Cast of Characters

Piñatas, Persistence And A Whole Lotta Glue

Last Friday I got to spend the day at school with Batman.  This was a special day, since while I spend most of every Monday helping Annabelle’s two first grade teachers, I rarely get the opportunity to spend time in Zach’s classroom.

The first occasion of the day was assisting in helping thirty kindergarteners each assemble a hand-made piñata.  This was accomplished by blowing up a balloon for each child, then basically watching helplessly as they coated the balloon, the table, the coats on the back of their chairs, and each other with a mixture of flour and water, also known as piñata glue.

It was a sight to see.

This picture was taken of the afternoon class making their piñatas. While overseeing the morning class in their construction efforts,  I’d come up with the idea of covering the next round of munchkins in garbage bags as a sort of smock, to prevent them from being covered in the very sticky white glue substance.  The morning class, who were mostly in their formal navy blue polo shirts, was covered in glue from top to bottom by the time they were finished.  And white glue shows up nicely on navy blue. That rhymes. How clever.  Or lucky.

Glue Everywhere

Anyway, I must admit that my interest was mostly selfish.

You see, Batman is in the afternoon class.

Paper Mache

And I wanted him clean.

Because he was receiving an award that afternoon.

Yes, that’s right. I was so proud of my baby boy.  Each month the school gives an award to a couple of kids from each class who best exhibit the monthly “Core Characteristic,” and for the month of April Batman was chosen for his mastery of the characteristic “Persistence.”

He didn’t know that he was receiving the award, but it was well deserved.

You see, Kindergarten started out as a bit of a challenge for him.  He is an active boy, not accustomed to sitting still for long periods of time, though his attention to detail and focus are commendable on any project that he chooses.  He has had to work hard to get used to the structure and seven-hour days that kindergarten entails at our school, and he’s made great strides.

I was so happy for him.

And look how clean!

Zachs Award

Categories: Cast of Characters, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | 1 Comment

Anatomy of the Forced Family Vacation: McCall 2013

We got the notice early.  It was around February of this year that we were advised Desperate Hubby’s mom, Becki, was planning a family vacation.  Not just any family vacation either.

A family vacation starring The Entire Family.

In One Big Cabin.  All Together.  For Over A Week.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love my husband’s family.  I truly do.  But our experience together over the past thirteen and a half years has been in small, manageable bits.  We love to spend holidays with them when we can; DH’s mom is a wonderful cook and a gracious hostess, and his step-dad Elliott is one of the kindest, funniest and smartest men I’ve ever met.  I’ve always gotten along fine with his siblings, Shelley and her husband John, Mike, and on the not-oft occasions we get to see him, step-brother Scott.

Also joining us, I soon came to find out, was a friend from Arizona, a very nice man whom my in-laws call Duckett (his last name, actually) that had served in the military with father-in-law Elliott some many years ago.  Duckett had become acquainted with our branch of the family through my blog.  He is a wonderful painter and has honored our household with four original pieces of his work, including a stunning Batman picture that our family Batman just adores.  In fact, my Batman, entirely of his own accord calls Duckett “The Artist.”  We had never before met The Artist in person, and we were all looking forward to it.

The kids were over the moon about the impending vacation. Zachary spoke of it weekly, if not daily.  He referred to the planned family holiday as “Our Field Trip with Grandma Becki,” and he could not have been more excited about it.

DH and I were looking forward to it as well, with the normal amount of trepidation that one would expect from adults who would rather not share a hotel room with another person (we make an exception for each other), let alone spend several days In One House with people who, as sister Shelley described it, have not all been under one roof overnight together for over 35 years.

Hence Shelley’s name for the trip:  The Forced Family Vacation.

Forced Family Togetherness Looms Large……

The planned vacation landed at a good time for us.  Annabelle and I would be on a brief respite from horse shows, and after weeks of pretty much non-stop equine events I knew I’d be ready for a break.  DH’s office assistant was going on vacation the following week, so he would be covered at work while he was gone, giving him as much peace-of-mind as could be expected from someone leaving their small business for several days.

As the date of the vacation inched nearer, normal life events started to take their toll on the vacation roster.  Although the cabin was rented starting on a Friday, Annabelle had a horse show that Saturday, so we wouldn’t be free to drive up until Sunday.  Because of DH’s assistant’s vacation, we would have to return by Thursday at the latest because she was going to be gone from Friday on.

In keeping with his general policy of setting reasonable expectations, DH told his mom we’d promise to stay through Tuesday, maybe Wednesday at the latest.  Although the cabin was rented through the following Monday, sister Shelley’s family had to leave about same time as us for a prior engagement.  Brother Mike would stay as long as we did, but had to get home to his yard and dogs.  You get the picture.

The weekend we were slated to leave was hectic. Annabelle and I were up at five a.m. Saturday to travel to Ontario, Oregon for her Gem State Stock Horse show.  Fresh off the heels of four full days of horse showing in 100-plus degree temperatures the previous weekend, I was already exhausted.  Put on top of the general busyness of daily life, planning pet care, horse management and getting the family packed for our trip seemed like a Herculean task to me.  The one thing I knew I could not forget was my wine stash, packed after a rushed trip to Costco after the horse show.  Nothing eases the stress of forced cohabitation like a little tipple, I thought.

