musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “fun”

safari morning

I am trying to cull from the many things we did on our first true family vacation all together, all others involved shooting all over to visit people. I have made a few posts about this one already.

The day of our safari park adventures, we also visited the deepest caverns east of the Mississippi. As you can imagine, pictures were a bit tough, but I will post about both the Natural Bridge Caverns and Luray Caverns in another post. We had a very big day between the cool caves and more animals and ways to see them than you can imagine.

The Virginia Safari entrance was right with the KOA where we stayed and was only a couple of miles down the road from the zoo we visited the day before. I am a bit link happy today. Of course, for proximity alone, we had to go. We safaried in the morning, caved at midday then safaried in the afternoon.

This post is morning only. I really did choose judiciously from the over 500 photos I took that day. Promise. It was HAARD! Okay?

I am not overwhelming you with these like the llamas overwhelmed our vehicle when we tried to drive in….

There were many wondrous horned creatures from around the world.

Eland, from China

Zebras were on the no feed list, but this guy bullied away a fallow deer and stuck his head into the vehicle, past my lap and stole the bucket of feed from between my feet! Later, a guide chuckled when I told her, and said the only reason zebras are on the list is because they’ll bite, not because they are grass fed only like the Bison and Watusi. Well, I’m happy I didn’t feed him something bad. *slight eyeroll*

Rules forbid people from more than opening windows to feed. This was very clearly stated when we entered, and in the packet they gave us. These dummies had kids hanging out of the open doors. They were the same loud mouthed gaggle of tourists that made the Luray Caverns less pleasurable for the rest of us when we were there a couple of days earlier. They were a bit zealous and I will give them linguistically challenged, maybe they couldn’t read or hear the rules in English.

Rocky Mountain Elk really bonded with Honey and me. Or our feed buckets.
Honey quit shaving before we left for our camping adventure. When we got home, he swore off shaving until his coworkers and boss asked if he was going for the homeless look. Then his mother and I threw our two cents worth in and he even shaved off his precious goatee.
Hello Emu. 
I admit I was a bit creeped out when the Ostriches, Rheas and these guys pecked in the bucket in my hands. Later when Captain Comic sat in front in the afternoon…well, I’ll tell you in a later post.
Stunning. Impressive. Getaloada those antlers!

And then I fed him.

I will love him and feed him and call him George!
(please tell me you remember Warner Bros cartoons)

Bactrian Camel, not from the Middle East, like Dromedary (one hump) cousin, 
from Mongolia and China.

Bison roaming free! (inside a really big park)

Smooch! 
Actually, this was taken just prior to his ripping the feed bucket from my hands.
Later the guide said, “Nobody wins again Omar!” 
Really big bird. Ostrich. 

Scimitar Horned Oryx, North Africa (closer shot next post)
Correction: these are Arabian Oryx! or Oryxes, both are plural forms are correct
Oh wait, third try: Some of both – the whiter ones with straight horns are the Arabian kind

Do the Watusi! (I had to, okay?!) Those are some mighty big horns. 

Near the exit and (entrance) were Vietnamese potbellied pig mama and her babies, and a wholotta Llamas.
I found the Llamas particularly pushy and opportunistic, positioning themselves at the gates, and crowding every vehicle as they entered.

By the exit, they stuck to the shade, my guess is after stuffing their faces.

Wha…?

I could have played around with the shots in the computer and enhanced color and contrast, but choosing was challenging enough…all of my vacation posts’ photos are straight out of the camera and cell camera.

panther falls

Poor Big Bertha barely made it down the winding switchback steep downgrade dirt road to the falls, but she did. Her brakes got rather worn out, and I clung mightily to the passenger door, staring down into beautifully wooded pits of death for my entire family. Apparently, the concept of guardrails has not reached the lesser roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Excerpts from our day at Panther Falls:

I know, I know, a lot of photos and I promised I wouldn’t, but Panther Falls was my favorite adventure of the trip.

Just pretty country on a beautiful day.
 The path to the falls was as treacherous as the road.
This part was about as wide as Toots’s tootsies and very slippery dirt.
 Beware of hazards and falling trees.
 Then we reached the top of the falls.
 Captain Comic was in his element. I can’t keep Godzilla boy from water.

Jumpers, though they are forbidden. See my Captain below?
 Below these falls, what looks like two tidal pools is connected, a water-bored tunnel below the surface. Some kids were all over it, Captain Comic said , “No way! I’m not taking any chances!” The rope is a guide line to swim through the tunnel.

Meanwhile…Mr. Cynic just wanted to go home that day. We had swimsuits back up the mountain in Bertha, and he did not want to change. Thankfully this one has mastered suffering in silence.
 Slippery when wet
Oh no, he’s not taking any chances…Even if he was all over these rocks and water far from his parents.
Treacherous but beautiful. I admitted defeat.
I’m just too unstable on my bad ankle for any sudden slippery corrections.

