Saturday, October 22, 2016

This year our church committed to keeping the seven Levitical feasts of the Lord (Lev 23). Four times as He describes the feasts, God tells His people: "It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations". We don't believe the feasts need to be kept exactly as prescribed; we aren't killing any lambs. And we certainly don't believe the feasts to be salvific. But we did commit to keeping them in spirit if not letter because God constantly reminds His people to remember what He's done for them: "One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts." Ps 145:4

The final three Levitical feasts are in the fall. The Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles take up about a month. We crammed them into one stunningly glorious day in October.

We set up the day as a mini-retreat, with two teaching sessions in the morning for Trumpets and Yom Kippur and a "fast". Many (most?) of us ate breakfast that morning, but between 10 and about 2 we didn't have food available because Yom Kippur is a day of fasting. But afterward we enjoyed a long afternoon of fellowship, food, and football. We ended the year with teaching on Tabernacles at night.
It was a lovely laid-back day to visit with friends we haven't seen in a while and enjoy the incredible weather and the Slonecker's hospitality.

The second teaching session was particularly interesting, even if we were really hungry. Chris and Mark had measured out the Exodus tabernacle on the lawn with stand-ins for all the furniture. Aaron's staff was a light saber; the manna was graham crackers and the dog ate them all. But we were able to walk through the Day of Atonement process with the "high priest" (Mark) while Chris taught.

This definitely made an impression on Hamish. "It was like walking into the Bible!" she told us later.

After our tabernacle tour, we grilled burgers and hot dogs for a late lunch, and snacked for the rest of the day on chips and cookies and other treats. Some of us snoozed. A lot watched football. The kids rode bikes and 4-wheelers. Many of us just talked for a few hours.

We wrapped up the evening with one last teaching session as the sun set and then s’mores. (These are meant to be feasts!!) We were nowhere near town, so the stars were just stunning as we packed up to go home.

A year of feasts remembered!

Since we had plans last weekend we postponed our annual(ish) Blue Ridge trip until this weekend. It didn't come with a free vacation day, but it was well-worth taking Monday off.

We drove to South Carolina on Friday night hitting traffic in both Chattanooga and Atlanta but getting in before 1 am. On Saturday we spent the day in Aiken visiting with family. In the morning we visited Hopelands Gardens (in costume, of course) climbing giant trees with Mimi.

Saturday evening all of the family gathered to celebrate Aunt Kitty's birthday with a wonderful lasagna dinner. We brought her a bag full of Trader Joe's goodies, and the kids created masterpieces for her.

Before bed on Saturday night Aunt Kitty had a special book to read Hamish. Two chapters into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Hamish was hooked. That night I downloaded the audio book and Lucy and Aslan and the rest kept us company well into Monday afternoon.

Sunday morning we said our goodbyes and drove north to Boone, NC to a campground Kyle had found online. We arrived about 2:00 and picked the coziest camp site. Kyle and I set up our tent while the kids ran around the trees and explored.

We went to the Parkway Restaurant less than a mile away for a late lunch and then hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Jumpin Off Rock we looked for color and took a short walk to a lookout. Even short walks take us a while so we were there more than an hour exploring.

We rode on the Parkway down to Boone and got pizza for dinner. The Manimal had slept on the ride up to North Carolina but Hamish had not, so after dinner we went back to our campsite and got ready for bed.

The moon rising on our way home was the first of three major missed photo opportunities on the trip. As it rose over the mountains it was huge and yellow--the biggest, prettiest I may have ever seen the moon. I tried to get a picture but my phone certainly wasn't doing it justice.

At the camp site both kids were thrilled to be in the tent and sleeping bags, and there was a fair amount of silliness and elation in the bedtime routine.

The highlight came when Hamish reached deep in her sleeping bag and pulled out ANOTHER Meowie! The shock and joy on her face was adorable (missed photo op #2 in the dark tent). "What is this nonsense?" she said, laughing. "It's Meowie's twin sister!"

(and yes, "What is this nonsense?" is an exact quote. She also may have been speaking in a slightly British accent, influenced by 4+ hours of Narnia via audiobook.)

On that high note, we tucked all four of them into their sleeping bags and put them to sleep.

Kyle and I had our camp chairs and had planned to sit around the fire that night, but we hadn't bought any firewood before the office closed. So we sat together around the glow of his phone screen and planned our next day's drive then tucked in ourselves too.

Everyone slept well except me. My cold kept me coughing and uncomfortable, but no more so than I would have been at home. I dug cough drops out of the car at some point in the night, and we all slept well until 7 and woke up on Monday cozy and happy.

We ate breakfast again at the same Parkway Restaurant; our eggs sat much heavier this time. Then the kids and I played at the camp's playground while Kyle took down our tent. The lawn and playground equipment were still covered in the morning's dew, so the kids were soaked by the time we walked back to our camp site (but we got to marvel at the dew on spiderwebs).

