As I mentioned in the last wrap-up, we've been travelling.
Last Sunday we left my aunt & uncle's house and started toward Chattanooga. On the way we stopped at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. The rangers there bumped it squarely into our list of favorite National Parks. The tour of his house was awesome! Both because it is completely furnished with the actual furnishings from when they lived there, and because the tour guide was excellent, including Sassy & MiniMe, and encouraging their questions. When we arrived back at the visitor center to get the girls' Jr Ranger certificates and badges, that ranger was equally great, encouraging them to do a couple extra things that we hadn't taken time to do, talking to them about what we'd seen, and then having them stand by the flag to take their pledge. Another thing that won points for me, is that the Jr Ranger book was written such that Little Bit could legitimately earn her own badge, though it said ages 5+, there were sufficient pre-reading activities, that she could do the required number for a 5 year old.
Then we headed on down to the Chattanooga area. That evening we had supper with my Great Aunt and Uncle. One of the reasons for our trip on down to Chattanooga was because the girls have heard stories that Uncle Bruce (who was a missionary) tells, and wanted to meet him and hear his stories from him. He's now 95, and his health is failing, though he still loves to tell stories. I hadn't seen him in several years, and he is definitely much "frailer" than he used to be, but he was also obviously thrilled to meet the girls (technically, they met him when they were 3 or 4, but they don't remember him and were too young to appreciate his stories then) and kept telling them "I've got stories for you!". After we ate, they stayed at the table with him and he told them several stories, before we had to leave because it was bedtime.
Monday we went to Chickamauga Battlefield. It was the first Jr Ranger book that we just plain gave up on. The whole park seemed very "academic" oriented, the film had been over their heads, and the girls were quickly getting frustrated with how difficult the answers were to find (even I had trouble finding some of them) and how much there was to do. As I saw them getting frustrated (and it was a legitimate frustration, of spending several minutes looking for one answer that was supposedly in the brochure, not a "kid frustration" of "I can't find it in 5 seconds, this is too hard"), I reminded them that there's nothing that says we HAVE to get Jr Rangers everywhere we go, so if it wasn't going to be fun and add to their learning and enjoyment,we could just look around the park instead. They opted for that, and we had a nice time exploring the museum (one of the Jr Ranger requirements was to go through a whole room of civil war rifles and find the specific ones listed and write down their catalog numbers, shudder! As my dad pointed out some boys who are REALLY into guns, might have enjoyed that, but to make it a REQUIRED item for everyone is just setting kids up to hate history, if you ask me!). After exploring the visitor center, we headed out to drive around the battlefield abit. My great great great grandfather fought and died at Chickamauga, so we found the area where his regiment fought. Mom & Dad said when they were there several years ago the rangers were able to look up and tell them pretty much the exact spot where he died, but the rangers this time either didn't have the information, didn't know how to find the information, or couldn't be bothered. But at least by finding where that regiment fought, gave us the general area he had been.
After leaving Chickamauga, we headed to the Lookout Mountain site (there was a battle there, but it's not a field, I don't remember what they call it). The Jr Rangers for both battles were in the same book (though separate badges) so I already knew that this Jr Ranger would be equally frustrating, though at least there were no guns to catalog LOL. So again, we just enjoyed the site. MiniMe was FASCINATED with a huge painting of the battle, commissioned by General Hooker before, or right after, the battle. The artist rode with him in battle, and then returned to the area the next year (maybe 2 years?) and took additional photographs and sketches, and talked to many of the Union generals and soldiers to get their perspective on it, so it's considered one of the most accurate depictions of a civil war battle. It takes up a HUGE wall in the visitor center there, and then there's a touch screen computer that gives additional information about it, and lets you examine each small section of the painting. I think she would have stayed there all day if we hadn't seen a storm coming in and wanted to get out to the actual site before the weather got bad.
There is just no way to describe how unreal it is, to stand at the top of that mountain and picture soldiers fighting UP that steep slope! Or even the thought of the confederates standing up there an seeing the union soldiers coming at them up the slope. I can't imagine!!
Tuesday we spent the morning visiting some people I still know around campus at Southern Adventist University (where I went to college, 15 *gulp* years ago). It was interesting to see the changes to campus and talk to friends I haven't seen in years.
Tuesday afternoon we went to McKay's Used Books! It was a small, but wonderfully well-organized used bookstore when I was in college. With a great selection of all kinds of books, thanks to the many colleges in the Chattanooga area, and I visited regularly while I was living down there. It honestly spoiled me for all (or at least most) other used bookstores. When I got home to MD and excitedly went to check out a well-known used book chain there, I pretty much turned around and walked straight out, it was so unorganized in comparison, I just couldn't stand it. Now, McKay's is a HUGE store, but still just as well organized! The girls and I had a blast! Sassy was excited to find a good number of the original Boxcar Children books. I grew up loving these books and was thrilled to share them with the girls, but we discovered that sometime more recently (in the 80's or 90's, I think), someone had written a whole bunch more to add to the series. While not horrible, and I wouldn't be opposed to getting them out of the library to read, they aren't as good as the originals, IMO, so suggested to the girls that we just buy ones from the original author (which list her as the author, the new ones don't list the author on the cover, they say "created by . . . " the original author, so you have to look close to catch the difference, sigh. But after showing Sassy how to tell, she went through the whole stack of boxcar books and pulled out the ones we didn't have of the original books. She got 5 or 6 and has already read them all LOL.
