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Journal Key:

Green = Steve | George = navy | Janet = Purple | Evelyn = Black

7/12/12 (Thursday)

It was a hot day, and Theresa suggested a wonderful outing: we'd go to see a cave! After lunch and ice cream in State College, we were ready to cool down.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in being nervous about taking Owen into a cave. Grandmama related how, when she took Claire and me into a cave when we were little, Claire became claustrophobic and just clung to her, whimpering, "out! out!" We walked down a wooded path and came to a steep set of stairs leading down to a dock; the boats looked tiny! When we were closer it was clear that they could actually hold about twenty people. They were long and narrow, open boats with a bench along either side and an aisle up the middle. The group boarded; we were among the last.

The young man who took us through the cave set what I thought was a strange tone for a man with a boat containing at least four little kids. He liked to laugh evilly and to threaten to throw people out of the boat. Until we'd actually pulled away, I wasn't really sure that this was a good idea. Actually, I still wasn't sure after we'd pulled away, but then there wasn't any choice.

Owen was perfectly happy on the boat. He bounced between me and Steve, constantly chattering. He showed us the water. He showed us the boat. He let us know we were going into the cave. He told us it was getting dark. He babbled about nothing. In fact, he was quite loud. All of the other little kids on the boat had pacifiers in their mouths. The only voices bouncing off the cave walls belonged to Owen and to the man giving us the tour. We could only hear part of what he was saying, honestly. He pointed out a lot of funny-shaped stalactites.

Owen had no problem with riding through the cave. When it was time for the lights to go off, though we'd warned him, I was nervous. Off went the lights. "It's dark, Mommy," said Owen.

We came to the other end of the cave and into a lake inside an animal preserve. There were moose, a white deer, and some ducks. We made a circuit of a small island and headed back the way we had come. Owen and I were now first instead of last, going back. Heading into the cave, we rode within just a few feet of a chipmunk who had come down to the water to drink.

Going back up the stairs afterwards, we could feel the air getting warmer. Back at the gift shop, we bought bags of dirt so that the kids could try panning for gemstones at Prospector Pete's Gemstone Panning. Owen liked taking the stones out of the little trough, but then he was happy to just walk around and be a monster. Cara really liked it; I'd promised her a special treat because Owen had gotten a new stuffed animal (with which she had had no problem), and she elected to get a bag in which she'd find fossils.

Walking back to the car, we ran into a woman who was clearly a manager of some sort. She professed to be astounded by Cara's haul of rocks. Owen insisted on showing her his, too, and telling her about it.

7/13/12 (Friday)

With Aunt Theresa and Grandmama and Grandpapa, we went to a nearby lake. We set up chairs and put our stuff on a picnic table under some trees, while Cara and Grandmama headed straight down to the water. Steve and I got Owen out of his shoes and into the sand. He was pretty sure he couldn't walk. After a while in which he stood and held my hand, I convinced him that he could move his feet. Soon enough, he was able to walk towards the water. We got him in up to his ankles and Grandmama got him started splashing. That was fun! Eventually she announced that she was going to sit down. Owen is a copycat. Sure enough, he sat, too.

He splashed sitting down, too. He played with his two Santas (who had been having so much fun in the car earlier that Aunt Theresa had called Owen a chatterbox) and got very upset because things kept getting sandy. There were minnows, but we don't think he ever actually saw any. I heard him start to melt down; Grandmama explained that it was because she'd told him he couldn't eat sand. He was shivering with cold but refused to come out of the water.

We'd come around lunch time, strategically, because when Cara got hungry we were able to get her out of the water. Grandmama and Grandpapa had left to drive back to New Jersey, but we got as much sand and water off as possible and went back to Theresa's house, where the kids had a bath and lunch and then Owen had a nap.

For dinner John and Theresa took us to a diner near a train track--the food is train-stoppin' good! We got to see two or three long trains go by. Owen, of course, kept up almost non-stop chatter throughout the meal. We got him a slice of ham, which I don't think I've seen on a kids' menu before but which I wish I would see again! He was very happy to have it and actually ate almost the whole thing, in between dancing on his chair. I took Cara to the bathroom twice, and both times Owen was very relieved to see us come back. "There they are!"

