Friday, October 31, 2008

I hear the train a commin'

The train whistle beckoned us for an early morning nostalgic ride on a piece of history. The infamous historic steam engine was ready to pull us through terrain that no car has seen between Durango and Silverton. Grandpa (my Dad), Savannah, Ella, and I boarded the same cars once used by Victorian Era patrons of the 1800's in search of gold and fortune. Our caravan was in search of riches of a different sort such as the remote sights of the San Jauns, fall foliage, and a rustic yet authentic train experience. Oh, and just plain old fun with the kids.

All aboard! Next stop, Silverton!

The car below is my favorite. I obtained a cafe mocha that was highly coveted by our two little preschoolers. "Mmmm Momma, that's good. That doesn't taste at all like your coffee at home." I don't know if the coffee was that good in 1888 but it made viewing the below freezing environment quite cozy for me.

Although our train moves slowly, it sure beats the 1880 alternative of wagon and horseback. I seriously doubt Ma pioneer sipped a steamy cafe mocha through the snow covered mountains with her feet kicked up in the back of the wagon.

I have traversed the road between Durango and Silverton more times than I can count, literally. And since my maiden voyage on that road as a toddler, I have wanted to ride this train, actually I have begged to ride this train and see the wilderness that lies deep within these mountains. Uh, I mean, Savannah was dying to ride a train and we did it all for her.

Savannah really has been excited about riding a real train (as opposed to the one in Disney World). Although the temperature was in the teens, we rode with the windows open the entire trip so the girls could dangle their hands out in attempt to take it all in. Our soot covered girls couldn't get enough.

This was my view most of the time, the backs of Ella and Savannah's heads. I feared a 4 hour train ride would lead to boredom eventually. But once again in my parenting, I was wrong. When we stopped periodically the girls would hang their heads out the window and play peek a boo with each other. They entertained our whole car with the hearty giggles from that game. Grandpa was amazed by how the girls amused themselves. He pictured them captivated by the train and scenery before the trip. Then once on the trip he realized the exploration of a screw on the wall can hold a little explorers attention for at least 15 minutes. Then they move on to latches, doors, windows, and handles.
Oh, and I must tell you about the bathroom. My taking Savannah and Ella to potty in a bathroom 1/4 the size of a port-a-potty was entertaining for the whole car. I saw wives nudge their husbands, smile and say "watch this," as I escorted the children to the tiny toilet. One child would squat under the sink while one sat on the potty. I on the other hand squeezed my feel in behind and around the toilet and hovered over the tinkling child. We all three laughed although I am sure Ella did not know why we giggled, she was just happy to be apart.

Halfway through the trip we moved to the open car in hopes of capturing some great pictures. Savannah informed my not so delicately that she would freeze to death if we did not return to our warm seats abruptly. Ella kicked back in a seat like she was at the beach. My Texas girl could not hang with the Colorado girl in the cold!

The fall foliage was beautiful and believe it or not, that was one of the things Savannah was most anxious to see. She has been hearing about fall for a while now but could not understand why our leaves in Texas had not changed yet. Boy, that was a long story.

As we climbed higher Savannah observed the snow and then proceeded to announce we had driven into winter. "No, dear. It snows here in the fall as well as the winter ("and spring and sometimes summer at Dawn's house" I almost added but then decided not to confuse her more).
"Momma, there's snow. I really think it's winter here."
"OK, time to switch! Savannah, it's your turn to sit with Grandpa. Ella, you come up here with me."

Old mines of some kind dot the hill side. They use to mine sulphur around Silverton but this could have been a coal mine too. Oh, that rotten egg smell of the Silverton from my childhood. Good times. Good times.

We've arrived!

Ella was happy to see her Momma who drove over the mountain (in 1/2 the time it took us) to pick us up so we could journey on to Ridgway.

Ella is headed back to the concession car for more cafe mocha!

