Friday, July 1, 2011

Completing the Circle

We were back in New Jersey for Memorial Day weekend. Parked in Mom & John's driveway once more, we almost immediately began the hunt for a house without wheels.
Gardening with Babci
Not knowing where we'll be next is a little unsettling but it feels good knowing we'll be in one place for a while now. I look forward to unearthing all our non-camper stuff and cleaning out yet again! We're not sure if we'll keep the camper and truck but if we sell it there's always our tent for little excursions when the bug bites us.

With Dad by the River at Camp Carr

Our "new" backpack from Tanya

Eating Lessons
For now, we'll spend a week at Camp Carr by the river then come back to Voorhees Road before heading down to Ocean City, New Jersey for two weeks at the beach with family. We have two very exciting weddings coming up also. Our friend Jen who works with Chris and one of my bridesmaids, Kristin, has hired me for her own wedding in Rhode Island!
Grass Squeak Lessons

Napping on the Flipside in my G's

Flipping the page for Dad

Chris will return to his teaching position at Voorhees and Lily and I will develop a new routine without him during the days. I've tried, during this adventure, to imagine myself years later thinking back on this time. It helps me appreciate the simplicity, freedom, and gifts that this arrangement has afforded us. I can't possibly know where we're going but I know where we've been and it's been an awesome ride.
Lily and the House

Muzzie & Popsie’s House

View of the Hudson Valley from the Hamilton Fish Bridge
We crossed yet another vast river, the Hudson, and another, the Connecticut, before entering Old Lyme and assuming our “regular site” behind the barn at my parents’ house. I’ve driven over both rivers too many times to count but they are both more awe-inspiring to me having been tuned in to the grandeur of our natural landscapes on this trip. I was even impressed by the field of yellow turnip flowers blooming from my Dad’s Biologic planting. And by the pond I grew up swimming, fishing, and playing in. And even by the huge oak trees that dot the perimeter of their property.
Lily naps in Chris' lap under the awning

My parents have, over many years, created a sanctuary. Their house, yard, and outbuildings were all too easy to take for granted when I was growing up. I said some of this in my winter visit blog but it being spring almost summer now I see how their work has paid off in so many ways.

Muzzie and Popsie know how to host…we were treated to so many tasty meals during our stay. We got to lounge in the grass with Lily and I even got to take two trips down to see Kermit alone. What a special treat this was; Muzzie and Chris watched Lily while I took the hour drive to Bethany. I rode and generally got dirty which was perfect therapy for my weary body and soul. My seat bones ached for a while afterwards but it was worth it!
Lily & Muzzie talk about the grass
Lily laughs histerically at Muzzie and vice versa. They are too funny to watch when they get going. It was pretty special that during our week in Old Lyme we were visited by Nana from down the driveway, 

Lily’s Auntie Mary and cousin Jack (6 months) from New Hampshire, 

Lily’s Auntie Emily and Moose (dog) from Massachusetts, 

and my grandparents Grap and Grandpa from New Hampshire! 

Popsie, Lily and I went tag-sale-ing one Saturday morning. We didn’t find much good except one house with a ton of baby clothes so I scored a couple of good deals there but mostly it was just nice being out with Dad. Muzzie and Popsie are connecting the garage to the house this summer so they had to move several bushes while we were there. Again, it was just nice sitting nearby on a blanket with Lily watching them work while Chris worked on sabbatical stuff.
Lily working on her walking skills
Most mornings we’d see Muzzie shooing the geese off the lawn so they wouldn’t provide poop-meals for Breezy their 8-month-old black lab. Dad would go off to work, come home later and get to work on the garden or another project. Chris and Muzzie took a number of great walks over to Roger’s Lake. When Mary and Emily were with us we all went for a trek: Mom, Mary, Emily, Me, Chris, Lily, Jack, Breezy, and Moose. Phew!

Change of Plans

We left Ohio on I-80 East and decided to forgo our prior idea of visiting the Ecovillage at Ithaca, New York. Instead we made reservations for one night at Bald Eagle State Park near State College, Pennsylvania. We had visited there before on our way back from a Michigan or Notre Dame trip in ’09 so we knew it was a nice park. Our site faced an overgrown meadow that was filled with birds and lush underbrush and young forest growth.
Packing up at Bald Eagle
It was at Bald Eagle where Lily first expressed her desire for Mom and Mom only. We took her on a walk in the stroller thinking she needed a nap but she just kept crying so Chris took her out and tried to keep walking. But, it wasn’t until I took her that she immediately stopped crying and we knew what was up.