Day One:  We Start With a Really Long Three Hour Drive

We headed toward the mountains early-ish Sunday morning.  DH was somewhat ill-tempered from the get-go because it took me so long to get everyone packed up and ready to walk out the door.  We were meeting his brother Mike in Eagle to caravan up together, and the seemingly small task of coordinating meeting place and time put him in a tailspin.  I was snappish with the kids and had to force myself to speak pleasantly to my beloved husband by the time we finally left the house.  Or maybe I didn’t force myself.  I can’t remember.

As I had mentioned before, the kids were excited.  Batman is considerable less well-traveled than his sister, and kept up a constant drone of “When will we be there?  When will be there?  When will we be there?” for pretty much the entire drive.  My already precarious sense of humor was in mortal danger by the time we pulled into the McCall city limits and turned down the road toward our destination.

We pulled up to the cabin, which was in a newish, partially-developed subdivision and didn’t look as big as I had expected.  We unloaded the kids, who bounded happily up the pine-needle strewn front yard to the door.  DH and I trudged along behind, carrying a few bags and trying to instantly decompress after three hours of captivity in the truck with our five-year old chatterbox.

One of the first people I met once inside was, at long last, The Artist.  He was just as I’d expected, giving me a big hug and acting like we’d known each other for years.  We greeted all of the other characters as well, including sister-in-law Shelley’s kids; Lucas, a College of Idaho student, and Grayson, soon to be a junior in high school, an avid golfer and the recognized family clown.

The cabin was well laid-out for a big gathering.  There was a large family room open to a kitchen and dining area downstairs, along with a laundry room, powder room and the master suite occupied by in-laws Becki and Elliott and their tiny Bichon dog, Sugar.  The back porch was carved into the surrounding hillside, and featured a large fire-pit and barbecue, with several patio chairs scattered around for seating.

Upstairs there was a loft area overlooking the family room, then a hallway that led to another master suite (already claimed by sister-in-law Shelley and her hubby John – dammit) and smaller bedroom with a queen sized bed that The Artist was vacating on our behalf so that we would have our own space (thanks again Artist.  Really).  Past a hallway bath there was a large game/bunk room that featured a pool table, bar (not stocked – dammit), and a separate seating area with a big TV.

This looked like it might be OK after all.  I went about situating our goods in the bedroom, changing the sheets and re-making the bed with the plush down comforter and matching pillows (who said all I took away from my two summers in Jackson Hole being a maid during college was a fake ID that worked at the ‘Million Dollar Cowboy Bar’?).  When our things were settled in I walked downstairs to hear myself being paged…..DH had made me a Bloody Mary!  Now things were definitely looking up.

It wasn’t long before DH and the rest of the boys headed upstairs to get started on the first of many pool tournaments.  The Artist suggested that the kids and I accompany him on a walk around the neighborhood to pick some wildflowers for the dining room table.

Batman, Annabelle and I thought that sounded like a grand idea, so the four of us set out, The Artist packing a plastic bag to carry our finds.

McCall Flower Huntin

We found many lovely flowers, most of which The Artist clipped neatly with the scissors he had had the foresight to bring along……

McCall The Artist Cuts Flowers

and many of which Batman forcefully and inelegantly pulled out of the ground and stuffed in the bag, roots and all.


When we deemed that we had enough flowers for our arrangement, we headed back to the house under the hot afternoon sun, Batman carelessly swinging the bag along beside him almost as an afterthought.


That evening we had a delicious taco dinner prepared by Aunt Shelley and Grandma Becki.  After dinner was over, a few of us headed out to the back porch for what the children viewed as the most exciting culinary event of their lives:  S’mores preparation over the fire pit.

Of course, first we needed a fire.

Enter brother-in-law John (who might more aptly be named “The Firebug.”)  The Firebug is really just an overgrown kid, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, whose genius-level IQ is sometimes camouflaged by the highly entertaining stories he tells of the many ‘situations’ he has been in and out of over his years.

He also makes a mean fire.

MC John Firebug

Which greatly impressed my children.  And encouraged them to follow suit.  It wasn’t long before they were on a mission to find the biggest pieces of wood they could carry and drag them to, and place them in, the fire.

Batman in particular was very interested in succeeding at this endeavor.  He thought the fire was “so cool!”


The rest of us sat around, having an after-dinner glass of wine (oh wait, I guess that was just me) and observing the festivities.  Grandma Becki and Sugar expressed occasional concern over the breadth of the fire as well as the fire-making protocol.

McCall Fire Watch

The Firebug and Batman kept right at it though.  They loved that fire.

After the kids had eaten about a half-dozen s’mores and were completely covered in marshmallow and chocolate, I herded them upstairs to go to bed.

Since the game/bunk room was occupied by the bachelors, being Brothers Mike and Scott and Nephews Grayson and Lucas, Batman and Annabelle were slated to sleep on the floor of our room on piles of blankets that Grandma Becki had gleaned from all the closets throughout the house.

The kids were pretty tired, but Batman was so excited about his day he couldn’t stop talking.  “Mom, this is the best vacation ever!” he told me.  The next statement he made showed me the real value of contiguous time spent with family members too rarely seen.