But Captain Comic was all over the glacial anomalies.

I was happy to stick my toes in, and watch fishies swim between them.
Honey and Toots also did not have their suits, but they went in, too. 
Toots hung onto her daddy for dear life, and went in in her undies.
She loved it. I loved these legs and shadows.

Captain Comic may not have gone through the tunnel, but he assisted others with the rope lead.

Meanwhile….Nope, still not going in. 
 Bathing Beauty after her swim.
 Another jumper. 

This young man talking my Honey’s ear off has been coming to the falls since his daddy threw him in when he was two! He helped guide other jumpers to the deepest parts, where they wouldn’t slam into rocks and die. “The sign up at the road is false advertising, saying last death was in 1998. Four people died here last year. But don’t worry, it mostly happens when the water is higher and has a stronger undertow than it does today.” I was grateful for the info, but I was scared for his life as he did back flips from high up.

We stopped here to get some drinks and the people were very helpful,
even if they do make “HOMEMAOE BBQ EVERYOAY”

natural bridge, va

Sorry for delays. I am pooped and I have been having a busy week since our return, blogging fell down the priority list. 
Fun things to do at the modest KOA:
Pool, always a favorite for Captain Comic

 And Honey and Toots.

An old school playground

 This was a giant slide with the old metal steps made of the letters: AMERICAN, like the slide in my old neighborhood as a little kid. It took her about the whole week for Toots to actually descend the giant slide without my climbing up the ladder and walk her back down in my arms.

 Toots and Captain Comic playing together and having fun.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Mr. Cynic being so very very Mr. Cynic, plugged in and all. That’s my old van, Big Bertha behind him.

And the Natural Bridge itself, carved out of the mountains by glaciers.

That’s not dirt on the photo, it’s a hawk that swooped under the bridge.

I love him even if Mr. Cynic does not want his picture taken.

 Captain Comic takes a cue from Mr. Cynic.

 At the end of the trail, we found a nice cascades area that was quite calm and relaxing. We actually didn’t make it to the end where The Lost Springs are. We decided our end was here.

We were surrounded by butterflies, lots of kinds, but mostly various Swallowtails. This was a Red-spotted Purple Admiral, even though it was black with blue like a Black Swallowtail. I looked it up at the gift shop in a book of butterflies after our hike.

 Toots was so happy to have her big brothers back, and she wanted to keep up with them. But she fell on her way to this little cave tunnel in the mountain side that Mr. Cynic found.

Finally, the Natural Bridge on the way back…

More adventures next week, I’ll keep the shots to a minimum.  Panther Falls and Crabtree Falls were big ones that almost did in poor Bertha.

We are rearranging the boys’ room again this weekend, taking the giant shelf beds out and moving in some bunks. A lot of furniture disassembly and assembly to ensue, right after I take a landscaping class at our local garden center.

feeding beasties

Our Grand Family Adventure started with picking up the boys at the halfway point between their father’s home in Rhode Island and ours in Virginia  – Wilmington, Delaware. Hugs were given, things were stuffed in the already packed to the gills van. Then we made a last minute decision to side trip to the DC area to visit Honey’s cousin who just moved back into the house he grew up in after living on the west coast and other parts of our country for most of his life. He bought the house from his mother and plans to tear it down and rebuild a new one. He told some stories of he and his brother growing up there, and I think Honey had fun visiting where he used to visit as a kid. It was nice to have one more night in a bed before my family slept in tents on the ground for the rest of last week. He and his long time girl friend were lovely hosts and it was good to see them.

The boys have grown. Captain Comic may have surpassed me or is about to, but we are not telling him.  Please don’t tell him. I will ne’er hear the end of it.

We took a spontaneous approach to this vacation, and the following day as we head toward the Natural Bridge area of Virginia, our campsite destination, we made another detour to Luray Caverns. I’ll post about  about those sites later.

After the caverns, we traveled the rest of the way and made it by evening to the campsite at the KOA. I have mentioned before that I like the KOAs. This one was more modest than the Super KOA where we stayed with just Toots and Lucy about six weeks ago, in Harper’s Ferry, WV. Anyway, we set up camp, and basically collapsed after campfire.

The first morning we decided to go to the Natural Bridge Zoo. They had a lot of exotics there: baby tigers, lemurs, DeBrazza monkeys, etc, but mostly we enjoyed feeding the animals we could feed. All the kids really got a kick out of it. So did Honey and I.

This is Abigail. She is a five week old dromedary camel. She loved us. 
Toots later got to hold her baby bottle for her to feed. 
She loved when I scratched her neck and behind her ears, like a cat.
Mr. Cynic feeding pygmy goats.

This little guy was pushy.

