Monday, June 29, 2009

Horn Creek - Day 7

Today started with the biggest spread of breakfast food I think I have ever seen!! There was everything: eggs, pancakes, sausage, hash browns, cinnamon rolls, crepes, etc. etc.! This was a brunch meal instead of a breakfast to hold us over until an early dinner that evening for Banquet Night. This was one of my favorite breakfasts of the week... only second to one I forgot to mention that happened on Monday.

That morning, breakfast was served outside (it was cold but worth it). They drove in a big grill and set a huge griddle on it and proceeded to make tons of pancakes. And these pancakes weren't just served to you in a normal fashion, because it was a pancake FLIP! In order to get a pancake, you had to station yourself on the lawn in front of the grill, plate in hand, and keep your eye on the flipper as he tossed your pancake 10 feet in the air (sometimes more) and you maneuvered around under it to catch it like you would a fly ball. Oliver was fascinated by all of the pancake catching and we sat on the ground near the launch area so we could watch everyone's attempts to catch their breakfast. I caught both of mine pretty easily as did Matt and Oliver. But some people dropped quite a few so there were pancakes scattered all over the lawn. Good times...

After our brunch, we played for a bit and then the kids started both asking to take a nap... at 10:45 in the morning!! They had been off schedule a bit because of the time change and the staying up late and the physical exhaustion from running around camp all week. We were happy to oblige so naptime that day was early - which worked out great because that afternoon Matt's brother and sister and their families were coming in from Denver to visit us! Yipee!

So while the kids slept, I got to spend sometime on Matt's Dad's computer catching up on emails and blogs (which I LOVED) and Matt and his Dad got to attend a free guitar lesson/jam session with one of the musicians who had been playing for us at Horn Creek that week. His name is Nathan Clark George and he is a great musician with an amazing story. Check out his website: (we knew we squeezed both of their guitars into our van for a reason)!

After they finished jamming (and getting sunburned!), Matt and his Dad headed out to finish up the last few holes of the Frisbee golf course they had been playing off and on throughout the week. It was a fun and challenging 18-hole course that ran through the middle of the camp. After the kids woke up, we were just killing time until the Denver folks arrived. We walked down to the Rec Center again and the guys played some horseshoes and the kids ran around until we saw the caravan pull up to the front office. We ran to greet them so excited they were finally here!!!

We all decided a trip to the water slides was in order. Matt and I took the kids down there earlier in the week and we just played in the wading pool at the bottom of the slides. The kids were not interested. Matt and I went down a few times and those are some pretty wicked slides! Whew! They have 1 short, slow, kids slides and two longer, more intense slides going down the side of a mountain. So we showed up with our whole group and took turns going down the slides with the older kids - Olivia and Calvin. Matt and I decided to go down together once which was quite a crazy ride. Two adults on a mat at once makes you go much faster. Then Matt and his brother decided to go down together. I think they regretted that decision as soon as they hit the first big drop! They ended up stopping themselves 3/4 of the way down and just climbing out of the top of the slide and walking the rest of the way down. I don't know about Daniel, but Matt had a bruised toe that I think is just now finally starting to look normal again! It turns out that two grown men riding on a mat together down a water slide is not a good idea!

We were finally able to convince our kids to go down as well! Gabby went down first so Oliver was a little bit more motivated after seeing her go down and not go under the water at the bottom. Check out the cute pictures and videos below:

Oliver and Daddy at the top...

... and bottom of the water slide!

Gabby on the water slide with Mommy

Oliver on the water slide with Daddy

After the water slides, we hurried back to the Lodge to change into our dress clothes for Banquet Night! Since it is the last evening of camp, they fancied up the dining room a bit with candle light and dressed up servers and provided us with a multi-course meal. Matt's whole family got to join us for that meal and it was a great evening. Afterward, we headed out to take group pictures. Here is the whole David Dillard clan:

From left to right: Ed Schroeder, Stephanie and Daniel Dillard, Atticus, Emily (Matt's sister), Calvin, and Olivia Schroeder, Granna and Papa (Annie and David) Dillard in the back, and our family on the right!

