Nana and Popper came for a visit this past weekend and we headed out to pick pumpkins on a gorgeous fall day. We went to TG Farms, the same patch we've visited since Gray was a baby, and he still loves all the activities they have around the farm. Here are a few of the memories we made:
After we left the pumpkin patch, we decided to get lunch and take a drive. Somehow, we ended up in Lindsay, OK so of course we had to stop and take a picture!
After a long afternoon, Gray decided that even big six year-olds sometimes need a nap
I've been putting off posting about our fall break trip because I'm still bummed that it turned out the way it did, but when I went to pull photos together for this post, it served as a good reminder that all was not lost due to three days of constant rain.
We had been planning a camping trip with three other families for MONTHS and unfortunately due to the weather, it didn't work out as planned. We loaded up the car and headed to Devils Den State Park near Fayetteville, AR for what we thought would be four days of camping, hiking and all-around outdoor fun.
When we left on Thursday, we knew there was going to be some rain in our future, but it looked like it would come and go, then clear up after a day or two. It began raining around 9:30 p.m. the night we arrived and did not stop for three days. We're not talking a little annoying mist, it was a torrential downpour that tested our patience, our creativity in entertaining kids in confined spaces and our brand new tent (which stayed dry, yay!).
Our saving grace was that one of the families we had planned to meet up with lives in Fayetteville, so instead of them coming to us, we went to them. They took in our family and one other, including three rowdy kids in addition to their two children, and we managed to still have fun and catch up.
All-in-all we camped one night (in a terrible thunderstorm), stayed at our friends' house the second night and then headed home a day early. We didn't get to hike a single trail, make a campfire or cook any of the amazing meals we had planned. By day three, Michael had a terrible cold, everything we brought was damp and we were done.
On a positive note, we were thankful our new tent did so much better than our old one and we hope to use it again before fall turns to winter. We're also thankful for friends who are able to roll with the punches and take it all in stride.
Gray entertaining himself on the drive to Arkansas
This was the only bit of exploration we got to do at the park. After we set up our tent Thursday evening, we walked over to check out a nearby creek before cooking dinner. Little did we know the rock we were standing on would be covered in about a foot of water in a few hours.
Another saving grace for the weekend :)
Friday afternoon, the rain lightened for a brief moment and we loaded up some food and games to take cover at a nearby shelter with picnic tables. This creek ran near the shelter and Michael snapped a picture of the rock spillway which at the time didn't have any water coming over it.
Here are Braham, Gray and Liam enjoying watching yet another torrential downpour from the safety of the shelter.
We tried to keep the boys entertained in the confinements of the covered area, but as you can see, they began to literally climb the walls after an hour or so
It also happened to be Rob's birthday, so we passed the time with a little cake and singing.
We left the shelter area nearly two hours later and Michael ran out into the rain to get one more shot of the spillway from earlier. It gives you an idea of the amount of rain that fell in less than two hours.
This is the area where Gray and I were standing on rocks in the creek less than 48 hours before.
So we packed up our clothes and food (leaving our wet tents staked in the ground back at the campground) and took shelter with Matt, Gina and their girls in Fayetteville. Even though we were invading their gorgeous new house, we brought our own food and booze so we were pretty self sufficient. Here I am with Michelle and Gina prepping dinner for the gang.
Liam, Julianna and Gray bless their dinner at the kids' table. So adorable!
Saturday morning we checked the radar and realized the state park was still getting dumped on, so we took advantage of a break in the rain in Fayetteville to take the kids to a nearby park to burn some energy. Here are Gray and Julianna running to the playground.
Michael took this shot of Julianna and it perfectly captures her beautiful spirit
We stayed in Fayetteville long enough to watch OU beat Texas (yay!) and then headed back to pack up our tent in the rain and return home. Gray fell asleep on the 30-minute ride back to the state park and I found him like this once Michael and I were done loading everything up. We were all exhausted and ready to be back in our own beds.
A few weeks back we attended the Fat Tire Festival at Lake Thunderbird State Park. We went to this mountain bike festival last year and it's amazing to see the difference in skill level of Grayson and his friends.
Not only had they outgrown the bikes they were on from a year ago, but their dads didn't have to prod them to ride or carry their bikes at all. And to top it off, they kept asking to take another turn on the trail loop. Grayson completed three loops (which is a little over three miles) total, where last year he struggled to finish one.
One thing they haven't outgrown was the bounce house. That was still as big of a hit as ever with this crowd!
Cora & Gray on his and hers Cannondale bikes
Ready to ride!
Gray and Liam sporting the same bike.
Braham doing a little people watching with the mamas while the daddies when on the trail with the older kids. I'm sure he'll be trying to keep up with the pack soon enough!
Through travel, art and education, we try to expose Grayson to as many cultures as possible and recently had an opportunity to witness Tibetan monks perform a sand mandala opening ceremony. They were in Norman for a week to build the sand mandala and host talks about their Buddhist traditions and culture.
It's part of the Compassion Tour which includes monks who fled Tibet in the 1970s and painstakingly rebuilt their monastery in India. One of the dorms, which housed approximately 85 monks, was destroyed (I think by fire, but I don't recall for sure) and this tour is helping raise funds to rebuild and reunite the monks who have been displaced.
These men have faced great adversity and are very fascinating. You can read more about sand mandalas here, but it's a part of their meditation practice as well as an art form. Everything about this process is symbolic and intentional. Nothing is rushed. Nothing is arbitrary.
Before they begin working on the mandala, the monks invite in deities, cleanse the space and honor the tradition. They sing prayers and play instruments as an offering.
We were a bit concerned about bringing Grayson to the ceremony since it started right about the time he's usually getting ready for bed, but he really seemed to take it all in and was very respectful, still and quiet during the entire thing.
Despite the language barrier, it's amazing how much small gestures can communicate. One of the monks even gave Gray a high-five when we arrived and they seemed happy to see him there and welcomed us.
Here are four of the monks right before they preformed the opening ceremony
The mandala starts in the center and is worked out from there. They fill little metal tubes with colored sand and tap it to control the speed at which it comes out. Such tedious and intricate work!
Don't even think about sneezing or coughing in the direction of the table! All that sand and hard work could be wiped out in an instant!
Here's a better shot where you can see the geometric pattern they will follow with the colored sand
They started the mandala Tuesday night and we went back on Thursday to see their progress. You could come and go throughout the day and see how the mandala changed throughout the week. It was really incredible!
They also had a table set up where you could try it yourself.
Grayson really liked practicing with different colors of sand and probably could have stayed there for hours. After practicing with the tools, it gives you even more respect for how easy the monks make it look.
Another amazing part of this tradition is that after spending hours and days creating this masterpiece, they ritualistically destroy it to symbolize their belief that material possessions and life are fleeting. Kinda puts it all in perspective.
It's time once again for our local touch-a-truck event. We've gone for the last several years, but Gray missed having his partner in crime, Holten, this time around. I thought perhaps he would outgrow it since we went in 2013 and 2012, but when the flyer came home from school, Gray was still pumped about attending.
We didn't take many photos, but Michael captured a few good ones and it's fun to look back and see how much he's grown from year to year. While he may be able to reach the steering wheel a bit easier this year, it's still all about honking the horn on every vehicle. Guess there are some things you just don't outgrow.