The whole time we were on the train Savannah was asking where the fire was. She already knew all about the fire and steam. Now that we were actually on a train, she wanted to see it. The engineer could see her interest so as Grandpa lifted her up to see, the engineer opened the doors to the fire more. That's all Savannah can talk about now.

That night, as we prayed before bedtime Savannah thanked God for the latches that open the windows on the train, the fire that makes the train go, the food car for obvious reasons, the cold open car, the warm car where we sat most of the time, the conductor, and for the "chuga, chuga, chuga" motion. I would say our experience is burned into her memory.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to my story...

Once our weekend at Centerville concluded, we regrouped at mom's house. Early (4am) the next day, we continued on like the nomads that we are, but this time my Dad was at the wheel. Our mission, should we choose to accept it (and we did) was to surprise my grandmother for her 80th birthday in Colorado and take Dawn and the kids home.

We drove 14 thankfully uneventful hours to just outside of Durango and then stopped for the night at my sister's sister in law's house. We would have driven the entire route to Granny Smiles' that day but yet another adventure awaited us in Durango which I will post after this one.

In Durango, Savannah and I had the rare opportunity to share a bed and snuggle through the cold night together. As I laid beside her I realized the golden opportunity presented before me. As moms, every moment is filled with things that need to be done or thoughts about things we need to get done soon. Dad's on the other hand seem to have more access to uninhibited playtime with the child. I haven't figured out how they accomplish this, but they do. And yet, there Savannah and I laid on vacation without Daddy and plenty of potential to play.

As these thoughts are rolling through my head (you know the ones, "oooh, now I can be the fun parent for once!") I felt Savannah's fingers lightly touch my forehead. She thought I was asleep as she explored my face with endearing curiosity. Light as a feather the tips of her fingers ran sweetly around my eyes, down my check, and over my lips. I didn't dare peek and ruin the tender moment. Gratefulness for the precious mother daughter bond filled my heart while her little digits continued around my mouth and then straight up my nose! Roars of laughter and giggles filled the room providing a meomory less Hallmark like but all the more treasured!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

For today, Monday, October 27, 2008
Outside my window...fallen leaves swirling in the chilly wind through the moonlit night.
I am thinking...way too many things. I can hardly concentrate to type this post. But, the stuff I am worried about is not my story to tell so I'll keep my keyboard still on that subject.
I am thankful for...God and his grace and mercy. Enough said.
From the kitchen...lingering smells of cloves from the ground meat sandwiches we had for dinner. I must post this perfect-for-fall recipe sometime. Man I love cloves! Side note: Chuck, I will make you pumpkin bread on Wednesday.
I am flannel pajamas dotted with black stiletto heals and purses. Cute, cozy, and comfy for our 35 degree weather tonight.
I am creating...a trash city! Savannah got the idea from a DVD about recycling. We covered our trash in construction paper and then colored them to look like buildings. Savannah's favorite saying these days is, "We need to reuse it!" It's a good reminder because I just tend to recycle instead of reusing before I recycle.
I am going... to the Tony Bennett concert at the Myerson in Dallas tomorrow night! My Dad, Mark and I will be a couple of rows back from the orchestra!!! Hence the number of exclamation points, I am excited. My Grandmother (Dad's mom) told me she and my Dad's dad saw him in concert before my Dad was born at a little Italian restaurant in Dallas. It's amazing that he is still performing so many years later.
I am reading...Innocent Traitor. I love historical fiction! It's like a history class with more adjectives. The only thing that would make the experience better would be if I got a grade! It would be an "A" of course.
I am hoping...that the person I am worried about calls me soon. She should be calling in about 15 minutes.
I am hearing...a train whistle.
Around the house...a cat is pooping in the litter box as I type and let me tell you, it is not pleasant.
One of my favorite things...Savannah's smile.
A few plans for the week... the Tony Bennett concert, awanas, Winnie the Pooh Live on Saturday for Savannah and I, opening weekend of deer season (aka uninterrupted reading and alone time for me :), MOPs, and work.
A picture thought I am sharing with you...