“These people are sooooo nice, Mom!” my son said enthusiastically.  “How do we know them again?”  Ah, I cringed.  Bad mom, bad mom.  Obviously the occasional tidbit of time spent with DH’s family was not adequate.

Me: “Remember son, Shelley is your daddy’s sister?  She’s your aunt?”

Batman: “Oh that’s right.  I knew that.  She is really, really nice!  Now, how about that guy John?”

Me:  “That guy John is Aunt Shelley’s husband.  He’s your uncle.”

Batman:  “Oh, that’s right momma.  I am SO glad I got to spend time with him up here! He is so cool.”

Eventually I got the kids to calm down enough to consider drifting off.  Just before he fell asleep though, Batman had another piece of information.  “I am going to sleep so good here mom.  I LOVE this place.  I am gonna sleep like a rock in this bed!” (he meant floor, of course, but you get the drift)..

Day Two:  Bare Handed Fishing and Bear Watching

After a restful night’s sleep, the kids and I arose and slowly got around.  I got up and showered, dressed in comfy clothes and made the bed, carefully arranging the pillows on top just like it would have looked in a catalog picture.  After the wee ones got dressed I picked up the room and put all the clothes in the closet neatly.  I folded the puffy yellow blankets they had slept on and arranged them on the closet shelves where they would be easy to access that evening.

We all headed downstairs, where DH was already started on cooking a big family style breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns.  I do love a man not afraid to cook for his family.  All fourteen of them.


The group was all atwitter (and all agrumble) after the first night of full-house slumber.  Uncle Mike’s snoring is a thing of legend, which many of us knew personally after a few years of camping with him (let’s just say he always had plenty of open space around his tent, if you know what I mean).  Apparently the bunk bed room had been pretty much cleared out by the impressive crescendo of Mike’s snores.

As the previous evening had progressed, Scott vacated the room completely, getting up and moving  to the loft area, where he grabbed a nice soft chunk of floor to try to get some sleep.  Lucas and Grayson tossed and turned all night long, both of them saying in the end they basically got no sleep at all.  Mike even kept The Artist awake, his log-sawing echoing down the long hallway, through the loft and down to the couch where poor Duckett slept, after giving up his comfy room for our family (did I say thank you, Artist?)

After about an hour of discussion, it was determined that Aunt Shelley and The Firebug would move into the bunk bed room henceforth, giving Uncle Mike (The Snorer) his own room with a door to shut.  Being a practical (and somewhat opportunistic) person, I briefly floated the idea of having US move into the large second master, giving the kids more room to sleep without being stepped on and providing us with our own in-suite bathroom.  Uncle Mike could take our smaller room instead.

Grandma Becki summarily shut down my suggestion, saying (correctly) that it was just too much moving around.  I didn’t push the issue.

With a little time to kill before the mass exodus of male golfers left to catch an 11 a.m. tee time, DH and Scott, who also is a rock band musician, put on a little impromptu jam session in the family room.

MC Musicians

Half of menfolk were heading out on the golfing expedition, led by Cousin Grayson, who was certainly the most well-dressed golfer in the group.

Look how professional he looks!

McCall Pro Golfer

That left Uncle Mike, The Artist, Scott and Batman home to hold down the fort with us women.  At the very last second, though, just as the two golf-cars were loaded,  Batman couldn’t stand it and raced out the front door yelling “Stop, stop!”  DH was delighted that Batman had decided to join him, and they loaded up his little orange golf bag and went on their way.

Aunt Shelley and Scott headed out to do some hiking, so that left me, The Artist, Grandma Becki, Annabelle and Uncle Mike to amuse ourselves.

The Artist continued his quest of taking non-stop pictures of all of us, which earned him another nickname (sometimes you just can’t encompass a person with just one description), and that was “Picture Freddy.”  Picture Freddy was ever-present, and I am waiting for blackmail photos to arrive via cyber space at any time.

McCall Picture Freddy

Annabelle and Grandma Becki spent some time playing on Grandma Becki’s iPad, which Annabelle found just fascinating.  I don’t know if she showed Grandma Becki how to use ‘Dreamhorse’ or not, but I’m positive the thought occurred to her.

McCall iPad Fascination

After my first morning in the cool mountain air, when I realized that I had totally forgotten to bring a jacket of any kind, I was itching to go for a little shopping trip and find myself a sweatshirt.  Grandma Becki was game, so was Annabelle, and Uncle Mike agreed to tag along.  Picture Freddy said he’d rather stay home and take a nap.  Did I mention before that he gave up his comfy room for the couch so that our family would have a quiet place to sleep?  It bears mentioning again.  What a trooper.

The four shoppers loaded up into Grandma Becki’s car and headed into town, where we girls dragged poor Mike up and down the main street and in and out of every store that looked remotely interesting.  Part of Uncle Mike’s job in real life is to deliver Idaho-themed souvenirs to shops in the McCall area, so at least he did have some fun checking out the placement and sales of his wares in the shops.  After the purchase of several t-shirts and a sweatshirt, a sign for DH that said “Daddy Drinks Because You Cry,” and a little backpack carrying a bear that Annabelle picked out for Batman, we finished out the trip with a cup of ice cream and went on our way.

