Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer in the States - July 4th weekend

Our extended family always gets together at the cabin to shoot off fireworks, but we have never been in town to join them until this year.  What a weekend it turned out to be!!!  Of all the things we did this summer, this was by far our favorite weekend!!!  I haven't been to the cabin in over 20 years, so it was awesome to go back and see so many of our relatives that live down there.  We had the most amazing time!

4th of July landed on a Friday, but the family fireworks display at the cabin was on Saturday, July 5th.  So on the 4th, we bought a few fireworks for Jaden and Nicholas to shoot off at my parents house.  Nicholas wouldn't light any last year, but he liked lighting them this year as long as I held his hand.  Sweet isn't it?  I don't think that will last another year, but I enjoyed it this summer!  :-)  Of course Jaden needs no help in lighting the fireworks!!

Brotherly love, ready to set off fireworks at my parent's house.


Nicholas poses with fireworks, he wouldn't light anything without holding my hand.
Be careful though, Jaden wanted to light everything and anything!!
Our little "finale"
The next morning, we got up, loaded up the car, and headed for the cabin.  We stopped at Elephant Rocks and the Johnson Shut-ins along the way.  We had THE BEST TIME EVER!!
Excited to explore elephant rocks with their walking sticks!
Mom only made it on top of the first rock, grabbed the tree limb, turned around and sat at the picnic tables below.  :-)
Tony being silly
With Dakota
The boys found the lake and we decided to walk around it
Tony and Dakota on the left, Dad and the boys on the right ... looking at the lake below
We love our cousins!
The weather was so pretty!
Another view of the lake

Hiking along the back side of the lake
Boys called this narrow passage way "fat man squeeze"

Dad made it through without any problems!  :-)

Glad I could hold up the rock
Another "fat man squeeze" except this time Dad had a bit of trouble squeezing through

Good thing he's short, he just ducked under the tight spot!
After enjoying a few hours at Elephant Rocks, we continued to the Johnson Shut-ins.  I haven't been to Elephant Rocks and Johnson Shut-ins since I was a kid myself.  Elephant Rocks were still as I remembered, but the Shut-ins have changed quite a bit.  Several years back there was a major flood in the area and the water has never been the same.  The kids still loved climbing all over the rocks and playing in all the natural water slides. 

I'm sure I'll get some of the details wrong, but the rocks are volcanic in origin and immune to the crashing water and haven't changed much over time ... they are harder than ordinary rocks and therefore aren't carved away easily ... instead they trap, or "shut in", the water and create lots of little water falls and currents in this part of the river.

Jaden took one look and off he went!  Scrambling from one big rock to the next ... jumping across the gaps, fearless and fast.  Nicholas was just as fearless, but not as fast and he had a hard time keeping up.  I followed behind and helped Nicholas cross some of the areas that were too big for him to manage alone.  We were having a blast when I took a look around and realized Jaden and Nicholas were the only little kids climbing on the big rocks.  All the other little kids must have had more sensible and safety conscience parents because they were all playing upstream of the shut ins, in a rather shallow and calm part of the river.  It would only take one little slip to get pretty hurt, so I decided to move us upstream as well.  The boys were mad at first, but we had fun sliding through the falls upstream ... until a snake was discovered in the water ... thankfully nothing dangerous, but I'd still rather not swim with snakes!
Mom and her grandsons on the boardwalk heading down to Johnson Shut-ins
Upon first arriving at Johnson Shut Ins
Jaden couldn't wait to take off, but I had to hand off the camera to my mom ... I needed both hands free to chase after them on the rocks
It was a beautiful day to be at the shut-ins, but the water was cold for us!  It took us a while to get used to the cold water and then when we got too cold, we warmed up on top of the rocks. 
Warming up on the rock when a couple next to us saw a snake in the water.
 We left the Shut-ins and headed to our family cabin (mostly my 2 uncles and their kids use it now, but it technically belongs to my dad and his 3 siblings).  It's a great cabin to base a hunting or a fishing trip.  My cousins have a 4 wheeled ATV for their son and Jaden was quick to jump on and drive it around the front yard.  Haven't seen him smile that big in a while!  Nicholas was too little (and too timid) to drive by himself, but my Uncle Randy took him on the adult ATV and they had fun racing each other around the property.  We also took some little 4 wheeled buggies out into the woods around the cabin and off to the 80 acres that are owned by the family nearby.  The 80 acres were a wedding present to my grandparents way back when.  There is no house or cabin on the property, but my cousins have enjoyed them as a hunting ground.  After playing with all the 4 wheeled toys, we ate some BBQ pork steaks, a St Louis specialty, and then enjoyed a professional quality fireworks display purchased by my uncles and set off by my brother and cousins.  We had a blast and I got to see lots of family I haven't seen over 20 years.  My last memory of being in the country was for my cousins wedding ... they came for the fireworks and said they just celebrated 22 years ... I hope to return before another 22 years passes by.

