tricky EC car" (meaning an RC car that does tricks...for some reason Barrett can't remember that he should say RC and instead calls them EC cars).