Not before, though, I saw a really cute sign in one shop that I wish now I had purchased.  I did take a picture of it though:

My Motto

We got home just shortly before the golfers, who reported much adventure on the course.  Batman apparently had done very well, though it was generally concluded that Grayson was by far the best golfer.

The main point of our trip for Batman was to go fishing. We had no sooner gotten settled back in the cabin than he demanded we go in search of the best angling location.  DH loaded me, Annabelle, Batman and Uncle Mike into the pickup, and we headed off to the North Shore of the lake to do some fishing.

The men seemed to know right where they were going, and after a few miles down a dusty forest trail we arrived at a State Park area, where we parked and headed down the longish-trail to the water.

The group looked so cute traipsing over the bridges toward the lake.

McCall Bridge to Beach

We found a sandy beach with one prime area open.  The men set up the fishing poles and the kids set about playing in the water.  Batman had worn his fishing vest, over which he strapped his brand new Bear Backpack.   He carried his “walking stick” which he had selected after much searching along the trail as we hiked in toward the lake.  It was really quite the outfit.

McCall Batman and his Bear

He is the cutest thing, I must say.

McCall Walking Stick

After a short while, the kids got tired of waiting for a fish to bite, and started clamoring to swim. The water in the beautiful mountain lake was quite cold, but they got used to that pretty quickly.

Batman took his walking stick out into the lake, to help him walk, I guess.  Beary the Bear held tightly to the little velcro backpack, hoping to avoid being submerged in the chilly water.

McCall Testing Water

At first the big boys just sat on the log and enjoyed watching the kids play in the water.

MC Brothers Two

But of course they couldn’t take it for long, and headed in themselves.  DH dived into the water and swam a few dozen yards from shore.  He stood up and shook himself like a dog, then suddenly went on point.

He saw something in the water!

It was a fish, and he proceeded to catch it.  With His Bare Hands!

McCall Daddy Caught a Fish

We were all completely amazed.  Especially, of course, Batman, who demanded to hold the fish and then examined it carefully.

McCall Awestruck by Fish

Daddy told Batman that the fish was not well (otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to grab it) and that he should put it back in the water right away.  Batman took him seriously.

He put the fish back in the water, but then caught it again and wasn’t satisfied until Daddy carried the fish far out into the lake and released it.

McCall Live Fishy Live

After the excitement of bare-handed fishing wore down, Batman needed something else to do. He was whiny because of the lack of bites on the poles, so I talked him into swapping his bear backpack for a life jacket (worn over the top of his fishing vest, just in case) and doing some more swimming.  That didn’t last terribly long, so I suggested that he build a sand castle.

He got right to work.

McCall Working at It

Just as he was really getting in his builder on, DH announced that it was time to go home.  After a full day of golf, swimming in an ice-cold lake, and irregular meals, Batman was already on the edge.  The information that we had to leave pushed him promptly over the cliff of unhappiness.

My happy little boy dissolved into tears, then wails.  He was beside himself.

McCall We Have to Leave

As a mom, you learn quickly that even though your kids are from exactly the same breeding, upbringing, and nurturing environments, they may respond totally differently to situations in life.  With Batman, anytime after about 4:00, especially if he is getting hungry, can quickly turn into a witching hour to beat all witching hours.  I thought quickly, and suggested this:  why don’t you fill your cups up with sand and water and bring them back to the cabin….then you can build a sand castle on the porch where EVERYONE can see it.

Batman thought a minute, he sniffed and wiped his tears with the back of his hand.  Then he smiled.

We loaded up the cups with a mixture of sand and water (proportions carefully overseen by the sand engineer) and headed back to the truck. Batman left the cups of heavy sand, the tackle and bait boxes and Beary in his backpack to be carried by me and his sister.

He did carry his new walking stick.

McCall Little Man Walkin

When we got back to the cabin Batman went inside only to quickly change into dry clothes.  Then he sprawled out on the front walk with his cups of sand and proceeded to build a sand masterpiece, using some locally acquired materials to augment the soggy soil.

McCall Sand Castle at Home

I went into the house and sliced up some hard salami and cheese and served it with some crackers to some of my cabin mates who were lounging around regaling us and each other with tales of their rock diving at the lake.  It was a peaceful scene.

McCall Cabin Lounging

Everybody was tired.

McCall and More Lounging

I looked around after a while and noticed that I didn’t see Batman anywhere.  I was pretty sure he had finished his construction project outside, but I took a look anyway.  Sure enough, no sight of him.

I asked the room in general……anyone seen Batman? Grandpa Elliott said he thought maybe Batman was out back with the Artist.

I peeked through the back blinds facing the porch.  What I saw made my grab my camera and hurry back through the house, out the front door and sneak quietly around to where I could get a shot of the goings on.

Batman and The Artist were having a chat.  It was just the two of them, and Batman was enthralled.

McCall The Artist and Batman

As I walked around the corner I could hear just snippets of the talk.  “Well how long did it take you to paint the cow picture?” my little son said.  The Artist answered that question (four or five days as best he could remember) and each ensuing one thoughtfully and thoroughly.  It was really something to see.  It would be hard to imagine more disparate conversation partners, but there was something about the quiet patience of our coffee-sipping Arizona friend that intrigued Batman.