Autumn, we are happy you are here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where's your box?

Tonight as we attended a Fall Festival at our church I noticed all the little girls in their costumes. Princesses, fairies, cheerleaders, divas, and cute little bugs with bows in their hair filled our church parking lot. And then there's Savannah.

Savannah: I want to be Batman momma.

Me: Uh, how about Bat girl?

Savannah: No, how about Spider man?

Me: You could always be Wonder Woman. She's REALLY cool!

Savannah: No, I want to be Batman or Spider man.

Me: Savannah, look at this pink Super Girl costume. She has an S on her cape. Do you know what the S is for? Super Savannah! This is the best costume ever!

Savannah: Mom, I want to be Batman or Spider man.

And this has been going on for 2 months. She wanted to be M-O from WALL-E for a while (she would pick an abstract robot that no one has ever heard of) but I finally convinced her to be one of the Incredibles (she is Violet, the super hero daughter in a family of super heroes).

I have no one to blame but myself. For a brief moment last summer she mentioned she wanted to be a princess for Halloween and I must admit I was disappointed at the lack of creativity. I think I even told her "But every other little girl will probably be a princess." And let's face it, Disney has oversold us on the princess thing and to be frank it doesn't sound that fun to be cast as a princess in real life. They have to follow a lot of weird rules.

Anyway, our little girl dances to the beat of a different drum, one that only she can hear. Tonight at the face painting booth, she was asked what she wanted painted on her face. My sweet girl picked up the pink paint and said, "An eye." The girl at the table replied, "A pink eye?" I said, "Savannah, that's a disease honey, how about a nice flower or a heart, ("like all the other little girls," I was tempted to add)" We went home with our four eyed super hero girl.

It's not that I am a diva in waiting or anything. I'd rather hike across Europe than spend a day at the spa. But, I am more than happy to strap on stilettos for a 5 star dinner in NYC. It's all about balance and being well rounded. But lately, Savannah statements have sent off alarms in my head that maybe I am not encouraging girlyness enough. Let me accumulate her most common statements for you, "I don't ever want to get married or have a baby in my belly. Never. I want to be a super hero!"

Yes, it's funny and I know it's a stage. At least she wanted the eyeballs on her face to be painted pink! It just makes my life more difficult that she wants to be different in every aspect of life for reasons that would be too long to explain. Even so, her uniqueness is what I treasure most about her. So what if her favorite colors are black and red instead of pink? It doesn't really matter that she doesn't play "momma" with her dolls does it? She's an out-of-the-box kind of kid. OK, maybe she's so far outside of her box that she has lost her box, but that just gives her more room to grow. And I can't wait to see what kind of super hero she becomes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

....the people

Granny and Papa's kids who grew up here.

The grandkids.

The great grandkids. Wait, somethings not right...

OK, that's more like us.

Lastly, the great, great grandkids.

Oh, I almost forgot. Here are the lucky folks who married into this family.

My Pa's side of the family.

Aunt Patsy was getting a little choked up here. She framed a family tree with all of her brothers and sisters' pictures in it. It also included Granny, Papa, and the house in Centerville in which she is standing in when I took the pic. She gave one to all her siblings.

All my great aunts and uncles had a rough year this year so emotions were running high. That's when they did something I had never seen them do before. Each one took a turn expressing how much each other meant to them. Those words are tucked away into my heart forever.

Check out all the old photos on the wall. The big one above the couch is Granny and Papa, my great grandparents.

Don't worry Uncle Jack, Brenda won't hesitate to tell you what's going on!

My Nannie stepped up first to tell everyone how grateful she was to have this family and what we meant to her.

Uncle Wayne.

