Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monsoonami OR Mon-tsunami, I Can't Decide

We loved the KOA at Carlsbad! The staff was super friendly and helpful and the grounds and buildings were some of the cleanest and best organized that I've ever seen. Still, there were some definite downsides to staying there, at least in July. For one thing, it was approximately 900 degrees outside and we were sleeping in a tent. We aren't stupid, we knew July in the flatlands of New Mexico was going to be hot, but we wanted to stay within a short distance of the caverns, so we were willing to put up with it for two nights. However, neither one of us was prepared for the FLIES! I have never, in my life, seen so many flies. It was like a biblical plague. Jason asked one of the KOA employees if there were always so many flies and she commented that it was the season for them and that if we'd come earlier in the summer we'd have seen tarantulas everywhere. I wonder why they don't advertise these things on their website? We also discovered after our first night's stay that July and August are "monsoon" season.
It might surprise you that the arid climate of New Mexico has a monsoon season...I know it surprised me! Monday night as the kids were swimming I kept a watchful eye on the huge banks of clouds that seemed to be approaching on all sides. We'd only been at the pool a short time when lightening chased us back to dry land. The weather held until we went to bed, then we got a good downpour. Our new tent kept us dry, though, and by five a.m. the temperature dropped into the seventies. We spent the entire day Tuesday at the caverns where the temperature hold steady at 56 degrees, but returned to the KOA that evening to scortching heat and the horde of flies.
Once again, Tuesday evening, threatening storm clouds surrounded us. The heat in the tent was oppressive. Haddon thrashed around wildly and we finally dragged his bag outside and let him sleep out there for a while until Jason spotted lightening, then we brought him back in. Not long after getting him settled on his air mattress again, the wind began to pick up. Then it began to lightening, thunder, and rain in earnest. Jason and I got up and battened down the hatches, so to speak, zipping up all of the windows that the wind was now blowing rain through. The storm didn't let up, though, battering the tent for over an hour before decided that something was going to give and we didn't want to be outside when it did. So, we moved all of the the three youngest kids into the van where the big girls were already sleeping. It wasn't until I was carrying Haven (all snuggled up in a blanket to keep her dry)the 20 feet or so to the safety of the van, that I realized just how bad the storm was. The wind was just vicious, blowing the rain into pellets that seemed to be flying every direction at once. I ended up having to hold on to Avery, as well, because she couldn't see with the wind and the rain. It was so windy that I had a hard time getting the van door open, but once I pushed the kids inside, I ran back to the tent to help J. After a few moments of deliberation, we decided that we'd better get as much as we could in the van because if the rain fly came loose as it was threatening to do, all of our clothing, bags, etc. would be soaking wet. I took two trips from the tent to the van hauling various bags, then Avery started crying because she was scared, so I stayed in with the kids while Jason single-handedly emptied the tent. He stayed with it for a while, standing inside and holding on to the top to try to keep it from blowing away.
From the van, the tent looked like a living thing as it bucked and pitched, tipping this way and that before righting itself again. Then the rain fly pitched violently and pulled the stakes from the soggy ground. With no protection from the wind and rain, Jason gave up his efforts and ran for the van. No sooner had he shut the door then the tent caved in. We spent a cozy night in the van, crammed in like sardines, but dry and safe and thankful that we had a van to get into.
The next morning we did a damage assessment and were pleased to find that, although it was filled with water and looked like a tidal wave had hit it, the tent was actually not damaged in any way. It took a little longer to pack up than usual since we had to dry everything, but we were loaded up by noon and heading to the next destination on our trip.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Day number one of our family vacation was spent driving, setting up camp, swimming, and chasing bunnies. Day number two we spent at Carlsbad Caverns exploring the underworld. At the visitor's center we learned that there are two ways to get down into the caverns. The weanie way is to take an elevator straight down into the middle of the caverns where there are restrooms and even a small snack bar (which has been woefully mis-named the "Lunch Cafe'" even though it doesn't actually offer LUNCH). The Dirks way is to hike a half mile to the natural entrance, then hike 1.4 miles (about an hour and a half)into the interior of the cave where the main tours start. Never mind that there are no restrooms between the visitor's center and the center of the caves, we're tough. We loaded Haven into her kelty, strapped on our sensible shoes, equipped ourselves with water and peanut butter crackers, checked the batteries on our cameras, and set off for an underground adventure.
Even though we had seen photos of the entrance, we were all amazed at how HUGE the natural entrance is. As soon as we approached the giant hole in the earth, we heard and saw hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny birds. Turns out Carlsbad Caverns is home to the largest colony of cave swallows in the world! The temperature outside of the cave was a sweltering 90+ degrees, but inside the cave the temp holds at a steady 56 degrees, so we donned jackets shortly after exiting the sunlight. The caves are very dimly lit, especially toward the entrance, which keep the swallows and other creatures from going very far into the cave. Once my eyes adjusted, I was amazed at the sheer size of the cave. Hard to imagine something so enormous existing under your feet. As we hiked through the natural entrance route, we descended 750 feet underground. Other than a little bit of green algae growing on boulders near the entrance, there was no vegetation to be seen. Speleothems of every conceivable shape and size decorate the caverns. In order to remember which is which, we learned a couple of easy sayings: "stalactites hold 'tight' to the ceiling" and "you 'might' trip over a stalagmite." The variety was amazing, like God set out to decorate that cave just to wow visitors. Some of the formations look bubbly, like popcorn. Some of them are almost slimy in appearance, as if made of material that oozes instead of rock. Some of them (called "curtains") look like fabric. Some of them are jagged like crystals. One of my favorite features were the underground pools. The water is so clear that sometimes I wasn't sure it was actually there. Flash photography reveals a beautiful green tint to the water that actually comes from the rock beneath it.
The massive size, hush, lack of plant and animal life, and the strange "rock" formations lend themselves to an outer space feel.
When we reached the lunch room, we had a snack, a rest, and a potty break, then we set out to explore the big room. It was hard for me to imagine anything on a grander scale than what we'd already seen descending into the cavern, but the big room was definitely big. By the time we'd hiked the whole "Big Room" route, we had hiked for over four hours. Haven was asleep in the kelty, but Avery was pooped out! We opted to take the elevator up instead of hiking it (yes, we weanied out). After hours of hiking vigorously, we'd seen just over half of the cave! It was an amazing visit, something we all agreed we'd definitely do again, but next time (if the kids are old enough), we want to don helmets and do our own cave exploration. spelunking