Naturally, I ruined the whole thing.  About six minutes in Annabelle came hunting for me and barged out through the French doors onto the patio.  Then she sat for a while and chatted too.

McCall The Artist Holds Court

About that time Grandma Becki and Grandpa Elliott arrived at the house with pizza for everyone.  We were all hungry and wolfed down our dinner.  Then it was time for more s’mores.

A fire was started and the kids got busy stoking it with every stray branch they could find.  Batman and Annabelle had just demanded that I go inside to find “That Guy John” to come and make the fire bigger when we heard yelling.  Really loud yelling.

It was coming from inside the house.  It sounded almost like “There’s a bear!”

Right.  A bear.  Suuuuure.  Real funny guys.

The kids raced into the house and I followed at a more dignified pace, stopping along the way to grab my camera off the charger in the living room.  I followed a mass of hurrying people out onto the front, only to see A GIGANTIC FREAKING BEAR walking sedately across the road from our front yard toward the open space across the way.  He stopped once he was across the road to look back at us over his massive furry right shoulder, then slowly wandered away.

I was so surprised that I didn’t get my camera up until he was almost out of sight and there was no chance of a picture at all.  That was a bummer.

I am ever the adventurist, so I grabbed my five-year old son’s hand and trotted down the road to see if we could head the bear off and get a picture of him.  It didn’t occur to me until quite a bit later that that was a really stupid thing to do.

Nonetheless, we saw no further sign of the bear, greatly disappointing my son and all the rest of the people back in the cabin.

We finished up the evening around the fire once again.  Uncle Mike was recruited for fire duties, and though he did an adequate job in my estimation the children pronounced his efforts quite inferior to the masterpiece created by the Firebug.

Day Three: Slippery Rocks, Mosquitoes and Finally The Perfect Beach

Day Three started a little later than usual.  Fueled by excitement over the bear sighting and the sugar of approximately thirteen s’mores, Batman kept me awake most of the night with spontaneous crying jags until I finally gave up and got out of bed and lay down with him on the floor, snuggling him close until he dozed off.  As I tried to get comfortable enough to fall asleep myself I could hear a strange noise.  Was that……snoring?  I carefully extricated myself from my barely sleeping son and peeked out the bedroom door.

Sure enough.  Though he had gained prime real estate under the guise of soundproofing his slumber, Uncle Mike  was sleeping in his new room with the door wide open, and the sounds of his breathing echoed through the upstairs hallway.  I shook my head and folded myself back beside Batman, eventually falling back to sleep myself.

Morning was tough.  The kids and I were all still tired, but they had planned another fishing trip with Daddy and Uncle Mike and they were raring to go.  I got up and pulled on some shorts and a shirt, stuffed the kids’ blankets on the shelf in the closet without folding them and threw the covers back up on the bed, leaving the duvet folded at the bottom.  Everyone else was already downstairs drinking coffee and planning their day.

I trudged down the steps and, yawning, got a cup of coffee.  Sister-in-law Shelley was trying to get breakfast organized.  She proffered to DH the information that pancakes were a really easy thing to cook for a big group of people.  My beloved quipped back “Oh really Shell?  Well why don’t you just go in and whip about 60 of them out and show me!”

Of course, he did eventually cook up breakfast for everyone.

I had a secret plan in my mind: I’d stay at the cabin while the kids were fishing.  Maybe I’d take a nap; read my new book; go for a hike.  Desperate Hubby thought that was a great idea.  “I can handle them,” he said.  “Take some time to relax.”  The cabin would be mostly empty again, with the majority of the boys heading out for more cliff jumping at the lake.  It was so tempting.

The sweet voices of my little children, though, convinced me otherwise, begging me to go along on their fishing trip.  We all went upstairs to get dressed for the day.  Batman had packed his own backpack (camo, of course) with all the clothes he needed for the trip.  Desperate Hubby had worked with him on this process, and I had not thought to double-check their work.  When we got upstairs I rummaged around on the floor, kicking shoes, wet towels and pillows out of the way to find the backpack.  It was mostly empty.  “Zach, where are your other clothes?”  I asked.  “That’s all there is mom,” he answered.  I pulled out one of the single pair of clean underwear I saw and grabbed a pair of mostly dry shorts that I had draped over the foot of the bed the night before and tried to hand them to him.

He recoiled.  “No mom! I can’t wear those,” he said pushing the Spider Man underwear away.  “It is my last clean pair.  I don’t want to waste them!”

“That can’t be son,” I told him.  You had to have packed more than three pair of clean underwear.”  “Nope,” he told me. “I just packed three of everything because we were going to be here for three days.”


Note to self: Always double-check the children’s packing, especially if DH is the one doing the supervising.

Since Batman had changed clothes twice the day before he was completely out of clean shirts and shorts.  I solved the problem by convincing him to wear a swim suit (no underwear required) and sorted through the mess of sandy clothes on the floor, shaking and smoothing shorts and t-shirts and hanging them over the foot of the bed to be recycled for the next days.  Finally dressed and ready to go, we headed out the door, catching up with Mike as we went.

I took the opportunity to ask my brother-in-law why he felt compelled to sleep with the door to his room wide open, completely nullifying the whole attempt to contain his nighttime noise level.  He looked at me as though I were daft.  “I’m not gonna close the door at night when I’m sleeping in a strange bedroom!  What if there were some sort of emergency and I woke up and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the room!”  Ah. OK.