Yup, that's the best part of Centerville...the people and their stories. We stayed up late that night listening to my grandmother and her brother and sisters reminisce about the old days. The tales the told about growing up in the country with Granny and Papa had me laughing one minute and sitting on the edge of my seat the next. I wanted to stay there all night and soak it up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Land

Those of us who grew up going to Centerville have a great appreciation for the dirt we once played in with our cousins. But as I age, I begin to look up more and notice the beauty that surrounds that place. One of my favorite things God has created are trees. Every tree has a unique and intriguing shape but then He adds a sunrise behind it, a blue sky over it, or golden leaves fallen below it. The same tree can recreate it's self a million times over each time taking your breath away.

I think this is a china berry tree. Again if you grew up going to Centerville, someone has probably thrown a china berry at you (in the spirit of love of course) and more than likely you have thrown one or two yourself. Is it the tree or the memory attached to the tree that makes me want to capture it?

For those who do not know, we have the Bain family reunion in Centerville on the land where my grandmother grew up. At least 5 generations (maybe 6, I'm not sure) in our family have pulled those beloved stickers from their shoes and feet.

Below is the sun setting behind the old wash house.

I kind of like this one blurry. It adds a mystic air to the picture. That feeling might have been lost if I had a tripod and shot it in focus. How many nights have we sat by that barn, circled around the fire, telling stories under the full moon?

Now you know my obsession. It's trees and sunsets. I had to shoot the wash house again the 2nd night. I love the meadow peaking through in the background.

From inside the wash house.

Although the land provides the dirt our kids love to play in and the meadow lays out a peaceful backdrop, we know that's not why we come to Centerville. We can find dirt anywhere (although I think Centerville dirt is special) and there are places with greater beauty. No, those are not the reasons we come, it's the...

Let the dirt begin!

Here we are at Centerville all settled in. But before we let the children go for the weekend, we had to take one last picture of them clean.

And they're off! It's funny how no one had to tell them, "Children, look over here. There is dirt that might be fun to play in." No, that's not how it happens. They get out of their vehicle and run directly to the nearest pile of dirt until their mother grabs them and makes them say "hi" to everyone and then she releases the child for the weekend. "See you Sunday kids."
Ella discovered that when you slap the water on top of the dirt you create a mud-splash-bath. Proudly Ella proclaimed "tah dah!" as I took this pic.

It's always fun to hug your aunt when you are covered in mud.

But sometimes you need to take a break, have a snack, and just chat with one a cousin you haven't seen in a while.

Big kids need to do that too.

OK, enough resting. Back to the dirt.

I'm not sure of the plan for this bucket-o-mud they are working on so diligently. Sometimes it's best to pretend you don't see what is happening.

There is nothing like eating a popcorn ball with dirty hands to usher in the fall season. Notice the pockets on the front of Savannah's shirt? They too were filled with dirt as I found at when I helped her to the bathroom and dirt went everywhere. And we wondered why Aunt Patsy swept all the time when we were little!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And we're off!

After our fair day the kids and Grandma needed a day of rest before the next adventure. So, Dawn and I left them at home and we set off for our sister day of drinking lattes, shopping, giggling, talking, and more shopping. I don't know how much rest grandma got while watching the grand kids but Dawn and I sure felt great that day.

Next on our destination list...Centerville! Kids in general are always excited to go to Centerville. The place consists of dirt to dig in, lots of old folks to spoil you, cousins to play with, and a massive amount of homemade tasty snacks. It's paradise.

You might be thinking "What or where is Centerville?" It's a tiny town where my grandparents grew up and the location of a couple of yearly family reunions. The town it's self might be forgettable but the stories and people are as ingrained as my DNA. But, more on that later.

Here is a pic of our kiddos waiting impatiently in the motor coach for our arrival at Centerville.

Luckily nap time kicked in and they were down for the ride. This gave Dawn and I more uninterrupted sister time so that we could contemplate if we will end up like mom and AJ (one of our mom's sisters) someday and dress alike ;) They are so cute.
Uh, I see a pattern here. Our family must do things in unison from an early age. Dawn, I have a feeling we will be dressing alike soon.

The last of it.

Here are just a few more pictures from the fair...