After dinner we, changed and headed out to the cabin where the rest of Matt's family was staying for the night. We played board games and talked and enjoyed a relaxing evening catching up with everyone! Oliver loved playing Peter Rabbit with Uncle Dan (thanks for indulging him Dan!)
Oliver being a "baseball player" so he says...

Playing with his boy cousins - Atticus and Calvin!

We headed back to the Lodge that night to sleep and then got up early in the morning to meet the whole clan for breakfast at a cafe in town called Chili Bears. They served us some yummy food (especially their hash browns) and we filled up with gas and hit the road for our long trip back to Texas. It was such a great week for all of us and the kids did well on the drive home. We made some awesome memories and can't wait to do it again next year!

Horn Creek - Day 6

We were quite worn out after our late night and were up early again with the kids on Thursday. But that morning it was not as hard to get up because we knew that in a few short hours, we would be on our anniversary horseback ride!!! We ate breakfast and played for a bit and then it was bye bye to the kids, who were spending the morning with Granna and Papa, and off to the stables. Matt and I enjoyed our hike through the woods to get to the stables. They had all of the horses out and lined up ready for the ride. The day before when we were at the stables with the kids, Matt had asked me which horse I would pick to ride on of any of the horses. After much thought, I finally narrowed it down... and when we walked up that morning, the one I had picked was saddled up and ready to be ridden. So I quickly chose Red for my morning companion. Matt chose a horse named Patience.

He was first in line behind the guide followed by me and two other girls from the camp with another guide bringing up the rear. The morning was clear, cool and windy as we headed off down the trail. We passed the path to the Tubing Hill they use in the winter as we headed up the mountain for our 2 hour trail ride. We wound along part of the Rainbow Trail above Horn Creek, through a rushing stream, and off into a meadow on the side of the mountain. The wind started to pick up here and embarrassingly my hat blew off. Thankfully, one of our two guides jumped down and retrieved it for me. :) Little did I know, this wind was a tell tale sign of things to come. As we headed further on into the mountain meadow, we were met with breathtakingly beautiful views, followed by some of the fiercest wind I've ever been in. For about 10 minutes, we walked our horses up the hill toward the next tree covering while holding on for dear life and working hard to see and breathe - the wind was so strong it would take my breath away and force my eyes closed! They asked if we wanted to trot to get to the tree cover faster but I was more afraid of trotting than I was of the wind so we just walked there as fast as we could! That part was definitely not so fun, but once we reached the tree cover again, we were able to relax and enjoy the ride again. The way we were lined up, talking wasn't too easy, but it was so nice to have a long stretch of time to just sit, think, and enjoy nature.

Heading into the meadow on the side of the mountain

Looking down into the valley below. The town of Westcliffe is in the middle of the valley.

We bounced along the rocky trail some more me trying to follow closely behind Matt and his horse, but Red liked to keep to the side of the trail and not in the middle. So I frequently had to guide him back to the middle of the trail to keep from running into trees! But I felt pretty confident on the horse since I had just ridden one last fall at our church's women's retreat. It was a great morning with Matt, with nature, and with my thoughts! I was a bit sore as I dismounted, but it was worth it! We got back to the Lodge before the kids and grandparents did so we spent a little while resting our sore muscles in the hot tub attached to the Lodge! That was definitely a great end to our morning!

The kids and grandparents had gone into Westcliffe for the morning and spent some time at the fun library we visited as well as getting ice cream (again, right before lunch - but we're on vacation, right!). We all met back up for lunch and then it was time for naps for all! Well Matt and I traded off on napping because Gabriella wasn't ready to sleep when the rest of us were. But that meant a longer nap for her later and we got to spend some good one-on-one time with Oliver. Matt and I hiked with Oliver up to some forts people had built in the woods. Oliver loved being outside playing with all of the sticks, rocks and pine cones.