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Know When to Say When

It is vitally important that every person know their limit. Obviously I met mine with 4 kiddos because this 5th one is just running wild! Haven rules this roost...and not benevolently. Last night at supper, she kept pointing insistantly to my plate and saying, "Food, food." Never mind that everything on my plate was already in bite sized pieces on her high chair tray, she wanted my plate. I was already exasperated by trying to prepare dinner while meeting her demands, so in frustration I, literally, tossed my plate onto her tray. "Thank you!" she said with a distinct air of delight and victory. After we prayed I went into the kitchen and prepared myself another plate which Haven then spent several minutes pointing at whilst whining, "Food, food!" Finally she realized that I was not going to give her this one, so she began unloading her tray, insisting on handing me everything off of it. Gross.
In order to fold some laundry this morning after breakfast, I sat Haven down with a coloring book (coloring is her new hobby). When I went back in to check on her after a few minutes, there she was, sitting at the dining room table, coloring it. The crayon wiped right off, but it's the prinicpal of the thing. This kid is giving me a run for my money! I know the Lord says He will not test us beyond what we can bear...has He MET Haven Esther?

Monday, July 13, 2009


After Haven's pointless appointment in OKC, we took the whole fam to the zoo! Haven is just the right age for her first zoo trip, she LOVED it. She had so much fun riding the merry-go-round, making the appropriate animal noises at the animals, and soaking in all of the new ones she wasn't familiar with. The day was hot, but we drank lots of water and ignored the hundred degree temp.
OKC zoo has a climbing tower now and Haddon could not wait to tackle it. He geared up and started off like a monkey. Just over halfway up, Haddon started to come down. We were all cheering him on, but he called down, "my hands are burning!" "Keep going, keep going," we all shouted, but he came on down. When he came down and held out his hands to me I saw that they really were burning. The heat from the handholds had burned his hands to blistering!
We saw the lion cubs (who are half grown, really) up close. The elephants are on a trip to Tulsa (trying for baby elephants, actually), but the bears and apes were showing out in high style. We saw it all and didn't leave until closing time, then everyone but J sacked out on the way home.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

There Was a Little Girl...