7/14/12 (Saturday)

Due to the circumstances of life, I will now take over the journal on the day of the trip that I am least equipped to write about. This is because on this day, we split up. Theresa and Evelyn took the kids to the neighbors' house, and John and I went to an antique automobile museum. The kids got to see a lot of plants and crops, and Cara learned about how ears of corn grow. Some horses came to visit, and also a white steer whose nickname had lately become "Ferdinand." Owen liked the steer very much, but he called him "Ferdimand" (in the same vein as "amimals," I suppose). It was a nice way to wrap up our lovely stay in Pennsylvania. We finally joined back up and packed up the car, and the four of us drove off in search of lunch, which we found at "Ye Olde Dog House," a nearby hot dog stand. Cara, sadly, was tired of hot dogs at this point--or possibly just of the way they make hot dogs out in Pennsylvania. But we managed a meal of it anyway. The highlight of that visit was that the umbrella over our table was in rainbow stripes, and we all took turns identifying the colors--Owen was very good at it. While sitting at the bench, Owen crouched down and explained to us all that he was a frog. Evelyn kissed him and told him that now he was a prince. Owen stood up, yelling happily, "I am a prince! I am a prince!"

Our ride back home was thankfully less exciting than our ride away. One short detour to a lonely bar and restaurant off the highway for a bathroom break. Then we were home.

7/15/12 (Sunday)

Believe it or not, our exciting weekend was not yet over. Grandmama's birthday is coming up, so Evelyn and Claire decided to surprise her at Claire's house with a pool party and some lobster. So the car was packed up once again, and off we went to see Aunt Claire and put up decorations. Owen and I decided to play with his little guys for a while, but when Grandmama arrived for what she thought was a simple lunch with Claire and was duly surprised, we went out to the pool. With minimal coaxing, Owen was willing to stick his feet on the first step into the pool. Eventually he went down to the second step. He also discovered that if he sat down on the second step, he would be all the way in the water up to his chin! We had fun throwing around some pool toys; mostly Owen would throw them all in, and then I would quickly round them up and put them back on the edge of the pool again. At one point late in the afternoon he was sitting in the pool and looked down. "My diaper is big!" he remarked. It really was--absorbent things, those diapers!

For dessert, we had some fancy bakery treats and some frozen ice pop things. I think the brand name is "Flav-R-ice." It's colored frozen sugary stuff in a tube. Owen learned very quickly to love them. He sucked up several of them, surprisingly with very minimal spillage. One of his last acts at the pool was to start chasing Claire around the whole perimeter. Eventually the chase reversed and Owen was cheerfully running from the Claire monster.

7/16/12 (Monday)

Today was Cara's first day of camp! Also Owen was back at YBR. In the morning, Owen had lots of little snack bowls, as he is wont to do. Then when I was all ready and his stuff was packed, off we went. Miss Vina seemed to think the little buddy had gotten appreciably heavier during his time off.

Cara had a lovely time at camp. She was excited about her snacks and her packed lunch, and excited to show us the jewelry she'd made in her first class and the duct tape purse she made in her second class. She was not even very alarmed when it took me far too long to find out where she was on the county college campus. When I expressed my frustration at how difficult it was to find the room she was in, Cara was very sympathetic and told me I should take a rest when we got home.

7/17/12 (Tuesday)

Me: Owen, is your lion a boy or a girl?

Owen: He's a lion. I am a boy. Daddy is a boy, too. Cara is a girl. I am a boy. Just like Daddy! You are a girl.


7/18/12 (Wedesday)

We had a normal Wednesday night, for the first time in about a month! Em brought the kids over, and everyone was relieved and happy. Back to real life!

Owen was in the kitchen with the grown-ups, being very excited about something, possibly the fact that Steve was cutting up a second red pepper for the kids. We noticed that he was actually leaving the ground when he jumped!

There's a big jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table, so we made alternate arrangements. I gave Cara a couple of blankets to spread out on the floor downstairs, and we brought plates down for PJ, Casey, and Cara. Owen was there, with the bowl of red peppers. He wanted a plate. I lured him upstairs by waving the red peppers at him and promising that we'd get his plate. When he got onto his chair I thought I'd successfully dissuaded him from insisting on returning to the picnic, but eventually Steve noticed that Owen's place was empty: he'd run off, and we weren't sure when. We halfheartedly called him. We were almost done eating when Cara came up "to get the little buddy's plate and fork." She was going to feed him. Thank you, Cara!

His plate came back with the rest; we don't really know what or how much he ate, but I'm willing to call it a fairly successful meal!

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