Monthly Archives: June 2011

Backyard Camping

I won’t lie to you. I had a lot of concerns going into the Great American Backyard Campout. I knew R. would still be in Italy, and this would be my first experience camping without him in charge. Would I be able to put up the tent on my own? (I did. Eventually.) Would I be able to start a fire on my own? (I did.) Would it be too sweltering in the tent to get any sleep at all? (It wasn’t.) I was just too nervous to attempt “real” camping on my own – backyard camping seemed the best alternative.

But I have to tell you this: the thing I was not worried about (the house) turned out to be the biggest problem of all. Ok. Not the house exactly, but the stuff inside it. The TV. The video games. Even the legos! Not for the girls – the girls were happy as clams out in the playhouse. But the boys were much harder to keep outside unless there was fire of some sort involved. So, I gave them fire.

The two friends sleeping over with Fletcher initially turned up their noses at the idea of sparklers. When did 7 year olds become too cool and grown up for sparklers? Poor Fletcher seemed really crushed – it was painful to watch because he had been so excited about them just a moment earlier. But when the rest of us went out front to light the sparklers it didn’t take 2 seconds for those too cool boys to join in the fun – I mean, who doesn’t love a good sparkler, right?

In the end I think everyone had a great time, and we raised some money for the National Wildlife Federation to boot! Sleeping in the tent was perfect for a sleepover. The boys are old enough to sleep back there without an adult now, and I think that will be much more fun for everyone involved! Plus, the tent is still up days after the camp out and has served as staging ground for all sorts of games with the neighbors – castles and knights, dragons and princesses galore!

For my money, the next time I sleep under the stars I hope it is real camping under the stars and not quite so close to a streetlight . . . especially now that I know I can pull it off on my own if I need to.


Truly, is there anything more wonderful than being able to pick your breakfast right off the tree? My kids don’t think so.

I have this dream of living on a farm out in the middle of nowhere and being totally self sufficient. I want dozens of chickens and a cow, a big garden, and bees for honey

Of course, I still want the internet. And Chinese take-out every now and then . . .

Seeing stars

My hometown of Roanoke, Virginia has many things that make it unique, but perhaps tops among them is the enormous neon star perched atop one of the mountains that ring the city. The Mill Mountain Star is, in fact, the world’s largest man-made free-standing star. (Contrary to what my sister Erin once thought, the world’s largest man did not make the star.) It was erected in 1949 as a kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, but it was so popular it didn’t take long for the City to realize the Star needed to stay lit year round. Thanks to that star Roanoke is now known as the “Star City of the South.” When I was a child the Star would be lit all in red if there was a traffic fatality that day. And to this day, as I follow the curve of 581 into town and towards my parent’s house, seeing the Star is the signal that I am really home

My daughter, it seems, is equally enamored with the Star. Barely an hour into our eight hour drive north to visit my family, she starts asking when we will see the Mill Mountain Star. On the last night of our stay in Roanoke last week, my father gave Lola the best surprise ever – a night time trip up Mill Mountain to see the star in all it’s full sized glory. She squealed all the way up the mountain and was in awe of just how huge the star really was on top of the mountain, how tiny it looks from down in the valley.

Grandaddy really does know how to spoil his girl.


What a kick it was to be present when Chase Seevers got his 2nd annual end of school, start of swim team mohawk! Are his parent’s the coolest, or what?

Visiting the Seevers

See all those adorable kiddos on the couch with F & L?

The kids are Chase, Cole and Caroline and their mother is without question my oldest and dearest friend – and the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in over three years was just not a situation I could allow to continue. I had never even met her youngest child! So after a weekend visit in Roanoke, the kids and I jumped in the car once again and headed north for a long overdue visit.

I can’t even begin to tell you how happy it makes me that these 5 seem to get along just as well as their mothers. And when Chase introduced Fletcher and Lola as his cousins – and called me Aunt Ashley – well, it was enough to make me tear up a little.

We took a field trip into Washington D.C. one day, ate hot dogs on the Mall, rode the carousel, and popped into the Natural History and American History museums. Our Smithsonian adventure didn’t get off to the best start. Lola was tired, which didn’t help things, and when we turned the corner into the dinosaur room she kind of . . . . lost it. She was terrified. And I was so caught off guard I didn’t have a clue what to do. The skeletons are huge, and I guess I should have expected they would be scary – I mean, this is the little girl who was afraid of doorknobs and bathtubs not so very long ago. But there I was with a crowd of people behind us trying to enter the room and four other kids in tow who I knew wanted to see the dinos . . . and I just thought we could muscle through. I was wrong. It got so bad she literally crawled up my body and into my arms, then buried her head in my neck until I carried her out of the room. I thought we might have to leave DC right then and there. Lucky for all of us, Chase knew exactly what would make her feel better – the butterflies!