It poured the night before our arrival and soon after we were packed up to leave the sky opened up. We hadn’t driven in rain until entering Pennsylvania. What a blessing to have been so flexible to avoid major snow and rain and wind on this trip.

We left Bald Eagle and continued through the lush green scenery that lines I-80 East. Eventually we started seeing familiar signs: Camelback billboards, To Scranton, and Stroudsburg such and such miles. I got itchy and questioned our plans. We were originally heading to Promised Land State Park near Milford, Pennsylvania for one night then to Old Lyme with my parents. We were so close to New Jersey though!

We exited toward Easton, crossed the Delaware on Route 22 and pulled up in front of the Donofry’s house in Alpha, New Jersey. We rang the doorbell and were greeted by Chris’ sister, Lisa, who was in perfect disbelief and quickly called for Elizabeth (6) to come see who had arrived! Jacob (10) and Joshua (17) were also home and completely surprised by our presence. My cheeks hurt from smiling at seeing them all again as it’s not ever been so long between visits.

Jake and Elizabeth help Chris set up the camper in the driveway and we all vowed not to tell Babci (Chris’ mom) that we were there. We went to Pohatcong to watch Jake’s baseball game which was fun in and of itself. Christiana (18) met us there after arriving home to see our camper in the driveway but no one in sight! After a great meal and lots of laughs with Lily, we retired to the camper in yet another awesome driveway location.

We pulled into Dolores and John’s driveway the next day and went ringing at the front door but Mom wasn’t as surprised…I think she was on to our change of plans when she couldn’t get a straight answer out of Chris about where we’d be staying these two nights! She lovingly tracked our itinerary and accepted our check-in calls at each new place along the way around the country. We just loved this brief but warming visit with them and were of course welcomed to a big meal in the house. Lily awed and astounded all with her blossoming personality and wobbly walking about holding our fingers.
By chance, it was Wednesday and Chris’ brother Cas was working in nearby Califon so we got to see him for lunch. We called his daughters to share that we’d be at Mom’s for a night if they wanted to come by so sure enough Nicole (16) came driving up with her Dad on the passenger side later that evening. Lindsey (18) was working so we’d have to wait until our return for good to see her.

How energizing and comforting it was to see our Jersey family, if only for a short time, on our way through. Home is where your heart is and our hearts are largely with our families.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lush Green Ohio