Both girls also got several books from the Dear America series (like this one) and some other biographies and such.
Tuesday evening, my cousin (technically she's my second cousin, our grandfathers were brothers), Katie came over with her 4 yr old son. Katie & I roomed together in college, and she now works at Southern. The girls had never met her and loves that they are almost as tall as she is LOL. It was fun catching up with her, and the girls enjoyed talking with her and getting to know her too.
Wednesday we headed to the Atlanta, GA area to visit Kennesaw Battlefield. After the disappointment with Chickamauga's Jr Ranger, we checked this one out online first. It was extensive, but not quite as . . . absurd. My dad, always prepared, actually had a printer with him in the motorhome, so he printed out some of the "busy work" parts for the girls to work on in the car on the way down. It still took a good part of the day, and included a "1 mile" hike that I'm quite certain was closer to 2 miles (and while I make no claims to being anywhere near in shape, I do, do quite abit of walking when we are at parks and such, so have some idea of how long a mile "feels like"), but the girls had fun with it, so it was all good. The rangers were the least talkative of any park we've been to, and must not get many Jr Ranger requests, it took the guy forever, in the back room, to even FIND the Jr Ranger books. But once he found them, they had a "Wee Ranger" book for Little Bit's age range (2-5, I think it was) woo-hoo!
AND, once we finished the requirements and went to get their certificates and badges, we discovered that Kennesaw definitely wins the prize of "most loot" Jr Ranger. All 3 girls got badges (of course), pencils, "stress ball" bison (the National Park emblem has a bison on it, so it's kind of their "mascot"), and Jr Ranger hats that say Kennesaw (to distinguish them from the generic Jr Ranger hats they got at a different park awhile back). The big girls got bumper stickers that say something along the lines of "My kids earned their Jr Ranger at Kennesaw National Battlefield, have yours?" and Little Bit got a little wood ball toss game that is actually quite cool, she and her sisters enjoyed playing with it for the rest of our trip.
Thursday we headed into Alabama to visit Russell Cave, and earn another Jr Ranger. Little Bit was able to earn that one too, woo-hoo!
Thursday evening Uncle Bruce & Aunt Adele (and my grandma, who had come down with us and was staying with them while we were down there) came to the motorhome for supper. They brought Little Bit a stuffed leprechaun from Ireland (that they'd gotten during their travels sometime), and the big girls some hand carved . . . statues, I guess, from Africa, and some cut paper pictures (gorgeous and intricate) from Hong Kong, and some notecards with flowers drawn by Uncle Bruce's sister. The girls were thrilled with all of them, and are old enough to recognize how special they all are, now to find a place for them in our house where the tornado otherwise known as Little Bit can't get to them. Uncle Bruce told the girls a couple more stories while he was there too.
Friday we visited with my Kindergarten, and 11th grade English teacher (yes, that would be the same person). She even thought to bring bread so the girls could feed the ducks & geese at the pond/creek that runs through Southern's campus. So the girls had fun with that while we visited. And, she may have given Sassy a new name. She (Mrs. G) spent several years in Russia awhile back, and when she heard Sassy's full first name (not the nickname she goes by), she mentioned that it is a very common name in Russia, but that they have a different nickname for it. Sassy really lit up at that nickname and has grinned when I've called her that a few times (when I think of it) since then. So we shall see if she decides to go with the "new name" and stick with her regular one.
Friday afternoon we went to Mayfield Dairy to take their tour, and have ice cream. The tour was shorter than I remember, but the girls enjoyed it, and thought it was fun to try to "milk" the big plastic cow in the store there:
I love how Little Bit is watching MiniMe trying to figure out what she thinks she's doing LOL:
And ice cream makes everything worthwhile LOL.
Sabbath we went to Collegedale church, the girls were rather amazed at the sheer size of it, after our small church at home LOL. MiniMe was properly impressed with the huge pipe organ too. After church we went to Uncle Bruce's daughter, Linda's house for dinner, and a chance to see more of the extended family. Uncle Bruce wasn't feeling well, but did talk to the girls some, and had Aunt Adele read them a story he had written down because his breathing wouldn't allow him to tell it.
One of Uncle Bruce's grandson's, Mark, took over Little Bit duty, downloading a drawing app onto his iPad and setting her up playing with it. He made a friend for life, Little Bit told me, as we were leaving, "I love Mark" LOL. He really was good, with her and the older girls too, and even sat at the "kids table" with us during lunch.
Sunday morning as we were packing up to leave, Grandma called and said Uncle Bruce's breathing had gotten worse, so they'd taken him to the hospital that morning. She ended up deciding to stay in Collegedale to help Aunt Adele however she can, and mom & dad will go down and pick her up in a week or 2 (or howeverlong she decides to stay). There's a "branch" of McKay's Used Books in Knoxville now too, so we stopped at that one, and got more wonderful history books for the girls (yes, I'm tickled pink that in a store full of books my girls gravitate to the history books!), before heading on up to my aunt & uncle's house for the night, and then on home (to Mom & Dad's) yesterday.
So that was our busy, adventure-filled week!