It was so sweet – especially given the fact that Chase is himself terrified of butterflies. Don’t let the mohawk fool you; this is one amazingly sweet kid. Fletcher  clearly thinks he is hands down the coolest thing ever.

We also got the chance to have an all too brief visit with dear friends from Savannah who have just moved to DC. I am heartbroken to be losing them, but so happy to be able to connect them with Nicole.

I think the biggest surprise of the trip was just how fast Lola Gray and Cole hit it off. They disappeared together into the basement and spent hours planning a musical surprise for us (“It’s not a band” Cole told us over and over again!) They were thick as thieves. And somehow, I didn’t think it was much more than that until the morning we were leaving. I took the kids for a quick romp in the field while Caroline went down for her nap, and suggested that I get a photo of Lola and Cole together. She grabbed him by the hand, dragged him to the perfect spot, and then started trying to pose him appropriately. He, being a boy, would not cooperate. I think he must have sensed her intentions. Just look at her pose! Is that girl 5 or 15?? I could hardly believe my eyes!

I guess I was the only one who didn’t realize this was more than just friendship. Chase was obviously in on it – Lola never realized he had snuck up behind them and made a heart shape over their heads. I was laughing so hard I could hardly take the photo! When it was time to get in the car a half-hour later, Lola burst into tears like her heart was breaking. She was in the car and we were about to leave but she jumped back out, ran to Cole who was standing on the sidewalk and (still sobbing beyond the ability to speak) held out her hands to him in the shape of a heart. And sweet, quiet, silly Cole returned the gesture. My heart absolutely melted.

Days after our return to Savannah, Lola was out in front of our house with her friend Camille, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. I came out of the house just in time to hear Lola saying “His name is Cole and I really love him . . . “

I’m pretty sure Cole’s mother and I had that conversation once upon a time – I just never expected it coming from the mouth of my 5 year old! Is it too early to start planning the wedding?

I will not let another 3 year go before we see this amazing family again.
Lola is not the only one who left a piece of her heart in northern Virginia.

Roanoke Mountain Father’s Day

Having Raymond off in Italy on Father’s Day is the pits. Lucky for us we had my own amazing father to spend the day with! We took a picnic lunch (complete with s’mores!) up Roanoke Mountain, enjoyed the cool, sweet air, and were amazed at the way Grandaddy was able to open and close the back of his car through a chain reaction of grandchildren sticking their fingers in each other’s ears (isn’t that a no-no?) Lola Gray, ever the explorer, found a number of small, overlooked gems including an oddly shaped stick that looked like a birds head. NayNay pointed out snakeberries and wild blackberries and sassafras as we walked – and Lo even got to chew on a sassafras root for a while! And Fletcher? He was too busy running up ahead and just out of sight with his cousins and Uncle Brendan – no time to hold still for Mommy’s camera. Instead I turned my lens on my beautiful sister Erin and her youngest cutie. Man do I hope I can get those boys (and their parents!) down to Savannah some day soon! At least I know we will all be together again (even Boo is flying in from London – and bringing a friend!) at the beach in just a few weeks.

The countdown is on – we are mere days away from Raymond’s return to Savannah! Yippee!

Roadside America: Virginia Safari Park

One of these days, I want to take one of those epic road trips. The kind where you travel the back roads, eat at diners, and visit every crazy roadside attraction you can find. For now, I have to get my dose of Roadside America in small batches, however. Interstates, while boring, make the drive home to Virginia much easier (especially when I am on my own with the kiddos – 8 hours is plenty long enough!)

Fortunately, this does not mean we have to miss out on adventure all together! Remember last summer when we ventured out to Natural Bridge and the ever amazing Foamhenge? Well, this trip we returned to the area but this time opted to tour the incredible Virginia Safari Park. The 180 acre park is home to over 1,000 exotic animals from 6 continents – just roaming free! We rode on a wagon through this beautiful countryside, and the animals flocked to us like crazy. See, the thing is, at this “zoo” you can feed the animals! They give you a big bucket of feed and you can give it to any critter you like. (Well, they did warn us not to feed the zebras – they bite.)

Feeding the animals was a little intimidating, actually! The camels would grab the plastic buckets and not let go. The deer and llamas would stick their heads as far into the wagon as they could, reaching around with these long tongues to find more feed. I didn’t manage to get any photos of the bison, but they were the most amazing to feed – they would tip their heads back, open their mouths, and wait for you to just pour the food right in!

At one point our driver stopped the wagon, jumped down and picked up an ostrich egg from the ground near a trees! He said it must be a ‘bad egg’ because the mother had abandoned it, so he passed it around and let everyone hold it.

Oh! And there were also kangaroos! We didn’t get to feed them, but we did get to pet them!

What a way to kick off a fun-filled week in Virginia!