Roadtrip ’16: Six Flags

For the last leg of our roadtrip home, we made a stop at Six Flags in the south of New Jersey. They have a program called Read To Succeed where the kids have to read a total of 600 hours in the year to get free tickets to Six Flags. Just kidding, not 600. Not even 60… SIX. Yes, for a mere 6 hours of reading the kids (and their teacher!) could get free entry to the park. I made them do those 6 hours as out loud reading because heck, they read more than 6 hours in a week!

It was a beautiful but HOT day. We split up according to our abilities to handle thrill — Ben and Marica went off and hit the crazy roller coasters, while I did the tame kiddie rides with the two little ones. Our most exciting ride was the Log Flume, and that was about as much as I can handle. I’m such a wuss!

Esther, Laurelin and I took a sort of animal safari tour (so gimmicky, but then it’s an amusement park, isn’t it?) and got to see many interesting animals.

After lunch we were disappointed to find out that all the tall rides had been closed because there was a thunderstorm within 30 miles (dumb protocols) and so we hung around a bit doing not much — you know, eating funnel cake, looking at people on stilts and attempting to do an inside ride that ended up way too scary for the kids — and were about to leave when we found out the rides had been opened again. That was nice, because that’s when I got my chance on that Log Flume Ride of Death, ha. We were glad the high rides opened because we wanted to finish off the day with a cable car ride, which we got to do. It was neat to see the park from the air!

And then it was time for dinner, which we decided to have outside the park to not pay through our noses for blah food. We went to Cracker Barrel, where we paid next to nothing for blah food.

On the way home we spotted an alien space ship cloud over Newark airport. They’re coming to get us!

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Homeschool field trip

One weekend in May we took the girls in to the Ancient Egyptian section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because in our history program we’d been studying Ancient Egypt. It was great to see many of the things we (including myself!) had been learning about in real life, and the girls seemed to really enjoy it.

Seeing that the Met is right in Central Park, we spent some time there afterward until the rain started coming down.

A fun and informative Saturday morning, despite the rain!

Camping in the wilds of New Jersey

The first weekend in September we went camping with Lillian and Jeremy and Shanna at High Point State Park. We didn’t really know what to expect, seeing that we had never been there before, but we were up for trying it — our very first camping trip in the U.S.! Ben took the Friday off work and we were at the campgrounds by lunchtime, which was great to set up camp and all that. What wasn’t so great was that it was predicted to rain all that weekend. We weren’t going to be deterred!

We were right next to a lake. There was the little misunderstanding about how I thought the lake in the photos would be the same one we’d be camping next to, but that was a little further up the road, a bit cleaner and swim-able. The one we were next to was definitely not a swimming lake. It was pretty, though!

It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend. I was so ready to get out of the city! It was wonderful to enjoy nature, enjoy Jeremy and Lillian’s company, enjoy camping food (barbecued meat! potato salad! marshmallows!), and to smell like sweat, smoke and insect repellent (yeah, I’m weird. I kinda like that smell. For a couple of days, anyway!).

We went for a walk around the lake. It was a very pretty walk, and we also got to see all sorts of interesting flowers and critters!

We were so blessed that the rain that was predicted to be drizzling all day really only came after dinner on Saturday night. We even got to make stick bread, one of my favourite childhood Voortrekker (scout) camping memories — bread shaped on the end of a stick, roasted over the fire. Like a marshmallow, only longer. :-) I was having so much fun, I neglected to take a photo of it, which is a shame. Well, when the rain came, it really came down something fierce. I think two storms passed over us during the night, but we were all nice and snug in the tents, and in the morning the sun rose brightly and dried off our tent in time for us to pack it up!

We did get to spend some time at the lake in the photos too where the water in the taps were also a little less brown than at the pump by our campsite, so we filled up our bottles there. On the day we left just Ben and the kids and I went back and there was some sort of community event that let people use kayaks and canoes for free. I stayed on the sidelines with a tired Laurelin, and Ben and the two older girls enjoyed the free kayaks.

We all got home very tired, but it was a good kind of tired.

A visit to Moab and Arches National Park

One of the scenic highlights of our roadtrip was the state of Utah, where we went to Arches National Park, and drove through Monument Valley on our way to the Grand Canyon. We both loved the Grand Canyon (post still coming!), but Arches was just so much more accessible and had so much variety, it was a great place to visit.

We spent 3 nights in Moab, UT, just 5 minutes drive from the Arches entrance, at an old-school motel where John Wayne stayed back in the day when he filmed his old westerns.

It was really hot there, and we used the motel pool, the town’s pool facility and some local swimming holes quite a lot in between our sight seeing.

On the first morning there we got up early and headed off to Arches to explore a bit before it got too hot. We stopped at the first look-out spot where I took photos of the interesting rock shapes and where you can see how the earth ruptured into the Moab fault.

From there we went on to a part called Park Avenue, because it reminded the people who named it of walking down a city street that has high sky scrapers on both sides:

In the early morning there was quite a lot of nice shade, so we stayed down there quite a while so Ben and Marica could scramble around on some rocks. They got quite high up!

A bit of perspective:

Esther and I were sensible and sat in the shade and played with sand and looked at geckos and jet trails.

Paths are marked by stone cairns that people like to keep adding stones to. I thought they looked quite neat.

By the time we got out of ‘Park Avenue’, it was getting to be scorching, so we opted to do a bit of an air-conditioned drive and we saw the southern part of the park, deciding to come back the next morning for the rest.

We headed back to the motel for lunch and a swim, and in the late afternoon we went looking for a water hole that a local told us about (it was pretty nice that he did, too, because we were inquiring about hiring some crazy-expensive bikes which we realised were just out of our price range, and then he told us about that pool!).