Then that evening after dinner was the much anticipated Skit Night! All of the campers are encouraged to prepare a skit to perform for the group. Matt's Dad recited a fun poem about dinner time rules shared in the vain of Levitical law so it was quite amusing. Check out the short video clip below.

Matt's parents and the Nelsons also did a presentation showing pictures from a hike they had taken earlier in the week... along with a few photos that were a little bit "edited" (check out the picture in the background and imagine others like it from places like Mt. Everest, Mt. McKinley, etc.). I got to practice my Photoshop skills helping them prepare and we all had a good laugh!

Oliver got to stay up late again to watch the skits and he LOVED it. Here he is sitting up front on the floor with all of the kids like a big boy!

We had lots of fun watching all of the skits and then got to play another (much shorter) game of Hand and Foot again with Matt's parents and the Nelsons after Oliver went to bed. We were not up nearly as late this night as we needed to sleep to stock up for our last full day at Horn Creek the next day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Horn Creek - Day 5

Wednesday dawned promising to be a fun day... there were many things printed on the schedule for that day that peaked our interest. We spent the morning doing what we did best during our trip - eating. There was no shortage of good food and it was nice to have a hot breakfast every morning. We spent the morning in one of the kids' favorite buildings - the rec center. We played with the footballs, basketballs, and spent a lot of time in the racquetball court. For our boy who loves to throw - this was heaven. And I'll have to admit it is quite fun to throw a ball really hard and watch it bounce off the walls, floor, ceiling, etc. Another fun morning of family time.

Playing ball...

Daddy shooting some hoops

The gym (and volleyball net!)

My sweet racquetball boy

Waving to mommy up on the viewing platform above the court

On the schedule for the afternoon was something that I had been looking forward to all week... a Volleyball Tournament!!! Volleyball is by far my favorite sport to play; it is the only one I am any good at which is probably the reason it is my favorite sport to play :) So I was pumped and ready for the afternoon tournament. Matt's Dad graciously sat up at the Lodge with our kids while they napped (and provided him with one of his favorite Oliver quotes of all time - David this is for you "Dropped her baa baa"). So I was happy that Matt was able to accompany me and cheer me on.

There were three camper teams that played against a staff team. I played in the first game on the camper team and we lost a close game... but it was wonderful to play again. I don't think I had played since we moved away from Phoenix where I was extremely blessed to have a group of friends who got together to play sand volleyball every Monday night. I did that year-round for over a year and LOVED it. Great friends, good competition, and a good workout... awesome. So even though this was played in a gym, I still had a great time. I got to play again with the third camper team and then once more in a 3 on 3 match that was significantly more challenging than the 6 on 6 games we had been playing. But it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Time to myself, doing something that I love... very fulfilling.

After volleyball, it was time to head back and get spruced up for Western Night. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, baked beans, and all kinds of yummy BBQ food for dinner. The staff and the campers were all dressed up in western gear... hats, boots, etc. Oliver was sad that he did not have a hat and boots like most of the older boys that he looked up to, but I told him we would work on that for next year. He did have a very cute western vest that Aunt Stephanie's mom had made for him. He was very proud to be wearing that! After dinner, we moseyed on down to the Area where they had a fun carnival complete with face painting, popcorn, root beer floats, horseshoes, and of course - pony rides! Now, we have been exposed to the opportunity for pony rides for the kids many times. And these invitations have always been met with a resounding "NO!" from both kids. But I guess the vacation attitude and festive atmosphere were working on them because they both wanted to ride! I was so proud of Oliver for once again facing something that was fearful for him and being so brave... and I think he actually enjoyed it! He went around the whole loop with Daddy's help.

Oliver finishing his ride... while sister looks on

Gabriella is not one to be left behind - especially when brother is doing something. So up she went (albeit with a very concerned look on her face). We made it about 30 seconds into the ride when we had to navigate down a very small dip in the terrain. The shifting of the horse as he walked down the incline through her for a loop and off she came.

