Christopher

A Night Train to the Stars.

 

green bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

One of the best things about West Virginia is the amount of wilderness, meaning fewer people and less civilization. Making West Virginia a perfect place to do star-gazing, and Radio Astronomy. Hard to believe that hidden in the woods of West Virginia at Green Bank is The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. These are the type of telescopes that inspired the movie ” Contact” with Jodie Foster. Where the Astronomers are listening to the world of outer space. At Green Bank they also encourage visitors to enjoy their reflective telescopes to see all wonders of our galaxy. So when my son said he wanted to plan his 6th birthday around trains, camp fires and the stars how could I say no.

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

One of the offerings that Astronomers from Green Bank give to visitors is the option to do a Star Gazing event once every year on their property that is only accessible by train. No high way, no logging road, no hiking trails on the 13,000 square miles of US Government land. Access is just a historic railroad track built about 2 century’s ago to transport coal from the high lands of Pocahontas County to the lower flat land of the Ohio Valley. The idea for a short ride on a local  tourist train was a perfect way to transport visitors to the remote location to take photos, learn more about Astronomy and ride into the past on a restored diesel train and cars.  Add in the fact that they allow you to have a camp fire and roast marsh mellows you have a great time planed for everyone who takes the night train to the stars.

As this was Christopher’s birthday adventure we made an afternoon and evening out of the trip. We started our train themed fun in Elkins, West Virginia at The Depot Restaurant that uses train themed photos and paintings as the decor. All while being able to walk the grounds of a fully functional and restored 1800’s Depot. This is also the main office for the Cheat Mountain Salamander, the New Tygart Flyer, Mountain Explorer trains. For more information about the trains and their trips Contact www.Mtn-Rail.com. The grounds around the Depot showcase a traditional turn table and tussle style bridge that leads to loading dock of the Depot.

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant  balcony

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant balcony

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

 

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

After a nice walk to the bridge and the river we shopped some at  Delmonte Market across the street from the depot.We found a large selection of hand-made and country themed gifts and toys. This was one of the hand-made items in the beautiful store. Recycled bottles with Decoupage flowers and lights what a nice way to use dried flowers.

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Marker

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Market

After the shopping we headed south on Rout 250 to Huntonsville then through two very small towns to the Monongahela National Forest to the  Cheat River Bridge where we found our loading area and started the evening ride up to Linen WV.

restrooms and depot at cheat mountain

restrooms and depot at Cheat Mountain

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

We then rode the train for about 45 minutes to a small dirt landing. We disembarked the train and walked up into a field that surrounded us on 3 sides with nothing but trees. A fire was lit, roasting sticks for marsh mellows gathered and the sun began to set as the Astronomers set up their equipment. While we waited for the sun to set I got this last photo of our train before it disappeared into total darkness.

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

by 8:30 pm we were in total darkness and this is what the train looked like.

 

the night train at linen WV in total darkness

the night train at Linen WV in total darkness

What happened next was astonishing, I have always loved the night sky, moon and the many planets, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The limited light from a moonless sky was enough to move around comfortably with out walking into anyone and the telescopes had small red lights to help us locate them in the field. I was just amazed that in total darkness the stars  were soooo bright!

I do not have the words to really describe what it was that we were able to see. From tree-lined horizon to horizon there was nothing to block our view, no lights were visible in our valley meadow. The only light was from the stars themselves because we had arrived here on the New Moon making it easy to see the most distant stars with out aide. As Tom and I found a spot for our folding chairs with our backs to the restored train landing we both looked up to the Northern sky to see the slowly dotted sky  fill with a cloudy dust of the Milky Way. Each individual star suspended in space, slowly became two than ten than twelve hundred. The numbers and colors slowly expanded into the ribbon of the Milky Way from one horizon to another. This  river of clustered stars outshone almost every star in the sky. With Millions if not billions of tiny lights glimmering it is impossible to not feel alone and part of a larger whole all at once.  The big planets shown with the red-orange of Mars and the cold blue of Vega. The constellations blinked in perfect form, each one leading the eye from one white pin point to another until you discovered that you were looking at the opposite horizon watching Scorpio slowly descend below a wall of trees. We sat in total darkness for 2 hours barely speaking and those that did speak whispered as if to use an adult tone would somehow effect the reverence for the  stars. We took turns looking into the telescopes and watching the Astronomers point out constellations with a laser pointer. Yet, every time we returned to our seats to enjoy the smell of a smoldering camp fire and the billions of bright white stars in the sky, we felt nothing but Peace. It was the most enjoyable two hours I have had in years.

milky Way Crop

Milky Way Crop

This time in the woods reminded me of the years that Tom and I would set up a camp site in the back yard to our older son Cody.We let him camp in our pasture behind the house on a hill. It was fun for me to lie on my back and look at the stars with him when he was 8 or 9. We shared a moment of happiness at its most simple. This trip expanded this feeling of happiness to something deeper and larger. It was very moving and fueled my interest in astronomy again.