We went down there and saw some small and shallow wading pools,

but quickly realised that we had missed the real thing. We followed a path that others were taking too, and came across this lovely, deep, cool pool. There were apparently more and better pools if you hiked upstream another half an hour or so, but we decided that this would do just fine!

It even had a natural water slide.

We enjoyed those pools till it was almost dark, and then headed back to the motel. I just loved the colour of the sky on the way back to the car park:

The next day, we hoped to start even earlier so that we could go on a hike to Delicate Arch. By the time we got there, however, despite being early we quite quickly realised that the kids just would not be up to hiking in the heat. I was SO keen to get photos of it, so I hiked up there while Ben entertained the kids near the car park. It was the fastest up-hill hike I’ve ever done (I didn’t want them waiting in the heat too long!). I did stop to take photos every now and then and to drink some water, but other than that I walked as fast as I could!

Some of the views going up the trail to Delicate Arch are quite stunning:

And look at that arch in the distance that looks like an elephant!

For a while it felt as if I was never going to get there, but just as I rounded this corner:

there she was!

On the way down, I noticed this arch. To me it looks just like a cheesy bread knot.

After Delicate Arch, we drove around some more to see some more amazing scenery:

Doesn’t the rock in the middle look like the dinosaur in Toy Story?

Arches has its own Balanced Rock, which is much bigger and higher than the one at Garden of the Gods!

There was this valley of rock spires that looked as if it just poked right out of the rock around it. It was a ways in the distance, and my camera zoom couldn’t get much closer than this, but it just looked so strange, almost like a rock city in the middle of nowhere.

Proof that I didn’t steal my photos off the internet. :-)

Helping to push

We were having a picnic in Prospect Park when Lizel was here and there was this man doing his stretches against a tree.

We joked with the kids that the man was trying to push over the tree, and do they want to go and help him? They thought this was a great idea!

We were in stitches, as you can imagine, and the kids thought it was great that they helped the man to push!

Spring is here! (and some going away thoughts)

It seems that spring came a month early this year, after a winter that seemed like it never quite happened. Last year we had so much snow, this year, nothing to speak of. So much for the nice sturdy new toboggan I bought last autumn!

Spring is my favourite season, especially here in New York. There are blossoms everywhere and in gardens where there are usually nothing, tulips and daffodils push through the dirt. Flowers make me happy. :-)

I’ve been taking photos ever since the first flowers appeared, so come enjoy some spring photos with me!

Prospect Park:

Ground Zero:

This tree was the only one that survived the 9/11 attacks, and was just a charred stump ten years ago. It was transplanted to the Bronx Botanic Gardens and nursed back to health. It now is planted in the 9/11 memorial. They say it’s the first to blossom and the last to lose its leaves in the fall.

Central Park:

Pennsylvania:

On our street:

Near our house:

Lower Manhattan:

And The High Line in Manhattan:

I love how full of hope spring is — everything bursting with new life. All through the spring we were blessed with a stream of visitors whose company we enjoyed. The kids especially liked having someone else squish into their tiny room, and we’re thankful for the guests putting up with sharing a room with two little ones without complaint!

It’s been good to show people our favourite New York sights, and I must admit that I felt a bit melancholy taking Lizeth over the Brooklyn Bridge, because it was quite likely my last time on that beautiful bridge.

We have just over one month left in New York City, and I say that with more than a little regret. I love this city, and I love the dear friends I’ve made over the last 2 years. I’ve enjoyed the many warm summer days in playgrounds or parks with the kids and our little picnics.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunities we’ve had here to explore museums and parks and landmarks and restaurants. I’ve enjoyed being useful at church. I’ve enjoyed having my eyes opened a bit to how things work in a different culture. I’ve appreciated realising that most Americans are not the arrogant snobs people outside the States think they are. I’ve appreciated the difficulties life in the city brings, because it has brought growth, and more of a can-do attitude. I could go on… all to say that this place and the friends I’ve made here have crawled deep into my heart and will make leaving very difficult.

But leaving we are, and I’m preparing my heart so that I can leave cheerfully and with hope for what the future holds. I’m excited about our planned 2-month roadtrip across the States. I’m excited to live near many relatives again. I’m so happy that my kids will see their grandparents on a regular basis again. I’m looking forward to living in a real house again — with a yard and a garage. And hey, we’ll have a car again! I’m excited to have a vegetable garden and to be able to pick flowers from my own garden again. I can’t wait to use my own washing machine again instead of a laudromat.

So yes, I get sentimental and look around me at all the new life and beauty around me, and I’m hopeful and excited about the new chapter of life God is opening up for us in our going home. Like a snowstorm in spring, life is often bittersweet.

Adventures with hippos

In Central Park there is this cool playground that has a herd of hippos made out of fibre glass (?? I guess). The kids always think it’s fun to pretend to ride the hippos.

So do some of the adults.

Any playground means an opportunity to run to Marica!

And to get her fair skin all bright and rosy.

I sometimes wish I knew what goes on inside Esther’s head. She’ll just sit and talk to herself sometimes quite happy in her own little world.

There is a rather hilarious thing that happened at the hippo playground recently when Lizel was here. Let me tell you the story in pictures:

Marica climbed inside one hippo,

so Lizel wanted to try it too.

It was a bit of a mission getting in there from under the hippo, so she thought she’d just slide out the mouth.

Only… she got a little stuck.

So she manoeuvred herself back down to climb out its stomach again, while Esther looked on with concern.

Esther realised that poor tannie (aunty) Lizel needed some help!

So after a lot of pulling and tugging, tannie Lizel finally re-emerged from the bowels of the hippo, and gratefully embraced her rescuer.

The moral of the story? Make sure you always have a two-year-old with you when exploring the insides of a hippo!