Our little cowgirl... before we started moving

The night ended with a Western night music performance, melodrama, and square dance! We enjoyed singing some fun songs like "You Are My Sunshine" (which Gabby loved - that is HER song), "Keep on the Sunny Side" and one of the Dillard family favorites "I Cannot Come." Matt and I got to participate in the square dance with a live caller and really enjoyed ourselves. Except next year, we'll remember to pack our boots from our Trinity University Ropers Dance Troupe days...

After the dance, we headed back to the Lodge and joined Matt's parents and their friends the Nelsons in a game of my favorite card game Nertz as well as a long game of Hand and Foot (a rummy based card game). It was a fun and enjoyable evening with them... that lasted until almost 1am (boy were we feeling that late hour when the kids got up the next morning)! It was great to be able to have that time with the kids snoozing away in our room while we relaxed, unwound, and continued vacationing...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Horn Creek - Day 4

On Day 4, we decide to all get up together, have our breakfast, and then head over to the Horse Barn to visit the animals there. The kids LOVED that place. Gabby kept saying "neigh" to greet all of the horses and Oliver enjoyed pretending he WAS a horse. He also liked naming them... or rather having us come up with names for all of them. That takes some creativity folks because there were a lot of horses and our boy is a very thorough boy.

Daddy and Gabby watching the horse eat

Sitting on the haystack

Mother and Daughter

Very beautiful baby girl! I loved that wall as a background too!

Daddy and daughter

After the horse barn, we headed into the little town of Westcliffe, CO which is the closest town to Horn Creek. We were looking forward to spending a little bit of time sitting down during the drive since we were all pretty pooped from all of the walking, running, playing, etc. we'd been doing all week. Much more active than we normally are! Also, I forgot to mention that for our anniversary the day before, Matt and I took some time in the afternoon, while his parents watched the kids, to go to the rec center. I played my first game of racquetball and really liked it (even though Matt won each game) and I decided I wanted to keep up with my workout schedule and do some weight training after our games. So all of that added with the increased walking up and down the mountains left one tired mama! One of our missions in town was to find me some caffeine!

Our first stop was at a great playground we found right away when we pulled into town. We got out and played for a while in the perfect weather. It was a nice relaxing change of venue for everyone. This playground has the most amazing view (which I failed to get a picture of) but imagine looking up from the slides and swings to realize you are in the valley of a beautiful mountain range which is set against a cloudless blue sky. Breathtaking!

Oliver conquering the tunnel slide

After the park, we headed to the grocery store to purchase the aforementioned caffeine, and a few other fun items and then went on to a cute local cafe to get some yummy and inexpensive ice cream cones. Who says you can't eat ice cream right before lunchtime when you are on vacation! We sat outside on their patio to continue enjoying the beautiful weather. We walked down the town's quaint main street for a little while after our ice cream, eventually coming to a fun looking library. Our kids are fans of libraries and they quickly found the awesome kids section filled with many fun books, puzzles, giant foam building blocks, tan grams, and more. We enjoyed just sitting and focusing on playing with our kids there!

After lunch back at the camp and naptime for the kiddos, we looked out our window to see some boys doing something I still can't believe I let Oliver do. Although it really didn't turn out to be too dangerous, I was still a little nervous his first time down. Check out the video below.

The view from the top!

It turns out one of the other families with young boys had brought these trucks with them to the camp last year and discovered this awesome roll down the hill game... which Oliver fell in L-O-V-E with! I was so proud of him for going down all by himself! Once again, my big boy shining through. I think his Daddy was just as proud that I actually let him do it! But as Matt keeps telling me, boys are different than girls in their need for adventure.

Oliver looking on in excitement in true boyish fashion!

Again (and again, and again, and again...) please! Fortunately, the family just left the trucks out there for the rest of the week so he got to ride MANY more times. And Gabby even got to go down a few times... with Daddy holding on to the back on that one!