Our Ohio Campsite by the Barn
Chris’ Dad’s youngest brother, Mike, lives in northern Ohio with his wife Susan and many, many Collies. Aunt Susan shows, trains, breeds, judges, and boards the dogs (and loves each and every one of them) under the name Kara Christo Collies. They also have a German Shepherd named Peppered and a lone cat, Tumble. Needless to say, Lily ate her fair share of grass blades and dog hair during our stay in Mike and Susan’s beautiful back yard. 
So Happy to Be Out in the Sunshine!
We enjoyed one toasty day in the 80’s with our beach blanket in the grass and sun warming our bodies but it rained pretty heavily for most of our four-night stay. How refreshing to feel bare feet on soft soil under green grass speckled with deep purple violets and sunny yellow dandelions. Aaah.
Our Little Sun Bather
Uncle Mike and Aunt Susan rounded up as much of their family (Chris’ cousins) as they could for a most excellent gathering on Thursday evening. Christian and his wife Sarah and children Curtis (7), Eli (5), and Aubrey (1 ½) joined us as well as Allison and her two children A.J. (3) and Lainey (1 ½). We missed out on seeing Liz and her husband Nathan as they were in Colorado at a mountain climbing convention where I imagine they were working to advertise and improve their business, RockCandy Holds. They’ll have their own little one to snuggle and love come July so we hope to come back soon. We had a raucous time with all the little ones running loose, ten or so brand new Collie pups, and all of us adults trying to catch each other up on the latest Wyglendowski news. Uncle Mike braved the rain to grill up some brats and burgers for everyone while Aunt Susan pan-fried some hash brown potatoes and we munched on sliced veggies and watermelon. Lily, of course, basked in the energy of all the kids and toys but promptly fell asleep in my arms while nursing on the couch. When I took her back to the camper thinking it was bedtime, she woke up as if to say, “I’m fine! Can I please go back in there?”. We enjoyed a few more minutes of visiting before saying goodnight for real.
The Kids
Chris and I spent Friday in nearby towns, Ravenna and Streetsboro. We had lunch at a local pizza joint where we were reminded that you don’t get New York style pizza in Ohio. It’s pan pizza with thicker crust and sometimes cut into squares. Next, I dropped Chris off at the library to do a couple hours of schoolwork and I took Lily up to a thrift store (to find a bigger sleepsack and some twelve-month onesies) before coming back to grocery shop and pick Chris back up. This has been a great way to deal with campgrounds or yards that don’t have Internet for Chris to work with. We made dinner for Uncle Mike as he was on his own since Susan had left to judge a dog show that weekend. It was really special to have the time to get into deeper conversation and share some of our inner workings with each other.
Everyone Thursday Night
The torrential rain caused a camping/canoeing trip to be cancelled for Christian and the boys so they all piled into the minivan once more and drove up for a Saturday visit! Uncle Mike thoughtfully mowed the back lawn and built up a campfire for us all. The sun came out for most of the afternoon so we hung out by the fire with snacks and camp chairs. Curtis and Eli ventured into the bordering (unplanted) cornfield to hunt for arrowheads while Sarah and I shared mom stories which I especially enjoyed as Sarah is a beautiful example of kindness and trust. At one point, Aubrey, a new walker, was standing near the garden fence while Lily sat in the grass nearby. I was between them as Peppered the Shepherd came loping along toward Aubrey whom I tried to save but in the process I left Lily vulnerable to the playful lick to the face that was just hard enough to bump her backwards; Peppered then jaunted away goofily with his lengthy tongue dangling. Lily whimpered a bit but I sat her back up and she “shook it off”. We’re thinking of adopting Duncan’s tactic of encouraging literal shaking off upon such incidents. Haha!
Curtis Explains to Poppa
Eli is bursting with energy. He and Chris picked huge bouquets of dandelions for Sarah and me. Then Eli disappeared briefly only to return with a slightly mischievous face and shout of “burr ball!” to and unsuspecting Christopher while hurling a ball of burrs at his shirt. I laughed at that a few times during the rest of the day. Curtis uncovered all kinds of pottery pieces and neat rocks on his treasure hunt and Lily munched on grass and her hat alternately. Sarah had made delicious granola bars which fueled us up for a short car ride and hike. The five adults, two children, and two babies piled into Susan’s new twelve-passenger meant-for-dog-shows van. Curtis and Eli removed their already muddy sneakers, we strapped in a few car seats, and drove a few miles down the road to park at a trailhead. I got Lily into the sling where she soon drifted off to nap. Curtis and Eli immediately ran about fifty yards ahead, excitedly explored off-trail, carried long sticks and chanted marching songs. Christian reined them in sufficiently and we all went along the gravel trail to our first stop: a small natural waterfall with huge smooth but mossy rock surfaces. The boys immediately gravitated to the slipperiest edge where Christian again played Safety Man.
Christian and Aubrey on a Mission
We walked a bit further and wandered off the gravel path into the woods a ways to our destination: a small wooded gorge probably a hundred feet at its deepest point fed by a twenty or thirty foot waterfall pouring over incredibly old rock formations. The lushness of this oasis in the forest was both familiar and overwhelmingly refreshing. Sarah, Aubrey, Lily, and I stayed at the rim while the boys all hiked in further around the edges and down into the gorge. I looked at that beautiful chasm with such different eyes having seen the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and the Sonoran Desert. It probably took thousands of years to form and the moss and vines and trees that call it home are just little babies compared to the massive rock sheets creating the lip of the falls. I took the green for granted for so long.
The Forest Gorge
We ordered pizza for dinner and enjoyed another meal in the big farmhouse kitchen before sharing pictures from our adventure then reluctantly saying goodbye to Christian and Sarah, Curtis, Eli, and Aubrey.