We headed off in the pickup, stopping by the local Paul’s market to get snacks and pick up some camp chairs to join the other dozen we owned at home and had forgotten to bring with us.  There was (to my estimation) and inordinate amount of time spent considering the color of the chairs, how many, what kind of snacks and whether we needed to get big or little bottles of water.  I was already tired and feeling a little crabby by the time we got back in the truck to head to the river.  I really wished I’d stayed home for a quiet day at the cabin.

We drove for quite a ways on a paved road, past a lake crowded with fallen trees all along the bank.  The kids were anxious to get to fishing, and kept asking when we would stop.  Pretty soon the road began to climb, and it was my least favorite type of drive.  A one and a half lane dusty washboard with sharp curves, a mountainside on one side and a steep fall down the other.  I was really not having fun now.  DH kept driving, getting increasingly grumpy and short with the children and their  “Are we there yet” refrain.

Finally we stopped at a nice little clearing and got out to prepare our gear.  Immediately it became clear that we were not alone.  No sooner than our bare skin was exposed to the air than it was literally covered with mosquitoes.  I grabbed the spray and sprayed me and the kids down liberally.  This slowed down the onslaught but didn’t totally stop it.

DH and Mike worked diligently on getting the tackle ready to go under the watchful eye of Batman.

Getting Tackle Ready

We slowly traversed the steep bank down to the river.  Notice how I sent Annabelle on ahead just in case there were any bears or anything.

Navigating the Hillside

Once we got to the water’s edge I could see that it was a fast-moving and very cold waterway we were on.  DH had it in his mind that the best place to set up the fishing poles was across the river.  The kids set one foot in the icy water, felt the slippery stones underneath and said “No way am I walking across that.”  I soundly agreed with them.

So DH had no choice but to ferry them, one by one, across the water.  I don’t know if it was any safer, but it did make good watching.  Batman went first.

Portage Batman

Then it was his sister’s turn.


Once the team members had assembled on the small sandy shore, DH set up fishing camp and we all settled in.

All Set Up

You may notice that I am absent from the fishing camp scene.  That is because for some reason Desperate Hubby would not carry me across the water, and I did not desire to try to traverse the stream in my flip-flops.

So I settled my (new Paul’s Market) chair at the edge of the river in the shallow water and started to read my book.  The mosquitoes didn’t seem quite as bad once I was set up, and I was just starting to get comfortable when I looked over to see fishing camp being disassembled.

“What’s going on?” I yelled once DH was back in earshot.  “No fish are biting but the mosquitoes are!”


The entire scene was reversed, with children being re-ferried to our original starting point and all us climbing back up the hill, swatting at mosquitoes all the way.

Back in the truck we went, with me grumbling about driving all the way up the mountain to become bait rather than to use bait and DH saying that it was just too warm for the fish to be biting.  Uncle Mike had a theory that made sense to me:  with so many mosquitoes available to eat, the fish didn’t need to bite at anything else.

We would down the mountainside again and took a different road that started back around the lake.  It was only a few minutes before we arrived at…….


The Perfect Beach

We came upon an expansive sandy beach, completely deserted, with parking right at the water’s edge.  The kids got out and just started running.

Annabelle had room to “ride her horse” for the first time since we arrived, and promptly started running up and down the bank whinnying and prancing as she went.

Horsey in the Surf

The fishing poles were assembled by DH and Uncle Mike under the critical eye of Batman.

It wasn’t long before the first (and only) fish of the day was on the line.

Batman Caught a Fishie

As if the beach couldn’t get any more perfect, we were soon joined by a few other people.  There was plenty of room to park and lots of beach area, so we didn’t mind that one bit.

In fact, Batman made a new friend.  It does appear that Batman is trying to drown his new friend, but (I believe that) he was just petting him as they swam along together.

MC Z's Buddy

The dog’s owners threw a ball out for the dog to catch over and over.  Batman accompanied his new friend each and every time.

MC Swimming with Buddy

The dog and his people didn’t stay too long, but Batman wasn’t very disappointed when they left.

He had a new game to play now.


MC Fetch Z Puppy

Batman tried to put the stick of wood in his mouth, but fortunately it didn’t fit, so he just carried it in the general proximity in a very good facsimile of a dog fetching in the lake.

MC Z Puppy Now

We had found the perfect beach at last.

Nice Sand

We wound down our beach day late in the afternoon.  DH, Uncle Mike and Cousin Grayson drove to town for steak and fixings.  When they got home DH grilled up perfect tri-tips with baked potatoes and blue cheese lettuce wedges.  The family was in awe.  I realized how spoiled I am because my wonderful husband cooks at home like that on a regular basis.

After we finished up the steak we headed outside for (surprise) more s’mores.

The kids sat out front on Bear Spotting Watch with Grandma Becki and Grandpa Elliott.  No bears were seen by dark, and the kids were exhausted, so we headed to bed early.

Day Four: Swimming, Sushi and (a Little Too Much) Saki

Without even really discussing it, we had decided to stay in McCall until the last possible minute before we absolutely had to head home.  We were having so much fun with the family that we didn’t want the trip to end.