Another yummy dinner (with a very happy little girl)

... and a very silly little boy!

After dinner and Round-up, the camp hosted a bonfire and a family movie on the big screen (Horton Hears a Who). The kids were out right after Round-up and Matt and I were still feeling worn out, so we skipped on the bonfire and movie spent some down time together before hitting the sack early for a (much needed) goods night's rest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Horn Creek - Day 3

Monday morning we did our normal routine... wake up at 5:45am (BOO time zone change), wallow in bed for half and hour while the kids played in our room and unsuccessfully tried to get us up, then finally one of us does get up and takes them upstairs for first breakfast (the meal preceding breakfast for those small children who cannot wait until 8am to eat) consisting of cereal and milk... or as Gabriella likes to say "RaRa Milk." Monday's lucky winner of the early morning rising was Matt who sweetly took them to the barn and playground while I slept a little bit more. What a man! I joined them on the playground outside of the Lodge for a few minutes before breakfast and then we headed up for our first feast of the day. They feed you well at Horn Creek!

We walked down to the rec center after breakfast to join in the family outdoor games. Gabby couldn't navigate the rocky trails too easily so we carried her most of the time when we were outside. Gabriella was a little exhausted from being off schedule so she fell asleep in my arms walking down. Now carrying a 21 pound toddler down the mountain to the rec center is no easy task. So then just imagine the state I was in as I carried her back up!!! Whew! And I was already sore from the trek we had taken the day before with Matt's parents to their old Horn Creek stomping grounds - the Mountain Meadows camp. The high altitude and hilly campus really gave us a workout. Fortunately, it only took us 2 days to learn what most of the other families with small children had already been doing... driving their CARS up and down the mountain. Ingenious.

Matt stayed down at the rec center and finished the game of Koob (yes I did spell that right, check out the link) he was playing with the group gathered down there, Gabby napped, and Oliver and I got some mommy-son time that I just loved. Another shining example of the fun, focused playtime we got while there. There was nothing else for me to be doing at that moment except playing with my son. We turned our pretzel snack time into a spelling lesson... spelling the only word he knows how to spell:

Here are some more pictures from the day:

Gabriella being girly

The view from the front porch of the Lodge

The Dining Hall

My big boy waiting for the bell to ring signifying the start of meal time!

His newly made friend Michael joined us for dinner

Horn Creek made it easy for families with small children! Lots of high chairs, booster seats, sippy cups, and plastic bibs... which Gabriella immediately ripped off every time. Grr.

Granna and Papa (Matt's parents) getting ready for our yummy dinner of homemade bread, salad, turkey, stuffing, veges, and (my favorite) pumpkin pie for dessert! I was so happy!

Husband and Wife

That night after another awesome Round-Up, we let Oliver stay up late to join us in Game Night. We played some fun team games - a scavenger hunt around the Lodge, and a back-to-back-with-a-balloon-between-you race which I got to do with my sweet son, but we had to bend the rules a bit because the height difference didn't exactly allow for us to be back to BACK!

... but none of them as fun as the grand finale. Once again, since I was new to Horn Creek, I had only heard whispers about this next game... the whispers being the phrases shaving cream and cheese balls. Once again, you'll just have to see it to believe it! And somehow my dear husband was the only one from our team who was willing to take one for the team and suit up in a garbage bag, get plastered with shaving cream and receive the cheese ball darts thrown at him. The team with the most cheese balls sticking to their "shaving cream head" at the end, won.

Getting lathered... the lather-er did an amazing job!

Mid - competition... notice the cheese balls in mid-air

Counting the cheese balls that stuck - 26 in all! We win! Oliver was fascinated.

And the coolest thing of all about Monday at Horn Creek was that it was our 7th anniversary. We had a great day together spending time with our family of 4 and remembering that day 7 years ago when we started our life together. I am so happy with the life we've created and so thankful for the thoughtful, wise, hard-working, and loving husband that God has blessed me with. Here's to many, MANY more years together Mattie!