It was instructive to flip through all the pictures we’ve taken since January. We haven’t parked anywhere quite like Mike and Susan’s and it felt more like home. After being in the desert it is so obvious that water is an incredible treasure. It is also powerful as we’ve heard with the Mississippi flooding and its ability to keep us inside, mostly. We had some more rainy days and more tasty meals provided by our gracious hosts before packing up again. It was so special being there for a bit of an extended stay. It allowed us to join in a service at Mike and Susan’s church, share stories of our adventures, do laundry, rekindle our appreciation for the lushness of our homeland, and, most importantly, get to know the Ohio Wyglendowskis better.
Lily Naps with Dad on a Rainy Morning

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cheer Cheer for Old Notre Dame

Warning: while chockfull of excitement, this may be my longest post ever.

Our Notre Dame visits actually started with Tucson Ted since he also earned his undergrad degree there but he and Chris never met until the ACE masters program. Tommy D is another Notre Dame connection as a section-mate to Chris in Flanner. Our next three visits were to the families of Chris’ roommate mainstays until they split up to become Resident Assistants. Duncan is in northern Illinois, Jesus is near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Ross is in southern Michigan. We were blessed to be able to visit all three on our way home along with a full day visit to campus where so much has changed since they studied there.
Meet Duncan
Duncan married his high school sweetheart, Madonna, and moved back to their hometown. We took a minor detour and stayed at Starved Rock State Park for one night hoping the Duncans could join us for dinner. We were so excited when Duncan emailed back within minutes to our request and we set plans for a meal at the park lodge. Danny (3) and Maddie (1 ½) provided the entertainment for the evening especially for Lily. After eating, they shared toys and tooted around the table while Madonna snuggled with Lily. We hung out for a while after dinner by the huge fireplace in the lodge. Duncan had Danny share his enthusiasm for the alma mater by saying “Go Irish” and Maddie waltzed around pant-less much of the evening as her pants dried by the fire. We got such a kick out of their energy and playfulness. Maddie and Lily had fun giving kisses and hugging each other. The whole family was up for a camper visit so we drove over and gave the tour. Danny was impressed with the radio and oven and even made us some “ravioli”. We were impressed with Duncan’s choice of vehicle: a boat (with the horn to prove it) of a 1990-something Cadillac in great shape but huge…hilarious. What a joy it was to be able to meet up with the Duncans on such short notice even if only for a few hours.
The Wys and the Duncans
If you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas you know how we looked pulling into Jesus and Megan Torres’ neighborhood. 
We planned on parking in their driveway as Jesus was pretty sure it was long enough and “not too steep”. With a little help from another ND alum, Jack, Chris ‘jacked’ up the camper to level which required several cinderblocks and all of our Lynx Leveler blocks. We turned some heads over the weekend but didn’t generate any complaints. Quintin (3) was extremely patient in waiting to enter the “camp out”. He was so cute in his explorations and asked some entertaining questions: “Why do they have slippery soap?” and “Why does your toilet have a door?” He loved being up on the bed and Megan had to restrain him from jumping between the couch and dinette seats. Corbin (5 months) is a cute roly-poly bundle who weighs about the same as Lily! He is so relaxed and snuggly so we just ate up every minute we got to hold him. 
Meet Jesus (and Corbin)
I love Jesus’ nicknames for his kids…Corbinski, Corbster, My Quintin, Roo, and many others all said with affection and a smile. We spent the whole weekend with the Torres family; they totally spoiled us with delicious meals and treats from local shops. They treated us to a takeout meal from Out & Out, a ‘no burgers, no fries’ kind of place, and custard for desert on Sunday evening. Megan made chili, salad, and cornbread one day and grilled some traditional Wisconsin brats the next. Quintin and Chris composed a few tunes on the piano while Corbin and Lily hung out with their mommies. 
We took a walk to historic Cedarburg and poked around a neat store called Lilies then warmed up a bit by enjoying the playground and park. 
Megan and Me and the snoozing babies
Chris and Jesus took a serious ride on the merry-go-round and documented it simultaneously with iPhone and video camera. Lily and Corbin slept for most of the adventure and Quintin was a real trooper walking much of the way. 
Jesus & Quintin
Chris really enjoyed catching up with Jesus and I loved meeting them all since they couldn’t come to our wedding because Quintin was born just a couple of weeks before it. Regardless of the chilly April weather, we enjoyed this visit immensely and hope it works out to be able to spend even more time with them in the future.