Captain Comic and Mr. Cynic feeding fallow deer, they are indigenous to Eurasia. 
A lot have been introduced to Texas for hunting, apparently. Sad.

Feeding giraffes is fun. Their tongues are very long and… adept.

Mr. Cynic took this one of a giraffe and me.

We rode an elephant! Her name was Beautiful, and she was. 
Honey opted to take pictures of the rest of us riding.

I think Toots wanted to ride the fallow deer after her ride on Beautiful.
This was probably the hottest day of the trip, and we largely spent it walking around in the sun and looking at a lot of different monkeys. I’ll spare you more the pics, but for the baby tigers.
And this guy – we think this cage was full of a type of black spider monkeys. 
They were fun, like a greeting committee.

Okay, one more of a DeBrazza monkey. These guys seemed very forlorn.

But that’s it, today, I swear.

innovation by kids

We planned on the kids playing SlipnSlide.

 They waited pretty patiently for my friend to blow it up. In the oppressive heat, it eventually dawned on us to use the bike pump, but it didn’t work so well.

Then we discovered, by the two older girls’ turns that playing SlipnSlide the way it was intended could be very painful.

And that’s where toddler and dog innovation came in.

And then the school aged girls figured out the physics of squeezing the tube on the side, making a sprinkler.

Pardon the Adirondack block. Come on now, it was hawt! Cut me some slack. I’d already done a bit of yard work and all I wanted to do was sleep right about when I took this shot.

Something else proved much more fun, as the toddler and preschooler initiated a new game.

I was just happy to be sitting in in the shady yard. Shady was nice, but I still melted into a my very own puddle.

mountain adventure

I arrived home with West Virginia mountain soil ground into my skin, everything smelling slightly musky and very smokey from rain and campfire and feeling more alive than I’ve felt in a long time. Hot, sore, soaked, dirty, smelly and utterly alive.

Honey and I have this little thing. When we’re in sync about something, any little thing, we have kind of a slide-five, confirmation of everything right between us. We did that a lot more this trip than we have for a long time.

I had dreams, amazing dreams of people far away but near to my heart, as I slept with my head in a Civil War trench on a hilltop, in a damp tent, surrounded by RV city. One friend currently working, far from his family and friends, in Argentina. Others in a far off land…I think it’s called Wisconsin. 😉

This is who I am. I am of the land, mountains, rivers, sea and sky and night fires. This is where I am happiest, most content, completely myself.

And I haven’t been camping in over 20 years. Now, I know why I feel such discontent. It’s not the suburbs. It’s not my family circumstances, or other minute aggravations of the day in day out or the lack of writing time to myself.

It’s that I haven’t fed my soul the way it loves to be fed most in such a long long time. A lifetime. A roasted marshmallow soul under the moon and stars soul. A sun on my skin, rain on my hat, kid in a backpack on my back soul. A dog leash carabiner’ed to the backpack soul.

This is the seven year old Cathy, who when my family couldn’t call me in from dinner so easily, my mother sent my brothers out to look up the nearest tree for me.

But I seem to be starting at the end here, rather than the beginning. and this is probably going to be a very long blog with lots of pictures. So maybe I will leave the end here, at the beginning, and give you the beginning to the end tomorrow, and maybe the day after, and again, after that.

I am happy, my family is safe. I love my spouse, and my daughter camped for the first time. Her favorite part was ‘camping’. Parental translation: sleeping in the tent with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.

“Can you see the real me, doctor, doctor?”

Honey and Toots at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers

I obviously need to do this more. The boys are coming next month.  Life is good, go for hike. Roast a marshmallow over an open fire, under the moon.

Warning: not so mild language.

It’s that time – short family vacation, camping, after we drop the boys off to their father. See outside the walnut grained vinyl veneer station wagon? That’s our camping reservations forecast for  the duration. Lucy is not a fan of thunderstorms when in the house. I wonder how she’ll fair in a tent?

We should be back in four days. Glub glub.

And then we’ll do it again with the boys when we get them back in August.

snack selection brought to you by dayglo pink

I swear, even with all the baking I do, that I try my darnedest to feed my family healthy snacks, made from scratch, with whole ingredients.

But Honey and I went shopping in a specialty store together yesterday and came home with bags of sugar crap, including this:

It’s exactly the color of my bedroom until age seven, which permanently put me off to the color pink. It’s Pepto Bismol. It’s darker than cotton candy, but cotton candy flavored, in a cute box, marked half off.

I think that was what did us in. Half Off.

 I feel sick to my stomach looking at the batter. I think this was the moment that Mr. Cynic said, “Brought to you by Barbie.”

Of course, he was riffing from my, “Today’s snack selection brought to you by the color dayglo pink!” in my best announcer voice.

 And then the frosting.

But they smelled really good coming out of the oven.