Jaden riding the ATV ... he's still asking if we will buy him one in Doha.  We're in trouble!!
My Uncle Randy took Nicholas on a ride too
Racing around the property.  That's the cabin in the back ground ... it has 5 bedrooms, but we had more people than that, so that's why all the campers and tents around the property.

So for a city girl ... this is what the 80 acres looked like to me.  Lots of trees and overgrown weeds.  It may have sentimental value to our family, and it may be a great place to go hunting, but all I can say is I'm glad I covered myself in bug spray before heading out there!
This was a cool spot though ... Jaden and Nicholas with his cousins Jesse, Kyle, Brian, and Dakota sitting on log over top a pile of rocks.  This pile of rocks marks one of the corners of the property and my Uncle Randy had everyone add a rock to the pile which was started by my great grandparents to mark the property line many years ago.  The boys have "made their mark"  :-)
My cousin Angie is going to kill me when she sees I posed this picture of her, but does anyone know what she's holding??  That would be a bunch of frog eggs connected to the end of a branch.  She found it in the river near by and brought it back to the cabin to show the kids.  She and I share a rather crazy fascination with frogs over the years.

Nicholas loved playing with Brian
 Funny story I must include about Nicholas ... while we were touring the 80 acres, he found a tiny little rock about the size of a kernel of corn, but it was thin, smooth, and white, just like an eggshell.  He wanted to keep it for his rock collection, but when we got back to the cabin, he had lost it.  (Very typical of Nicholas who would lose his head if it wasn't attached).  He was so mad!  He was crying and pouting and carrying on ... he wanted my Uncle Randy to take him back to the 80 acres so he could look for it!!!  A rock the size of a kernel of corn ... in a rocky forest of 80 acres!!!  Nothing would cheer him up until we got all the kids at the cabin to search for similar or better little rocks in the yard for Nicholas to judge and keep the coolest.  Brian (pictured with Nicholas above) and his sister Makayla took the job very serious and brought him many rocks to consider.  He finally chose one that looked like a little white tooth and was finally happy again!!!  Thanks to all the cousins for their efforts ... the adults all had a good laugh.

As the sun was setting, we got comfortable to watch the fireworks.
It was a cool evening and we ended up putting on jackets and wrapped up in blankets to keep warm - CRAZY weather for this area in July, but it was awesome!!  The fireworks were impressive, but my phone / camera ran batteries, so no pictures of the bright lights.

The following morning we played under the Hwy K bridge in Annapolis, MO before heading back home.  My dad and the boys didn't have any luck catching fish, but they had fun building a dam and we enjoyed splashing in the water and enjoying the sun.  Not too hot, not too cold.  Another perfect day!!

Serious business building a dam across a VERY shallow part in the river which was too cold to swim in at first.  After we warmed up in the sun, we ventured out a bit more, but not much.  The water is crystal clear and pretty, but too chilly for us.

Silly Nicholas!

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