We survived Chicago by taking the 294 toll loop around the metro area; it was still congested even at two in the afternoon and after shelling out $17.95 in tolls. We took the scenic route to Potato Creek State Park in Indiana just fifteen miles south of Notre Dame. We spent May 3rd at the campground feeling sleepy and traveled up to campus on the 4th. We were able to see more people than I had anticipated. First, we sought out the ACE office which turned out to be in transition between old and new buildings so we had to search around a bit. We found one of Chris’ most memorable ACE professors, Doc Doyle, and really enjoyed our hour or so chatting with him. It was refreshing to hear him explain that he teaches his social studies teachers to use a few choice concepts rather than dozens of minute facts and dates. This is so contrary to how we’ve been told to teach using state standards and testing for knowledge of minutia, especially in terms of history.
Doc Doyle in the soon-to-be-old ACE office
Walking around campus on the last day of classes before exams was pretty neat. I had only been to Notre Dame during the summer for the ACE fifteen year celebration so there were very few students. South Quad was buzzing with backpacks and bicycles; students zipped along cement pathways often plugged into an iPod or cell phone but also moving in small groups chatting. Impromptu Frisbee tosses and lacrosse throw-arounds popped up here and there. We walked through a petting zoo put on by Zahm Hall in North Quad where Lily got to sit on a little pony! 
 Campus is sprinkled with glorious long beds of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. The trees in “God Quad” were blooming and a few vibernum bushes perfumed the air.
We stopped in at The Grotto
After a little searching, Chris found Father Joe Corpora in the security building offices and he came out on his way to a meeting to give big smiles and great big hugs to us all. I get such a charge out of Father Joe’s positive energy; my cheeks hurt from smiling whenever I’ve see him.

We found John Staud in the Institute for Educational Initiatives building where Lily enjoyed a short nap as ACE staffers oogled at her peacefulness. John led us up to the attic of the I.E.I to rifle through the ACE t-shirt stash where we each got a few wardrobe additions. Thanks ACE!

Chris, Jesus, and Duncan lived together in Flanner Hall for their first three years at Notre Dame. Flanner was turned into offices their senior year and the guys got split between Knott and Siegfried. Chris and Jesus became RAs in Siegfried while Ross was assigned to RA in Knott Hall. Father John Conley has been rector of Siegfried since their senior year (14 years). All the group pictures of the dorm residents over the years began with the ‘97-‘98 class so Chris and Jesus are immortalized on the wall of fame in the entryway of Siegfried. Father Conley was home so we got to sit with him for a while to catch up and share Lily with him. It’s a tough job being on-campus, in-dorm 24/7 but Father Conley does a great job and we know whatever he does next he’ll apply just as much love and commitment.
Fr Conley
We were getting hungry at this point so took the path of least resistance to South Dining Hall. What a smorgasbord. It’s no wonder we all pack on some pounds in college! You could feasibly have cheese fries for dinner every day or bacon for breakfast or ice cream for lunch! There are also a number of salad bars and tons of options but the grease and fat sure is tempting. It’s also tempting to move at the frenetic pace of the students; they know what they want and don’t waste any time getting it (politely but quickly). I had to try to fight my urge to feel hurried and like an impediment to everyone else. After choosing a little of this and that—some mostly healthy, some less healthy—we found a table in the Hogwart’s-esque dining room. Lily slept in the stroller for most of the meal but woke up eventually to enjoy the ocean of people. The guys didn’t tend to react but a number of girls “aaaw”ed at her and Lily, of course, smiled, giggled and bounced in return. Toward the end of our waffles and ice cream dessert the table was filling up toward our end and out of all the chairs at all the tables in this enormous room the one student from Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner, New Jersey sat down next to Chris. Amazing. Chris had Tim in AP Government a year or two ago and so they caught each other up on school and sabbatical while I just marveled at the odds that we’d see him.