Sorry, used cellphone camera again, this is cupcakes after pink sprinkle sugar. Note how the frosting is kind of melty? Someone couldn’t wait for them to cool before frosting. I’m not telling who. I plead the fifth.
Someone else couldn’t wait to eat them. Even if they are pink.

Neither could he:

The one to enjoy the pinkitude the most had just awakened from nap, and was a little slow to eat them.

I am not telling you how quickly mine disappeared. Nope, I just won’t.

saturday morning convo

Grandma, Honey and I volunteer for the Virginia Arts Festival. Last night in Williamsburg, we ushered for a concert of Chick Corea and Gary Burton. Absolutely outstanding show, I was mesmerized. So was Honey. These are giants of jazz, for those who don’t know. Honey and I had to educate a few of the other volunteers a little bit about who these musicians were. I forget sometimes that while there are some people who are absolutely fanatical about jazz – like one guy I saw keeping set lists, there are many more who have never dipped their toes in that syncopated water. Honey and I fall somewhere between those extremes, a little closer to the fanatics.

So while all three adults of the house were in Williamsburg, Mr. Cynic babysat. Babysitting largely comprised of viewings of Kung Fu Panda, expected, and apparently Captain Comic added Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius.  


This morning, after our late night arrival home, Toots wanted to wake us – twice. The second time, she climbed into our bed with the Jimmy Neutron DVD case in hand.

Toots (points to the picture on the cover): Das Jimmy Neutron.
Mom: M-hm.
Toots: And das Carl.
Mom: M-hm.
Toots: And das Jimmy Neutron’s dog, Tonnor.
Mom: I don’t think Jimmy Neutron’s dog’s name is Connor. Daddy, isn’t it something like Einstein?
Honey (slowly rouses from sleep): …………………………………………Goddard.
Mom: Oh yea, the dog is named after a famous scientist, Goddard.
Toots: We sing dat in pweschool.
Mom:  What?
Toots: Goddard.
Mom: What?
Toots: We sing Goddard in pweschool, before we eat.
Mom (light slowly dawns): OH!
Toots (sings): Goddard fadder, Goddard fadder, we thank you, we thank you…..
Mom (chuckles): That’s God our Father, not Goddard, silly!
Toots: Oh.

easter aftermath


Have you ever tried to get three families’ worth of kids of varying ages to pose together for a holiday shot? This was one of a handful of choices, all fell into the category of close enough. My favorite high school English teacher always said,”that only works in horseshoes and hand grenades,” but I believe it’s apt for group shots, too. 

We gathered at friends’ new home, seriously, they moved in Saturday, and we tried to help but showed up a bit late because it took me that long to empty and clean out my van. So I showed up in a dress with all of my kids and Honey, on Easter morning, and promptly decided I would move their bookcases into a different room. We were there for an Easter egg hunt. 

To back up a bit, we had a weekend full of family, my in-laws galore, not just the ones down the street, we hosted visiting aunt and uncle. Also in Grandma’s generation, was a vacationing cousin and all of his nine teenage granddaughters, his daughter, and his wife who were staying in Virginia Beach. So when I joke about the in-law invasion, there’s a bit of truth to it, at least in sheer numbers. Thankfully, I was lucky enough not to get the full dose of the nine teenage granddaughters. I managed to only meet two. I can’t say the same for Grandma and Toots who got a full dose with a botched and whiny trip to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg. It’ll remain in family lore for generations, I am sure. 

There was also a 50th birthday party for a friend this weekend, which was packed with cake and pies and Easter breads and a potluck, maybe two. I’ve lost count. And of course Easter baskets galore. I hopped on the scale this morning – hopped is a loose term, it was more of a floorboards creaked trepidacious step – and I have gained five pounds this weekend – even with helping with the move!

Toots love her twirly dress and enjoyed modeling it. Pardon the blur, I wasn’t awake yet. I don’t think the camera was either.


A lot of sugar was eaten, and not much else especially by a couple of my kids who would have done better to get some more protein and veggies in them over the weekend, and maybe a bit less candy and pies. There was some major sugar fallout this morning. Not that I should say anything, see confession above about gaining five pounds. 

But a weekend full of friends, family, food, fun and sunshine is worth a five pound gain. 

It occurs to me that with the amount of cookie posts, etc., I should have a food tag, shouldn’t I? Someday, I’ll backtrack and find all the baking and cooking posts and add them to it, but the food tag starts now. 🙂

I regret I did not get a pie picture. Grandma and her sisters really outdid themselves with the Easter pies this year, and I believe that is mostly to blame for culinary lapse of reason. Auntie B’s homemade lasagna may have had a smidge to do with it, too. And the vat of pasta a fagioli I made Friday night, and, and, and……peeps for one. 

Time to get back into an new exercise routine….

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