As families and scientists prepared to re-board the train the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees. The air was cold and we could all see our breath but no one complained. We filed to our seats for the short 45 minutes back down the mountain and no one raised their voices. We spent the time laughing with strangers and reminiscing as if we are all long-lost friends… We were all happy, including the sleepy birthday boy.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Birthday, Cheat Mountain Salamander, Christopher, Green Bank NRAO, Monongahela National Forest, trains, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Spring into the West Virginia Woods April 2014

I have been feeling under the weather for almost two weeks now. I got sick then felt good, not great, and then got worse. Not sure what is the cause but while I had three good days to hike and mushroom hunt I did take a few photos of some the signs of Spring.

I am also working on my wine… I did start the process a few days ago. Got the Dandelions picked and the “tea” made. I am hoping that as I am feeling better to get the fermentation started tomorrow and will write a post about it this weekend. I just feel that I should have had all this sickness over the winter and not while the sun is shining and the temps are in the upper 60’s and lower 70’s.

Well here is what I did see while out hiking, Hope it will tide you all over until the wine post !

Red trillium at Hacker Valley West Virginia

Red trillium at Hacker Valley West Virginia

Wild Blue Bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Wild Blue Bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

 

Rock with american Flag, Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Rock with american Flag, Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Christopher playing with stick on logging road at Hacker Valley, WV

Christopher playing with stick on logging road at Hacker Valley, WV

 

 

Buckeye tree leaves begin to sprout

Buckeye tree leaves begin to sprout

 

double scarltet cup mushroom

double scarlet cup mushroom

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

Fairy Mushroom in the woods of West Virginia

group of tiny mushrooms at the base of a Poplar tree

group of tiny mushrooms at the base of a Poplar tree

Spike buck horns in the woods of West Virginia

Spike buck horns in the woods of West Virginia

bone with chipmunk teeth marks

bone with chipmunk teeth marks

Spring buds on Poplar tree

Spring buds on Poplar tree

Stone Bridge at jacksons mill

Stone Bridge at jacksons mill

If you can’t tell I have been working with the Macro setting on my Camera lately. I think that I have discovered the subject matter that speaks to me the most and that is my love of Mushrooms and Bones. This is the first good photos I have taken of them and I am sure as time goes on I will have a nice collection of photos. Here in the mountains of Appalachia I have thousands of opportunities to find photograph them. Over the years I have collected many bone from the wild and used them as subjects of hundreds of prints and drawings but now I have found that they make great subjects for photos too! So as summer progress I am sure to show off many more colorful Mushrooms and any odd bones I find. We can have SO MUCH FUN together looking closer at my world.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Christopher, family fun, Hacker Valley, Hardwood forest, photo review, Photos, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Snowdays can be Fun Days Too!

Afghan Fort with Christopher and the bunnies in the house

Afghan Fort with Christopher and the bunnies in the house

Do you remember the joy of “Snow Days” as a child.  Some how I had forgotten how much fun my mother made those days. We were all home together and the house was a total mess. We eat hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We  build furniture cushion forts and had all the pets inside the house. When it warmed up to at least 20 degrees we  all headed outside to play in the fresh Boulder, Colorado snow. Shoveling feet of snow off our drive way and helping the neighbors pull cars from the snow banks of snow. Then heading back inside for hot coco and cookies. Taking our snow-covered clothes off and tossing then over the heating registers to dry.

Christopher painting his snow bunny

Christopher painting his snow bunny

The boys in our neighbor hood always were starting snow ball fights that lasted hours and the girls were always trying to get them to stop long enough to go sledding at the local park. We built snow men and my friends dad built a snow woman one year that had all of us laughing. Even my mother thought she was funny…that was rare.  Then if we were lucky it was a cartoon afternoon. In warm sweat shirts  and fuzzy socks with long naps on the couch.

Have times really changed that much? The addition of the computer and X-box has given us more time to play games and surf the internet. But that little voice of my sons still asks when can we go out side, can I have hot coco when we come back inside and if we are having bean soup for lunch? hummm sounds like my own questions coming back to me from a new generation.