We tried to find Jeff Ulrich. He’s a great guy who we met at Immaculate Conception parish when we lived in the farmhouse. We hosted him and a few other youth group members for dinner at our house once and really enjoyed his company. Jeff wasn’t home but we learned that lots of people know him in Siegfried and Knott, where he lives; I was not surprised. Chris left the ubiquitous whiteboard note on Jeff’s dorm room door and we headed to the bookstore to poke around before bidding farewell to the grandeur and charm of Notre Dame.
Happy with Dad
Thursday May 5th we drove just a couple hours north to Fort Custer State Park to stay for three nights and visit the last of the roommates: Ross. This park did not make much of a first impression what with the nearly impassible potholes and mostly empty, wooded campground and one-man-non-ranger staff. It felt a little like our New Jersey state parks: understaffed, underfunded, under-maintained and a terrible shame. Granted it is early in the season and certainly a safe place to stay but even I was turned away by the showers: five singletons, four locks, three working shower heads, two frogs, tepid water, spiders, and not enough pressure to wash my hair. I gave up and trotted my frozen self back to the camper. It was, however, intriguing that we noticed a number of people wandering around in the woods here and there. Chris learned that they were mushroom hunting, specifically for morels which sell for up to $45 per pound at market! We set up and enjoyed dinner our first night with the Notre Dame alumni doctors, Ross and Jen, along with their son Jake (4) and daughter Erin (5 weeks). Jake attended our wedding as a ten-month-old and it was so neat to see him miraculously grown up and full of personality! We were surprised when all of a sudden, it seemed, we looked up and it was 9:00. Being so far west in the Eastern Time zone it stays light out until at least nine this time of year. Jake enjoyed the late bedtime and Lily promptly hit the sheets (after a clean doubled up nappy) when we got back to the campground. We planned to join them for the next evening as well so headed out around 4:30 and experienced something new on our drive:

Going along on a 45mph road we encountered a crosswalk with several children waiting to cross. Naturally we stopped and waived them on meanwhile the oncoming traffic did not stop but continued barreling toward these children, one on a bike with training wheels. It reminded me of a mounted quadrille movement called ‘thread the needle’ because it seemed that just as the cars passed, the children continued safely across but neither seemed to yield. The car behind me actually honked at me for stopping at the crosswalk. I was baffled; but maybe the pedestrians just have to wait out here in Michigan.
Meet Ross
After another glorious dinner of Panini sandwiches and soup-a-la-Ross, it came up in conversation that perhaps Chris and Ross should build a garden the next day…an ambitious goal but one that is close to Chris’ heart. Ross explained his previous attempts at green thumbing and we offered some tidbits about what we’d learned while building our large garden at the farmhouse. Rabbits were the main concern now for Ross and he seemed pretty excited about having basil and tomatoes in his backyard. The next morning we set out on the half hour drive back to their house, Chris in his boots and Carhartts ready to dig in the dirt! They plotted it out, went shopping for fencing and plants, dug up some lawn, dug in the fence to avoid rabbits slipping under, fluffed up the soil with some compost and manure, planted the seedlings and voila! All in a day’s work. 
Garden Before
Garden After
Meanwhile Jen and I watched the girls and made lunch. Lily enjoyed some quality time in the grass. Now that she can sit up on her own it’s so fun to plunk her down and watch from a short distance away as she explores her surroundings. I hope this garden keeps Ross and Chris communicating a bit more often as I know they enjoyed this project together and I know they both want it to succeed.

We ordered some pretty snazzy pizza and a big salad for dinner but were unsuccessful in treating (my mistake) so accepted another gifted meal from Ross and Jen. After dinner Chris asked Jen—the pediatrician—if she’d confirm his suspicion that Lily had cut her first tooth…Jen was sure she had! This wouldn’t have been strange to me unless I dreamed that Lily’s bottom two teeth magically appeared at the same time the night before…odd. We enjoyed chatting about healthcare and education with these great friends and were better about leaving before dark this last evening with them. We left the Kalamazoo area with a bittersweet feeling given that we had to leave Ross’ family but we also got to leave behind the dysfunctional Fort Custer State Park.
Jake, Me, Jen, Lily, Chris, Ross, Erin


Huge windmills on rented farmland
We arrived in Ashland, Nebraska on the Saturday before Easter. Our choice of campground resulted entirely from a recommendation of, Joey, a native Nebraskan who used to teach in Phoenix with Chris. He was confident that Mahoney Park was the best in the state and he was justified in that claim. With a lakeside campground, huge lodge with restaurant, minigolf, water park, picnic areas, skating rink, indoor playground, rental cabins, disc golf, driving range, and horse barn with trail rides this place was incredible! Granted, we were there before Memorial Day so many of their amenities were not in service but we enjoyed it nonetheless. I did however choose not to shower during our stay as the bathrooms were not heated or terribly nice and we only had electric hookups so were limited on water and tank space.