Once we got changed into dry clothes, and checked out of the campground, we were on the road by 10. We spent the day driving from our site to Asheville, getting off the Parkway at about marker 385.

The color in the highlands just South of Boone was amazing. The Manimal fell asleep so we spent the morning pulling off to ogle the sights and snap pictures but generally staying in the car.


At the highest elevations the golds and reds were dotted with evergreens and whole hillsides were patchworks against blazing blue skies.

One of the best views was in our rear view. A whole side of the mountain was dotted in red and bald stone, and as we drove away the sun shone on the face of the mountain setting those red trees on fire. Missed photo #3.

We arrived in Little Switzerland and ate a wonderful lunch at the Little Switzerland Cafe. On the way out, the Manimal asked to ride on a motorcycle and of course someone let him (sit, anyway).

(They are barefoot because their shoes were still soaked from the playground. We sat them on the car in the sunshine during lunch, hoping they'd dry a little.)

The last section of our ride had less bold color but plenty of tunnels to drive and yell through.

Our last stop for the trip was a few miles down the road at Craggy Gardens. In the past we've made that hike to the top, but this year we just took in the view from the visitors center and got a [slightly squinty] family picture.

We caught 40 at the next opportunity and headed home. Car game for the road:Memory

Kyle: 7
The Manimal: 72
Hamish: 729
Alli: 7294
Kyle: 72948
The Manimal: 72948 um.... dragon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

For a while now Kyle has been saying we need to "add camping to our repertoire." Before now our travel repertoire has consisted of hotels, home swaps, boats, and occasionally a sleeper car on a train. Kyle and I used to sleep in airports and on planes, but we haven't done that in a while (thank goodness!).

Last weekend, Kyle took the leap and bought a tent.

For the past few years we've spent Columbus Day weekend on Blue Ridge Parkway. This year we weren't about to miss the chance to host a surprise party for one of our favorite people. (Happy birthday, Kate!!).

So this year a long weekend at home aligned with fall break for the county schools. Kyle and our neighbor, Gary, were texting about camping gear. Kyle was looking on Amazon, but Gary found a Craigslist posting for like-new tent for sale. He sent Kyle the link, and a few hours later the thing was set up in our yard, and the two of them were planning a weekend camp out.

Since this was our first try--and we had no idea how it would go--we stayed close to home. And we made it easy on ourselves with an extension cord to the camp site and use of the indoor bathrooms. But it was still so much fun.

On Friday the kids and dads set up the camp site in the neighborhood green space. We invited the other neighbors to join us. People came by to say hi, but no one took us up on camping.

Friday night we grilled brats and ate dinner around the fire pit. Gary made an amazing outdoor screen and we plugged in the projector with an extension cord and watched a movie under the stars. Hamish and the Manimal both went down on Friday night without much drama. Before long the neighbor kids were ready for bed too, and Robyn and I didn't last much longer. Kyle and Gary stayed up around the fire pit for a couple more hours, and visited with another neighbor who came to chat.

Friday night got cold early in the morning. About 4:30 or 5 I went in for another blanket. But everyone slept fairly well until 6:30. Then the Manimal was awake and chatting loudly. He was on the other side of Kyle, and when he heard me he said, "Is that my Mama?"

Saturday morning Ella and Arthur brought fruit smoothies out for everyone and Robyn and Gary made pumpkin waffles. Not exactly roughing it, but delicious.

We spent all Saturday morning lazing at our camp site, reading and playing. At mid-morning, Kate came by to enjoy the amazing weather and visit. This threw a wrench in her surprise birthday plans, because Sarah and planned to drop off the cake and balloons. I had to quickly text Sarah not to come by because Kate was with us.

"She's ruining it! Make her leave!" Sarah texted back. Of course I couldn't do that. So Kate stayed for a couple of hours until Sarah came and ran her off herself. She may have showed her hand, but it worked. Kate went home and we were able to get ready for the party that afternoon.

Saturday evening we had almost 20 people hiding in the kitchen when Kate arrived again. I'm not sure she was actually surprised, but it was a sweet birthday for her. (And I didn't get a single picture. Oh well.)

When the party guests left Saturday night, Kyle was intent on camping again. He'd snuck out of the party to buy three more sleeping bags, and was sure we'd sleep warmer and even better the second night. We'd gained another neighborhood family around our fire pit and the kids were running on s'mores and birthday cake and glow sticks.

The third family went home to sleep, and amazingly, both kids went right to bed once we put them down. I was not up for it though, and slept inside while Kyle and the kids enjoyed the new sleeping bags.

Sunday morning everyone was happy again. Kyle scrambled eggs and Ella & Co again provided smoothies.

We broke camp for baths and showers and church. There was some talk of night #3 but we didn't make it. We dismantled our tent village Sunday afternoon while the kids played a spirited game of Simon Says, leaving both families one last free day in the long weekend.

All in all camping experience #1 went well. Officially in the repertoire.