Friday, August 26, 2016

Cousin Hazel! (and his parents.) Part 1

Cousin Hazel and his parents made the long trek down to Virginia from Vermont to spend a couple days with us at the lake-less Mountain Lake Lodge.  This was the first opportunity for Alexe, Annaliese, and Caspian to meet their first nephew/first cousin.

Such a happy kid.  

His parents were exhausted after their long drive, (we arrived at the lodge the day before and had a leisurely morning and hike before they arrived.)

The boys.

Annaliese and Caspian took caring for Hazel very seriously.

As did a.Alexe.  

The bocce ball court.

The lodge, and the fire pit where s'mores could be had/made each evening.

Snacking on the cabin porch.

Evening stroll through the dry lake bed.  Had the lake been present we could have been enjoying a lovely paddle/row/sail at this point, but due to some drain holes that developed in this mountain-top lake, the water flows out as fast as it flows in.

The pictures on the website, and all over the lodge, are lovely.  

The company mostly made up for the missing water.

Hazel slept in our room to give his parents a respite, and our kids were all about playing with their cousin at the crack of dawn.

No lake, but many lovely hikes up the surrounding mountains.

With nice views.  The next generation right there.

Such a cute young family.  A classic look of confused happiness overlaid on exhaustion, with the oblivious cause of all this merrily looking around.

Snack break.

Emergency trail-side diaper change.  It takes a village.

More cool forrest-based concrete water tanks.

Cousin Hazel! (and his parents.) Part 2

It was a nice place to meet up. Plenty of activities around, and places to explore.  The kids made bird houses at a day camp, found some kids their age and rotated from the pool to the hot tub to the game room to the s'mores pit to the outdoor movie screenings each night.  

Alexe and Annaliese headed out to find the ropes course while others were napping.  An hour later I was called to come pick them up, about 100 ft short of their goal. Classic Alexe.

A bit of tennis.  With maple margaritas.  

Fun to see the pasty-white Vermonters getting some sun.

Hazel's mobile playpen.

Gearing up for a late morning hike up to a waterfall.

About to set out.

A lovely hike, up a valley next to a brook, with impressive trail infrastructure the whole way.

Snack-break, or for this young man, a quick fishing break.

The crew.  And a nifty stone sidewalk.

Carrying her boy's fishing equipment.

My Nephew!

An easy group to vacation with.

We lingered to watch some local specimens get into the freezing cold water. Two poor souls drowned here the previous two weeks, a young man from Virginia Tech, and a father who dove in to rescue his young son, and never resurfaced after pushing his boy to the edge.  Sobering beauty.

My favorite girl.

Annaliese entertaining her cousin on the walk back down.

a.Natalie with our sons.

The next morning we packed into the vehicles and headed in opposite directions, with promises to figure out next year's halfway point gathering, and to never again assume a lake is still present just because it's there in the pictures.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Retrieving our Babies from Virginia

After a week of a quiet house, we raced back to Virginia to pick up our munchkins.  Nonni kindly met us at Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia, and we did our best not to squeeze Annaliese and Caspian until they popped.

The next morning we took a long hike to the top of one of the mountains above the lodge with a happy Caspian, and an exceptionally grumpy Annaliese.  Since she was a baby this little girl has had a hard time transitioning; she is amazing in social settings, and a champion at being away from home, (as long as she can call us whenever she needs to, which on this trip was every couple hours.) After being brave and independent for so long it takes her some time to switch gears.

I forgot how much fun all those phone calls were.  "Hey Daddy..." 

A gorgeous setting.  The lodge was nifty.  The "Lake" part of the mountain lake lodge was missing.  Drainage problems.  It was a surprise to us, what with the website covered in lovely pictures of a clean lake below a huge stone lodge, and I'm sure I'll touch on it again.

So happy to have us all together again.

Exploring neat things and places. How has nobody rebuilt this awesome stone shell? It sits 20 ft back from the amazing view above.

We reaaaallly missed our kiddos.  And Annaliese's grump was lasting longer than we could wait.

The walk back to the lodge was along a lovely forest path, with lots of ferns, and periodic pine trees to take shelter under when the rain picked up.

It may look like a ufo, but it's really a giant water tank near the top of a mountain.  There were other smaller ones dotting the forrest nearby.

Even though the lodge didn't have a lake, it was surrounded by lovely walking trails, held outdoor movies each night, had a little swimming pool, tennis courts, game room, gym, bocce ball court, giant chess board, a big lodge with a restaurant and bar, and did its best to excuse the absence of the lake.

We had a great time.  Missing are the two days we spent here with Cousin Hazel and his parents.  Those will get here soon.

Following a lovely weekend, we packed up our little family and rocketed home.  A mere 12 hours in the car, exploring roadside attractions on the way.

And home. 

Everyone was happy to see the kids.

Letting our children go...

Annaliese and Caspian make our hearts swell every day.  

Letting them go visit their a.Eliza and Nonni was not an easy decision.  But our two precious miracles also whine and fight and say, "I'm bored" enough to counter all those internal struggles of ours.

On the joy-of-our-lives side of the ledger, this newfound ability to execute a chore list.  I handed them each a packing list, and this is what I found when I came to inspect.

We hit the road headed to a half-way meet-up with Eliza and Nonni in Knoxville.  A little main street with a diner caught our attention in Alabama for breakfast.

A roadside fruit and veg stand caught Alexe's eye.  

And other than a 2 hour delay for traffic in Chattanooga, we made it to Knoxville in time for dinner, which we enjoyed in the busy walking downtown area.  Quite the gathering of folks, complete with a religious sect that told Nonni she was going to hell for wearing pants.

A little after dinner stroll.

Molested the local monuments and grounds...

Retired to the hotel for a late night swim...

Went out early for another swim, and then we kissed our babies and sent them East to Virginia, while Alexe and I headed West for a child-free time together like we haven;t had in 8+ years.

We stopped in Nashville, and went to Provence, a favor spot of ours from the days when Alexe was at Vanderbilt and I was flying in from DC as often as I could afford.  

Our time home alone is a blur.  We puttered around the place, caught up on things, found we still like each other, not unlike how we spend life with the kids.

Flower planters, aka livestock water troughs, were filled with mulch and brought to the elementary school.

Alexe didn't wear the right shoes and had a run in with fire ants.  This happens every time Alexe gardens.

The menagerie.

Another project Alexe has taken on is a garden at the elementary school, where she will be teaching a gardening class to groups of students on Thursday mornings.

All in all not much has changed.  We're only about 4.5 hours away from Nashville, Alexe is still making gardens wherever we go, and I'm still following her around and offering assistance with varying levels of enthusiasm.