I am learning to accept the mess on the floor and colored markers and paper on the table as a sign that all is fine on this snowy day. We make valentines for the family and the glitter is everywhere, the floor, the table, our hands and  even my hair. The next mess in the long line of ones that I will clean up at the end of our day fourth snow day.

Christopher with Home made valintines

Christopher with Home made valentines

Finally at the end of this day of snow, soup and glitter we start a warm bath and add lots of toys. Bubbles float and fly around the bathroom. I ask Christopher “How was your day, did you have fun?”The reply is a warm happy smiling  “YEA!” I smile and acknowledge that I am feeling tired. That this snow day was fun for me too. I spent time with my favorite little person doing the things that he loves most of all. I honored my mother and my childhood friends with time in the snow playing and getting pink cheeks and drinking coco from mugs.

Tonight I will again clean up the messes left from the play dough,  bird seed from the feeders we filled,  the plates and cups from another round of soup and sandwiches and the snow ice cream we eat in front of the T.V. but in the end it is worth the messes. It is worth the glitter every where to think that someday he will look back on these cold snowy days and smile and think of the fun we had together.

snow ice cream in bowl

snow ice cream in bowl

Snow ice cream

1.  4 cups fresh clean snow… no yellow snow!

2.  3/4 cup milk

3.  1/2 cup sugar

4.  1 Tablespoon vanilla

put snow in large bowl add milk, sugar and vanilla. mix until smooth.. taste and add more of sugar or vanilla to taste.

Categories: About me, child care, Christopher, Colorado, family fun, Personal art work, snow, Snow day | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Building Memories, Gingerbread House

    One of my favorite things about having kids is doing things together that they will remember when they are old and gray. I try to spend time with my sons doing creative things that we will both like to do too.

christopher building ginger bread house

Christopher building gingerbread house

   This seems to always involve food or building something so we finally found a  way to combine the two, gingerbread houses. I am now hooked and will be looking at other houses for ideas. We cheated this year with a kit house and some stale candy from Halloween. I learned tons and am thinking of already making another one from scratch.

The two houses my friends Jacquelyn has written about her Blog  http://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/one-sweet-forecast/ made a real impression on me and I hope to get an idea as nice as her “Dance Studio” house for the kids to build in the future. I am sure that I would end up dragging Tom into it also… He could draw out the plans on butcher paper and I would cook the cookies and make the icing.

My older son suggested that we make a barn and I am thinking that would be great if I can maybe make it with animal crackers we decorate or find some cookie cutters in animal shapes… the ideas go on and on.

But in the end it was all about making memories with my son and having fun on his Thanksgiving break and spending family time together.

small ginger bread house

small ginger bread house

Then after all the fun is over mom still gets to clean up the mess.

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

Sharing this with Thursday favorite things at Katherine’s Corner.com

Categories: cakes and family deserts, candy, Christopher, cooking, gingerbread, Holidays | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Preschool and Learning to Let Go

christopher dyeing easter eggs with shaving cream and food color

Christopher dyeing easter eggs with shaving cream and food color

   Ok so everyone family has gone through this and it is nothing new, but some how it is harder this time. I got through sending Cody off to school fine 15 years ago. I  just wish I felt more confident with our plans to send Christopher to a public preschool program this time.

Christopher in my office chair summer 2013

Christopher in my office chair summer 2013

    I actually like the school we are sending him to and was notified a couple of days ago of the name of his teacher. I was happy and relieved when I received the name and felt comforted that we are old family friends and she chose to have Christopher in her class.  I am total confident that his teacher is and will be able to do an outstanding job with him and that he will learn more than he ever would from me and my limited knowledge. I understand that he needs to get more socialization and spend time with kids his own age but none of this comforts me. I am not sure why it is so different with the second child.

  I wonder if it is my knowledge of public schools that makes me so sad. Maybe it is my lack of faith that our children are safe . Maybe it is remembering the first time Cody came home with hurt feelings and tears in his eyes.  I know at some point  it will happen to Christopher and apart of me will die when it does.

Christopher in bathtub at the louise Bennett Library

Christopher in bathtub at the Louise Bennett Library

       Even after hearing the great news about his new teacher, somewhere deep inside I think something broke.  I am not sure but I think it was my heart. I was totally unprepared for the feelings of despair and loss that run through me yesterday afternoon. I am not sure I am ready to hand him over to the world. That mean cold world where everything is out of my hands and in someone elses. It is similar to the feeling of loss I had when Tom was shipping out to the Gulf War. A feeling that  you have no say in what happens to you and those you love. You are a buy standers in the situation and from now on you just have to fallow what others say is best your loved one.