We arrived to find families who chose to spend their Easter weekend camping. This may not seem unique but we’ve seen so many RV parks filled with retired people that it was refreshing to see kids running about and to smell campfires. We instantly met some of our neighbors who were fascinated by our trip and Chris’ sabbatical work. They loaned us the movie RV which we appreciated given the rainy weather that evening. We had dinner at the lodge which consisted of a typical buffet style option that seemed the popular choice. Lily enjoyed standing—with help—in her car seat in the stroller and trying out the acoustics with some of her loudest squeaks. We are learning to put things out of her wingspan to avoid spilled drinks and flailing forks. She loves spoons and napkins but throws them to the floor as soon as the novelty wanes. Not a fan of restaurant high chairs, Lily would rather sit on our lap and interact with the neighboring tables than be locked into a seat.
My littlest laundry helper
One evening, Chris was sitting at the dinette working when he saw a small white critter zip across the camper floor and under the couch. He had seen some evidence of this little visitor in his slipper the day before so this sighting confirmed his suspicion. We suspect “Harry” climbed aboard in Colorado to avoid being made dinner by our great horned owl neighbor. After discovering that he had nibbled into our travel bag of snacks we left by the door one night in transit, we decided to take action. As soon as we arrived at Mahoney I emptied out the storage compartment underneath the couch and uncovered the water pump compartment next to that. We ventured into town about three miles north to the only grocery store called No Frills—they’re not kidding. Tall shelves stocked with lots of everything processed, chemical, and cheap. We found the critter bait across the aisle from the baby food but didn’t see anything other than pesticides until I spotted one lone package of mousetraps on the bottom shelf shoved on top of some ant traps. It only took an evening at dinner for Harry to find our peanut butter-smothered traps. He turned out to be a teeny, gray field mouse and we said goodbye to him that night.
Joey, Kristan, Samuel and us
It was refreshing coming back to April showers after spending so much of winter and spring in the desert. We saw familiar sights like brand-new baby Canada geese, big fat robins, Johnny Jumpups, Daffodils, and oak trees. It rained much of the time at Mahoney causing us to meet Joey and his family at a local Mexican restaurant instead of having a campfire. We enjoyed enchiladas and chile rellenos Nebraska-style while we caught up with Joey, Kristan and baby Samuel! What a treat this meal was as we weren’t able to attend Joey and Kristan’s wedding and Samuel was just born in January. We really enjoyed their company and hearing about their newest adventures together with baby and pending new home. It was especially neat holding Samuel as a little reminder of how little Lily was not so long ago.

We were spoiled on Easter as well when we received an invitation from MaryLou and John (parents of a Notre Dame roommate) to join their family at the Omaha Hilton for Easter brunch. We attended mass at the cathedral in Omaha before heading to the meal. I wasn’t prepared for the dim lighting, heavy incense, and slow organ music but I’m glad we went. The New Jersey parish we joined while living in the farmhouse really went all out for Easter with banners and bright flowers and jovial, celebratory music. The cathedral experience was a more traditional Easter celebration. Brunch was incredible. Omelet station, chocolate fondue, crab legs, prime rib, and on and on and on! MaryLou held Lily for much of the meal which was a beautiful gift as Lily enjoyed it and we were able to just eat and talk a bit. We are still so grateful for the gift of this Easter meal with friends and for their generosity. We left the gathering with full bellies and gifts from MaryLou and John of a super-soft Easter bunny with long floppy ears for Lily, and a gift bag of goodies from a local bakery called Market Basket. 
MaryLou and John loving Lily time on Easter
We enjoyed a couple long walks at Mahoney on the paved paths, useful for helping Lily to nap. Chris still has the touch with the rocking chair but I’m getting better. We were able to Skype with Muzzie and Popsie and Nana which was great as Lily was enjoying her spatula and bowl while we chatted. I converted an empty yogurt container and a maple syrup bottle into toys for her and offer up various kitchen items to maintain novelty in the toy department. Pastey the tomato and Crinkle the peacock remain her favorite if I had to guess. She’s sitting up on her own now although we don’t leave her alone quite yet as her curiosity often has her diving forward or falling backward without any awareness that it will hurt.

After four nights at Mahoney and some route planning, we packed up, dumped the tanks, and hopped back on I-80 East to finish out Nebraska. Iowa had more rolling hills and wind farms than I expected. We stayed overnighted in Newton for some laundry loads and rest from the road before another state park stay in Illinois and the beginning of a string of roommate reunions.