We were losing a couple of our family members, however, on Wednesday.  The Firebug and Cousin Lucas had to head back to the valley for work, so cousin Grayson was at loose ends without anyone to go exploring or cliff jumping with.  We took advantage of his aimlessness to persuade him to accompany us to our new favorite beach.  The kids were beyond thrilled that he was coming with us.  They thought he was the coolest kid in the cabin.

As we loaded the pickup to head toward the lake, Grayson climbed in back and settled himself in the bed of the truck.

McCall Grayson in Back

Batman was horrified.  “MOM!!! That is not safe!” he expounded.  His sister took it a step further “Mom, I don’t think it is legal to ride in the back of a pickup.  If a policeman sees us daddy is going to jail.”  Being ever the peacemaker, DH pulled out his smart phone and checked it out.  There is no law in Idaho that forbids children from riding in the back of a pickup truck.

Oh, my home state makes me so proud sometimes.

So there he was.

Once we got closer to the lake, Grayson perched on the edge of the truck bed (which totally sent Batman over the edge) to scout for some photos of his own.


Once we arrived at our beach with all attendees unscathed, the kids  tumbled out and started to play.  Grayson dived right in the water and swam out a few dozen yards.  I believe that he was a little surprised at just how cold the water was.

McCall Cold Water

The cold water didn’t bother Batman.  He picked out a nice rock and resumed his game of fetch from the day before.

McCall And Again

He threw the rock out into the water over and over again, dunking under to pick it up each time.  It was pretty hilarious.

McCall Batman Plays Fetch

Then the kids started playing in the sand.

McCall And They Dig

Grayson and Batman dug and dug, Batman watching his older cousin with concentration and appreciation for his work.

That Grayson is a funny kid!

McCall Grayson Buried

Sandy much Grayson?

McCall and the Head Rinse

Everyone checked in on the fishing.

MC Hows the Fishin

Annabelle danced in the surf.

McCall Dancin in the Surf

Grayson played with Batman in the water.  Their hair is almost the same color no?

McCall Boys Play

Grayson amazed us with his sandy physique.

McCall Sandy Muscle Man

Although it was sunny, the day was really somewhat chilly with a pretty strong breeze.  The kids never complained about being cold at all.  (Yeah sure they didn’t).

MC Pretty Cold out Here

After awhile we were joined by Aunt Shelly and Scott.  Traveling along with them were Grandpa and Grandma and The Artist.

I believe this is my favorite picture of Picture Freddy.


There was lounging.


Aunt Shelley and Sugar soaked in the bright sunshine.


Everyone just enjoyed the beautiful day and lovely beach.


Aunt Shelly took a couple of photos of our family all together.  She said we might use it for a Christmas card.

Maybe if I’d had a shower first.


Before too long Grayson and Scott were itching to go a little further up the road for a last day of cliff diving.  The group piled into the cars and headed out, leaving just me, DH and Mike with the kids on our beach.

The kids were tired and ready to settle down a little bit.  They moved their chairs out into the shallow waves of the lake and trailed their toes in the water.


After a time we all headed back to the cabin.  DH and I snuck out and headed into town for a sushi date, leaving the kids in the capable hands of Grandma Becki.  DH plied me with saki, and we were in fine spirits (ha!) by the time we got back to the cabin.

The family was enjoying the last night of the family vacation.  Grandpa Elliott and Grayson played card games at the kitchen table, but I was too tipsy sleepy to really understand what they were doing.  So I went to bed.

Day Five:  A Sad Farewell to Our Family Vacation

We were up early on Thursday morning to pack up and head back down the mountain.  DH was anxious to get back to work so he’d have a little overlap time before his assistant left for vacation that afternoon.  I was rested and relaxed, and a tiny bit hung over too.

It was time to go home.

But not before The Artist surprised the kids with a special gift.


All week long our friend had been talking to the kids about saving money, and how if you save your money it will grow.  He and Grandma Becki had both given the kids an ample amount of change, which they had carefully placed in a baggie and packed with their most important stuff.

To finish out his lesson on saving, Duckett presented each child with a solid silver “dollar” which was actually worth much more than that.  They were completely impressed with this generous gift.

When we got in the truck to drive home, Batman said “Mom, I just really like The Artist.  He is such a nice guy.”


We had a wonderful time on our family vacation.  As we left, Grandma Becki was already talking to us about next year.  It will be hard to top the fun and family camaraderie we experienced this summer, but we are sure looking forward to trying.

Thanks to Grandma Becki and Grandpa Elliott for organizing and sponsoring such a nice family getaway.

This is how memories are made.

Categories: Cast of Characters, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country, Travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Happy Birthday Batman

Five years ago yesterday, at about the time of the morning I start to write this, we welcomed into our family a precious baby boy, Zachary Morgan, more commonly known here as Batman.

In an early preview of what has proven to be one of his strongest personality traits, Baby Batman stubbornly refused to join us in the cold bright world.  My doctor reached in through the incision she had performed for my caesarean section and gently put her hands around the baby.  He squirmed away, right up to the very top of my tummy where he shrank against her touch until she actually had to have her assistant push him downward from the outside so she could get ahold of him.