Her name was Haven Esther.

Who had a little curl...
It was white blond, fine as a spider's web, and as unruly as a lynch mob. Haven Esther loved to feel her hair, especially when her hands were greasy or sticky or covered in food. And she absolutely refused to leave a bow in it. As soon as her momma would comb those wild, beautiful locks, she would pull the bow out and hand it back to her momma, saying, "Bow, hair?" So, her momma would put the bow back in Haven Esther's hair, but no sooner than she had it in, the little cherub would pull it out and hand it back to her momma, saying, "Bow, hair?" So her momma eventually stopped trying to tame her tresses and even hid all the bows so that Haven Esther wouldn't find them and ask to have them in her hair.

Right in the middle of her forehead...
Haven Esther's hair was like spun silk, curly spun silk in the back and on the sides. The more humid it became, the more tightly her hair curled. Sometimes it curled into several corkscrew ringlets. Sometimes it seems to bunch together into one ringlet, at least until she slept, or rode in a car seat, or rubbed her dirty hands through it. On rainy days or just after a bath, the little girl often had one wayward corkscrew dangling between her eyes.

When she was good...
The little girl loved to sing and she loved to dance. Music moved her, as if she could not help but move when anything with a beat played. She loved animals, especially dogs and cows. Playgrounds were her favorite places. She talked up a blue streak, especially when she learned a new word. Haven Esther loved to learn new words and use them. She would repeat them over and over and over again, testing out new ways to use them. She was a very smart little girl.
When her daddy was in the bathroom, Haven Esther would shout, "Good girl, Daddy!" from the bottom of the stairs. She would shout "Good girl, Daddy!" all the way up the stairs until she finally reached him and could pat his leg saying again, "Good girl, Daddy! Good girl!"

She was very, very good...
Haven Esther was sick a lot, but her doctors and nurses were always amazed at how good she was. She laid still and quiet for many needle sticks and lab draws, even smiling and chatting with the nurses sometimes. She was so good at getting x-rays that she covered her own lap with the little lead apron.
Before she was even two years old, Haven Esther knew lots of her colors, peed and pooped in the potty with surprising frequency, and knew how to sort silverware. At night, she dived into her crib and laid down without a peep. She could climb ANYTHING and did.
Haven Esther's momma and daddy enjoyed her very much. They loved to see her learn and grow. They smiled at her funny faces and fun antics. Her brothers and sisters sometimes argued about who got to take care of her. Even her church family doted on her even though she wasn't very often friendly to them.

But when she was bad,
Sweet Haven Esther wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. And she didn't sleep well most of the time. She liked to be held and carried. She liked to be held and carried pretty much all of the time. She was a picky eater. She really, REALLY liked getting her own way.

She was horrid!
Sometimes little Haven Esther slept so little that her poor parents could hardly function the next day. Then, she would press herself up against the shower door when her momma was showering and bawl, "Momma, Momma shower?" until she was hoarse. When her momma got out of the shower, Haven Esther would cling to her momma's wet legs which makes drying off quite difficult as you can imagine. When Momma would put on her make up where do you think little Haven Esther was? That's right, hanging on Momma's leg crying, "Momma, Momma." Just to be difficult, Haven Esther would fall asleep at inopportune times (like lunch) and then only sleep for a short period of time before waking up again. Then, because the little girl, herself, was tired and cranky from not sleeping, she would spend all day just not being happy. In fact, the only thing that seemed to make her happy on days such as these was making her Momma miserable.
There were days that Haven Esther's momma was so tired and so grumpy and so stressed that she couldn't remember the times that her little girl was precious. On those days she was too worn out to remember her little girl's golden corkscrew curls or funny dancing or the way she told her daddy that he was a "good girl." On those days she sometimes went to church with her hair uncombed and makeup on only one eye and with mismatched shoes and when her friends patted her and asked her how she was she could only cry. On those days, she sometimes had a hard time remembering how much she really loved the little girl and then that would make Momma feel guilty and then she would cry some more.
But, once she had had a good cry and a nap, Haven Esther's momma remembered once more how much she loved her little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead.