Monday, August 29, 2011

In Daddy's Shoes (or Cleats)

I'm not sure who was more excited to visit Dick's Sporting Goods to purchase cleats, shin guards, socks, shorts, and a soccer ball: the tall blonde or the small one. Reed has just started his first season of soccer, and both he and Tim are giddy with the excitement. I'm pretty happy to finally earn the title "soccer mom" and watch Reed enter this new sport with such enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First Day Fun

When the late nights and leisurely days come to an end, it's a huge blessing when your boys can approach a new school year with grins like these. Here are the boys on the first day of the 2011-2012 year.

Here's one proud papa with his fourth grader and seventh grader. All smiles (though Tim looks like he's sharing a bit of my back-to-school emotion)!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


To say I love books just doesn't seem to express my sentiment completely. To say I love story is perhaps a more apt description. So, I find myself immersed the pages of a book (or two or three) at most times. I'm thankful that I have a husband who also shares this interest (so he doesn't begrudge my book-buying habit).

Since our nightstands, bookshelves, and most every level surface in our home holds stacks of books that are in process, I thought it would be fun to track what we read in this new year. I'll only list a book once we've finished it cover-to-cover. Hopefully this list will inspire you to read one of these titles (or to finish that book resting on your nightstand).
  1. Julia Child by Laura Shapiro
  2. The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs
  3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  4. The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson
  5. The Fiddler's Green by A.S. Peterson (Oh my, so good! Please go to to order The Fiddler's Gun and this incredible continuation of Fin Button's adventures!)
  6. Turn My Mourning Into Dancing by Henri Nouwen
  7. Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge
  8. Looking for Alaska by John Green (Yes, John Green of Nerdfighters fame. If you're not familiar with Nerdfighters, watch this clip. Hope you enjoy a nice laugh!)
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (How am I just reading this classic? After all, it was voted the best novel of the 20th century - and I seem to remember taking a course in college titled "20th Century Novels." How was this omitted from the syllabus?!)
  10. Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne
  11. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  12. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst
  13. Radical by David Platt
  14. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  15. Sabbath by Dan Allender
  16. Operating Instructions by Anne LaMott
  17. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
  18. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  19. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  20. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  21. Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen
  22. SoulTalk by Larry Crabb
  23. Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge
  24. How To Be Good by Nick Hornsby
  25. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Monday, August 8, 2011

Great in Grayton

Our summer-time tradition continued this August with the 12th annual Dunham-Tucker-Nelson Beach Trip. Our Grayton Beach house and its accompanying golf cart gets Reed's seal (or grin) of approval.

Once we hit the beach, the boys begin to dig. This year the big boys got in on the fun, digging deep enough to bury both boys neck deep in sand.

On Tuesday afternoon we rented a kayak to venture out into the surf. Here Tim and the boys prepare to paddle. A little later Tim and Barry paddled out far enough to approach a passing-by pod of dolphins.

We were fortunate to enjoy sunny weather nearly every day. Beach service (with a nice big umbrella to provide plenty of shade) made a day at the beach a...well, a day at the beach.

Unfortunately Tim had to leave mid-week to return home to work. We neglected to get our annual family shot while he was still around, so here's our 2011 family photo, minus one.

After ice cream at a nearby creamery (yum, the lemon frozen yogurt), we made an evening visit to the shore for Reed to enjoy some final digging. We enjoyed a stunning sunset on our final evening at the beach.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh-So-Hot Holiday

Twice a summer we head to the woods for some hot, sticky tent-camping fun. This Fourth of July weekend we outdid ourselves! Instead of our usual destination at Elkmont (which was full because we waited too late to book), we went to the Bandy Creek Campground at Big South Fork.

Tim has hiked and camped here with buddies several times, but this was the first time our family camped here. While he was right that it was a beautiful spot (and had the luxury of showers!), it was HOT, and I mean H-O-T! And with the heat came the bugs. So, we were either enclosed in a screened environment or cooling off in the overcrowded campground pool (a scene that brought to mind the Griswald family and their "Vacation" foibles).

The two highlights of the weekend were having Grandmama along (she was a great sport in the heat!) and hiking to the Twin Arches. Below are photos from this stunning hike:

Below the boys stand under one of the huge stone arches:

You want me to go in WHERE? Tim and the boys had already entered this cave, so what choice did I have? Out of sight is not out of mind, so I braved the dark and found myself in a large cavern.

From inside the cave, I could see Seth and Reed already back outside. I decided to return the way I came rather than squeeze through this tight spot.

Unfortunately the following picture is a "before," not an "after," and we still had all of those stairs to climb to finish our journey. One foot in front of the other...

Monday, June 20, 2011

One Message

We are part of an awesome church...a church where the Word is central, is taught and studied, and defines who we are and what we are about. For the past several years Tim has been an elder at Providence Church.

This summer our pastor will be taking a well-deserved sabbatical, and during his absence our elders will be stepping into the teaching role that Chad usually occupies. For my stage-shy husband, this opportunity is unnerving -- to say the least. However, it is also a rare and exciting opportunity to share one message from his heart with the body of our church.

Here's a video sharing about our elders and explaining "One Message." (Click here.) Join us at Providence starting on June 26 for this special series!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Fun

Why is it when folks find out that I willingly participate in tent camping they are surprised? Oh, all right, I can think of lots of reasons. But when God gifted me with a husband who likes to camp and two sons, I knew I had two choices: make the best of it or be left behind. And even though it can be hot and buggy and is guaranteed to be dirty and stinky, there are rewards to camping. Nature, family time, of my personal favorites - S'mores (and lots of them!).

On Father's Day weekend the past two years, we have camped in Cades Cove. Part of our weekend includes rising early on Saturday morning to bike the loop before cars enter the park.

Lest you think it's an easy task to bike the 11-mile loop, here's a picture of the boys taking a mid-loop break - Reed boosting with a protein bar and Seth giving himself some positive "self talk" (I think I can, I think I can...).

What's the best treat after biking the loop? Well, the boys and I would agree about the soft serve ice cream sold at the Cades Cove visitors center. Tim might argue that a nap in his hammock is the ultimate reward. Oh well, it's Father's Day...he deserves it!

The downpour came on Saturday afternoon, thankfully after we finished biking. It didn't damper our spirits though. We drove the loop during the worst part of the storm, and then did some wet exploring around the campground.

It's good to see the boys still enjoying the outdoor adventure despite an afternoon of rain. When the thunder clapped early on Sunday morning, however, we gave in, packed up, and headed on home.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

On our sixth day in Colorado, we woke to brilliant skies and snowy peaks. We left the hot springs and Buena Vista to begin the journey to our final destination for the week: Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Here our family stands with stunning Mt. Princeton in the background:

We arrived in Estes Park in the afternoon and checked into our lodging at the YMCA of the Rockies, a vast family resort with sprawling grounds and numerous cabins and lodges. We set out to explore Estes Park with one goal: souvenier shopping! The boys had money burning holes in their wallets. Thankfully we found a couple of excellent rock shops, so they avoided t-shirts and baseball caps for something more meaningful and lasting. We couldn't get over the elk that were roaming freely in the town. Here a herd of elk graze outside a barbecue restaurant:

On Saturday morning we began our full day in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a cool, clear morning, and after a stop at the Visitor's Center we began our time with a hike around a picture-perfect mountain lake.

We ventured off the path to a trail leading to some campsites. The boys were happy to discover these snow drifts in the woods. It's difficult to tell from the perspective of the photograph, but the snow was nearly as deep as Reed stands. Even though they weren't dressed for it, the boys couldn't resist climbing the snow and running and sliding down it.

In the afternoon we returned to the YMCA to enjoy one of their many activities - archery! This is an awesome family resort with classes, hikes, and activities planned for children of all ages. The boys spent an hour and a half in the beginning archery class.

Later in the day, we returned to the park. We drove on Trail Ridge Road as far as it was cleared from snow (11 miles in). While they aim to have the road open by Memorial Day each year, it was clear why they won't reach that goal this year. The snow stood many feet higher than Tim!

We then drove down the mountain, out of the cloud bank, to the Alluvial Fan. This waterfall and the debris surrounding it was created by a 1982 dam break and flood. It was a wonderful place to climb and play; however, an afternoon rain shower cut our time short and drove us back to our Jeep.

After a very full day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we returned to our room at the YMCA to try to repack eight days of adventure into three suitcase. Morning will come too soon, and we will leave these mountains with sleep still in our eyes. We're ready to return home with a profound sense of gratitude for our week and a full heart from feasting on this beautiful place.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Paddle, Saddle, and Soak

When I say that this Colorado trip was a "dream come true," I am not being cliche. It's true. Tim and I shared a deep mutual desire to experience this place together and with our boys. You see, we've been ten times separately, but never together. And our boys have heard tales of our Colorado trips so often that they're a kind of family legend. So, what a thrill on Wednesday to make our way to YoungLife's Frontier Ranch, where Tim and I have attended seven Ransomed Heart retreats.

Summer camps had not begun, so we were able to meander around the ranch on our own. It was fun to show the boys where we stay, eat, worship, and also tell tales of some of our adventures.

After leaving Frontier Ranch, we drove into the mountains to the ghost town of St. Elmo, population 3. This town once boasted a population of 3,000, but now the owners of the bed and breakfast and the general store are its only year-round residents.

On Wednesday afternoon we checked into the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort, just down the road from Frontier Ranch. We quickly moved into our beautiful cliff-side room, donned our bathing suits, and headed for the natural hot springs. Built into the side of hill bordering a mountain stream, these pools are fed with hot, HOT mineral water. The snow-melt feeds the stream, so this cold water mixes with the mineral water to make the steaming pools bearable (it is that hot!). Ahhh, what a way to end our day!