Christopher and me river swimming

Christopher and me river swimming

   I had thought about Home Schooling and may still if I find that Christopher is not unhappy at school but for now I also realise that I am not a great teacher for a preschooler. I have limited skills and my tolerance for normal preschool behavior is well let say… ok… but not great. So I know he needs some one who is more skilled than me and I do not think Christopher needs me 24-7 now that he is almost 5. He needs to grow roots that are deep and strong away from the shadow of his family. I just need to “Let Go” a bit and I am finding that hard.

Christopher with old car

Christopher with old car

  I love my sons and husband beyond words and want the very best for them even if that means I have to step to the side so they can grow and shine in their own right. Letting go is part of that growth but boy I feel like it is me who is having growing pains. I did not expect this when he was born… I though ok I have done this once I am experienced and the second will be easier. I was wrong, about so many things with this second child and I am not sure if everyone feels this way or not but everything is different.

Christopher and Me on vaction in Ky

Christopher and Me on vacation in Ky

   Maybe by next week I will be able to put him on that bus and wave as he drives away with out going hysterical. I hope that will not need to fallow the bus through town and into the parking area of his school. I hope that when that bus arrives Christopher and I will both be ready for a new day and new story in our lives. But the lesson of letting go of him is taking me by surprise.

tom and Christopher ramp digging and giggling

tom and Christopher ramp digging and giggling

                                    Wish Us Luck I could really use it about now!

Categories: Christopher, Jane Lew Elementry, Preschool | 12 Comments

A Senior Horse Still Has Much to Offer

A Senior Horse Still Has Much to Offer

Jasper is a branded Quater Horse who has seen thousands of miles. At age 19, leg and knee pain has slowed him down. Yet, today he showed what a gental and loving animal he really is when my husband finished his trim and picked up my 4 year old son and with out thought put in on his back for a ride around the round pen. He is a One in a life time animal and we are so happy to be part of his life

Categories: Christopher, equine health, Farrier work., Horses, Photos | 2 Comments

Crackers in Bed

I don’t write a lot about my, day to day ,activities with my kids, but I will share this.

another sick week.. he is finally sleeping

another sick week.. he is finally sleeping

1:12 AM, Christopher……….MAMA? MAMA?

1:12 AM  Me……………..Yes, Christopher? Come here. I am on the couch sleeping.( Tom has the flu and I am having trouble sleeping and up watching T.V).

He climbs up on the couch and gets under the blanket for a few minutes.

1:30 Am Me…………………are you ready to go back to bed?

1:30 AM  We head off to his room and he crawls back under the covers and snuggle down.

1:35  AM Christopher………………….MaMa, I need someone to snuggle with.

1:35 AM……….. I climb into his bed snuggle down and warm the cool sheets with my body.

1:45 AM Christopher ………..MaMa, I am hungry… I need soup crackers.

1:45AM Me…. …..Do we need to have soup crackers? or can we have toast (thinking that there are less crumbs from toast).

1:50 AM Christopher……………No, I need soup crackers.

2 am snack for Christopher

2 am snack for Christopher

I head to the kitchen, it is 2:00 AM, and return with 3 soup crackers and a small cup of milk.Knowing that at 4 years old he is not able to keep the crackers from breaking apart and turning into a mountain of crumbs in the bed.

I pull the covers up to try to keep some of the chunks of cracker from being deposited in his bed and snuggle up to him. I hear the crunch of every bite, the smacking of lips and the swallow of milk in his sippy cup. Then the genital breathing of a tired, sick boy who has spent most of the night up coughing.

I know the bed is full of crumbs and know that I will surely fall asleep in this bed tonight.  Tom is sick also and needs to rest as much as possible. I realise that  the crumbs don’t matter anymore, that a wonderful night snuggled up to the child I love has over ridden my desire to disturb him.

Last night I discovered why there is the old saying ” I wouldn’t throw them out of bed for eating cookes”…or in a more farm friendly version ” I wouldn’t throw her out of bed for eating oats”. I wouldn’t have through my son out of bed for eating those crunchy crackers for a million dollars. I slept peacefully and so did he.

Again at about 7:30 this morning I hear “MaMa” but this time close to my ear… ” I need soup crackers” from a boy who has not  fully opened his eyes. I lie in the bed and am so thankful I am  sleeping with a few crumbs.

sharing this onthursday favorite things button

Categories: Christopher, poem, writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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