To this day, it is very difficult, nearly impossible in fact, to get Batman to do something before he is good and ready.

Here he is, at about thirty seconds into the world.

Hello World (2)

Batman joined us during what was a somewhat tumultuous time in our family history, and I think that somehow my tiny man knew I was about tapped-out in emotional strength right then.  He was from day one the sweetest, calmest and happiest baby I’d ever seen.

While I had loved every second of his sister Annabelle’s infancy, she was a spitfire from the moment she was born, colicky and fussy; impossible to please most of the time. I have many, many pictures like this of her early months.  And I didn’t take them because it was so cute that she was crying.  There was never another time……she almost never stopped.

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Batman was exactly the opposite.  When it was time to leave the hospital, he just looked up at me as if to say “Let’s get going mom!”

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He rarely cried, even after we brought him home.  He just looked calmly around and took everything in.

dpne to here

His sister waited eagerly for him to be born.

NOV 2008 008

And though she was just nineteen months old when he arrived she loved him without reservation, rarely showing a hint of jealousy or impatience with the change in family dynamics.

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Batman was a great sleeper as an infant and toddler.

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He slept after he played.


The bouncy chair was one of his favorite spots.

NOV 2008 495

He slept after he ate. (Yes, I did have the tray on the high chair. I just took it off for the picture).

Eating is exhausting!

He slept for pretty much any old reason or in any place.

Note that he is wearing his sister’s underwear over his shorts and my bracelet on his wrist.   More on his cross-dressing tendencies later.

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He still loves a nap now and again.

In the chair with a friend…..

Zach sleeping

or in his car seat after a chilly trail ride.


Even under the dining room table after a fit of rage when he was really mad at daddy (did I mention he has quite a stubborn streak?).

Android 631

It takes a lot, though, to make Batman angry.  The sunny demeanor which has been present from his birth has not failed a day since.

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I think the phrase “his smile could light up a room” was created for my little boy.

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When he was about five days old I started walking along the dirt roads around our house with him in the baby sling and his sister in the stroller.  He was never so happy as in that sling.  He’d snuggle in and go right to sleep.

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When he got big enough to ride in the stroller himself he loved that too.

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And he rode miles and miles in the double jogger with his big sissie, through uncountable laps around fields and town, and through lots of 5k races too.

Love the Stroller2

My little scholar loved books from a very early age, showing an unusual amount of focus for a little boy.

NOV 2008 496

He still loves books, but perhaps even more he has retained that extremely high level of focus, and he channels it to make remarkably intricate and creative art projects.

Like this collage of eight “paper robots” (his word) that have individually pieced legs (average eight each), horns, and tails. After each piece was completed he painstakingly taped it to the prior ones to make the whole family.


Or this vase of flowers that he made all by himself using leftover muffin cups and pipe cleaners from a project his sister had completed for kindergarten.


He will sit and work on his projects for literally hours at a time.


And he draws too.  This is his rendition of a deer family.


No roll of tape or pair of scissors is safe from my little artist.

Daddy's Present

Especially the tape.  I certainly hope we don’t have any electrical emergencies around here anytime soon.


He’s fairly fond of markers, too.

Painted Zach

My boy got his nickname of “Batman,” because, of course, he loves Batman.  He dresses almost exclusively in t-shirts that have some Superhero or other on the front.

Outside of that, though, he has his own sense of fashion, a fact which cannot be disputed.


He wore his sister’s Dora swimsuit all one summer, even at the “Y.”  I just let everyone tell me what a pretty girl he was.


He wore this to the local Wal-Mart.  In January.


And he loves to just throw together a few things from his closet, too.  Along with a few from his sister’s.

Pretty GirlBoy

Yes, he put together this little ensemble all by himself.

Android 1158

Despite his proclivity for dressing up in female clothing, he is a manly man of sorts.

He has loved camping and fishing from an early age.

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A little boating when he gets the chance.

Zach on the Boat

Paddling around the lake.

Camping 2011 067

And hunting with dad.

The Hunters

He is thrilled to get come home with game, and recounts with glee the process of stalking, and yes, even killing the birds.


But at the same time he loves animals as much as anyone in the family, and has a soft spot for every living creature, especially the family dogs.

Febuary 2010 002

He is a bit of a sports guy.

Kick it thru

With quite a kick on him.

Z's Form

And a truly hard worker.

Put your body into it

He loves to pitch in to help get chores done.


He’s always been a good eater.

I like my food!

Yes, that is mayonnaise. With an artichoke on the side.

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He will share a sandwich with the dog now and again, but his favorite foods are actually beets and asparagus.  I’m not making that up.

Hunting Sandwich

He’s very attached to the horses.

Reno and Zach

And he’ll go for a pony ride on occasion.


And sometimes even hit the trail for an hour or two.

But his favorite mode of transportation is still his trusty four-wheeler.  Or his sister’s.  Wearing his ninja costume.

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Batman is unfailingly affectionate.  He tells me that he loves me at least five times every day and is constantly hugging me and kissing me.  I hope he never outgrows that trait.

Even though he’s five now.


Happy Birthday to my little man.

Don’t climb up that slide of life too fast.

JULY 4 136

Categories: Cast of Characters, Kids Are Funny Creatures, Life in the Country | Leave a comment

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