Thursday began bright and early as we reported to Noah's Ark Whitewater Rafting. This 10-mile rafting excursion was the boys' first ever, so we had some adrenaline pumping. The boys were great, though, managing the Class 3 rapids we encountered on this sometimes wet, chilly ride. Seth helped me paddle in the front of the raft, while Tim and our guide manuevered the middle and back. Reed sat shivering in between Seth and me up front.

After our four hour float down the Arkansas River, we headed over to Mt. Princeton Stables for a two hour horseback ride. This inexperienced group of riders (Reed's first; Seth's second; and my first in 25 years!) saddled up on our assigned horses: Reed on Jazz, Seth on Buttercup, Tim on Dawn, and me on Tequila. Yes, that's right: TEQUILA.

I'd like to say our ride started as peacefully as the above photograph indicates, but that would be a lie. Before the stables were out of sight, Tequila had already picked a fight with a horse in the corral and bucked into the air (kudos for me hanging on!). Soon into our ride, it was clear that Tequila intended to ride with his nose pressed into Buttercup's backside. This resulted in occasional kicks from Buttercup and frequent concerned glances from Seth.

In the end, the boys managed their horses beautifully, I kept Tequila from lurching off the side of the mountain, and Tim learned to keep his equestrian suggestions to himself (poor guy).

After our two-hour ride, this cowgirl was happy to return to the hot springs for a long soak in the steaming mineral waters. Just what her sore saddlebag needed and the perfect ending to an adventure-filled day in Buena Vista.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Less Is More

We learned an important lesson on our first full day in Colorado: oftentimes less is more. Let me explain...we woke to a beautiful morning and were still grappling with how to spend our next few hours. We had rock climbing scheduled with a local friend at 2 p.m., so we had six hours. Since this was Tim and the boys' first visit to Colorado Springs, we felt compelled to visit the iconic Pikes Peak. I don't think any of us really cared about going (given our indecision about whether to drive to the top or ride the Cog Railroad), but we were in Colorado Springs, so it felt like a must.

We rushed to the railroad and barely made the train before departure, even bantering back and forth as we bought the tickets whether this was something we really wanted to do. We got aboard, though, and within minutes of the climb, I think Tim and I both realized we had made a mistake. Seth looked utterly bored, and Reed looked sleepy. Once you're on your way to the top, however, you're committed.

We reached Pikes Peak to discover the incredible views but also to find that the altitude did not agree with the boys. We found a table inside the snack bar/souvenir shop where they could rest while Tim trudge through snow and ice to enjoy the sight. As our twenty minute stop ticked by every so slowly, the boys felt increasingly worse and...let's just say, Seth's souvenir t-shirt would read, "I puked on Pikes Peak."

Poor guy. We returned to the train to wait it out, and once we began our descent, both boys fell asleep in our laps and earned the compassionate looks of our fellow passengers.

Thankfully we walked away from Pikes Peak with a valuable takeaway for the rest of our vacation (and for vacations to come): Less Is More. Sure, we came to Colorado to explore and adventure together. But we also came in need of rest, restoration, peace, and quiet. We needed to allow room for "Ahhhh..." in all of the adventure. So, we loosened the reins for the rest of the week. We moved out of desire instead of duty and curiosity rather than compulsion. I believe this change made all of the difference in the week that we enjoyed.

While we still saw a lot and did a lot on our trip, something in our spirits settled and we experienced the trip as a gift rather than something of our own making. And what an extraordinary gift it was!

On Monday afternoon the boys had fully recovered from their Pikes Peak trauma and were ready to climb some lesser heights. Our friend Alex took us to CityRock, an indoor climbing center in Colorado Springs, where we each scaled some of the highest indoor climbing walls in the state. Here you can see Tim belay Seth (orange shirt on the wall) while Reed (green shirt) watches.

On Tuesday we spent our morning at the Garden of the Gods. These stunning rock formations are situated in a rich landscape that are a feast for the eyes. We meandered along the pathways, explored the rocks, and enjoyed the coolness of the mountain air on an overcast day. After we left Garden of the Gods, we drove south out of Colorado Springs headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We reached the dunes that afternoon and were awestruck by their beauty nestled in front of the stunning Sangre de Christo mountain range. This 30-square-mile stretch of sand boasts the largest dunes in North America. Once you park your vehicle, you set off across a stretch of sand and keep walking. Of course, there are no trails, so in the distance you can see tiny specks on the dunes...hikers further on their journey.

Reed and I quickly shed our shoes to help us trudge through the sand, and the boys were the first to resort to their hands and knees climbing higher and higher on the dunes. We never made it to the top of the highest (it's about a 2-3 hour climb), but we made it high enough for the boys to run, roll, slip, and slide. It's safe to say we had sand in every pocket, fold, crack, and crevice, but it was a great time.

Tuesday night we ended our day in the small town of Alamosa, where the boys enjoyed an indoor pool at our hotel. I'm sure they left more than their share of sand behind! By the time we tucked in that night, any thoughts of Pikes Peak felt like a distant memory.