Sunday, July 27

Rifle Falls State park

Some days we tire of the lake and need to venture out, so one day we decided to go check out Rifle Falls State Park. We've been there before in the springtime, and again during the icy winter.
Rifle Falls State Park, CO

The kids and I even took our new friends, Joe, Lara and kids, there when they visited us this past spring.
Peas in a Pod

Every time is special, and fun in it's own way, but I gotta say....I think we finally topped it this time! Summer in Rifle Falls just can't be beat!(except if we'd had friends with us)

The road leading up to the falls.
just around the bend to Rifle Gap

Past Rifle Gap State Park.
Rifle Gap
This photo was created by "stitching" three photos together. It's way too big to get in one shot, and I was pretty happy with how this turned out.

When we were here with the Miller's the kids spent a good part of the day sledding down this hill. On their butts.
the kids sled down this slop a ffew months ago
Now seeing it, it's hard to believe that was ever possible.

That's me trying to get as close to the falls as I could.
That's me getting drenched.

Doesn't this cave entrance look like a big dinosaur foot print?
limestone cave entrance

View from above the falls.
Rifle Falls from above
I love this view, and how lush and bright green everything is.

By the time we walked all the way around and came back to the waterfalls, everyone else was gone and we had the place all to ourselves.
swimming in Rifle Falls
They quickly learned that just because it's hot outside, doesn't mean that water isn't icy cold.
swimming in Rifle Falls
"Guys.Guys. Wait for me!"
swimming in Rifle Falls

Is the water cold, Jake?
Is it cold?

Jonas was the first to get fully in. He'd enter at the falls and then swim with the current down to where we were along the bank.
swimming in Rifle Falls
But Jonas always has a trick up his sleeve. Hands up!
swimming in Rifle Falls

Eventually they all braved the icy waters, and were cool for days.
swimming in Rifle Falls

All these pics were taken with my new Sony DSLR Alpha A200, while I'm still trying to learn how to use it. It's definitely not as simple as my Sony point and shoot, and I wish I would have remembered how to capture waterfalls. I'm having the hardest time with shutter speed and aperture and what's best for what situation. I read it, understand it, then completely forget it. But this day I actually forgot how to even change the settings! Those were a couple weeks ago, and I think I could do better next we just need some friends to visit so I have an excuse to practice. Yes, I'm talking to you.
Rifle Falls

Wednesday, July 23

Message from an Unschooled Teen

There once was an unschooled teen that wanted to go to school with the other kids. Here's his story:

Education From the Free Eye
Written by Kevin Snavley

All my life I have unschooled. The only thing that could be remotely considered school that I attended was pre-school, and of course, that was all fun and games. That was just life, how things were. I always wondered in the back of my head what it was like to be there, in a school building all day. How horrible it was to sit there for hours on end being lectured by crazy teachers and doing hours of homework. And then somewhere in between most of my friends going to school and me wondering, I got caught up in "catching up" to everyone else. For a while, around age 12, I always wanted to be on-track with the kids at school. It was probably because I felt stupid or less intelligent than them, which really wasn't the case. They just knew more meaningless facts than I did. It took me until last year to finally realize that, and to truly understand the reasons and joys of unschooling. Why it really is so much better than public school.

For as long as I can remember I have had friends that have gone to public school. Always. I've never actually had true unschooling friends aside from my cousins. So in a way, I sort of grew up with slightly hybrid thinking. One defending or longing to be in public school, and one completely against it all with pro-unschooling opinions. My parents always told us why public school is bad, but of course as a kid I'm not really going to understand. I never had the experience to. So I just kind of accepted that it was a bad place that I shouldn't be until I was about 14. Because I didn't go to school I always thought I had horrible writing abilities, and a bus load of other things. I finally made the decision to go to my freshman year of high school so I could figure it all out. Why is public school widely considered better? Why do my parents and unschooling parents everywhere preach it's a bad place to be? Why is unschooling so much better? I got all of my answers.

I would be lying if I said I went 100% percent for personal reasons. I had one friend in particular who was pro-school completely and thought I was wasting my life. In a way, I wanted to prove to her that I could do it, and if/if not it was better than unschooling. I guess up until I started writing this I had forgotten about that completely. I kind of kept the fact that this whole thing was an experiment in the back of my mind. I mean, it did feel nice to be "normal". But is it best? For the sake of writing this I'm going to skip through the school year and spare you the details of explaining the entire 9 months. School was exactly as I expected. Well, the whole face of it was anyway. It wasn't as close to as horrible as my parents said it was. The days went by pretty fast, it wasn't horribly boring, and I got to see my friends. The one thing I noticed the first day though, was how little "socialization" time there is. That's one thing all the kids say, "I get to hang out with my friends!". Definitely not the kind of "hanging out" I was used to. At that point it seemed like a stupid reason to want to be there.

After being there a few weeks, I started to realize the being I truly am. I wasn't stupid, not even close. If anyone was stupid it was the other 90% of the kids that were there. Everyone raved about my writing, my honors English teacher included. I did good in all my classes despite NEVER having a formal lesson in anything. That's when I realized that me, an unschooler, never been "taught" anything that these kids have, is doing better at the game than they are. Pretty ironic, no? Some of my favorite classes were Honors English 1, Japanese 1, and Jazz Choir. Those were the best.

Something I really began to hate about the school days was waking up at 6:30 am, staying there for six hours, then swimming for another 2, before going home to do meaningless homework. The first semester I got pretty lazy, and ended with a 3.3 GPA. Still, better than most kids, but not my best. Second semester I ended with a 3.8. I couldn't stand the fact that I was surrounded by unmotivated, stupid (not the academic way, the general manner they acted) people. Another trend I noticed was "can't". EVERYBODY used that one. The whole 9 months all in all were good for me. Negatives and positives. I learned that what I was doing before was BETTER than what kids at school get, I learned that what my parents told me wasn't completely heresy, I experienced something that I had never done before, the mystery was gone, and best of all, I can now defend the unschooling philosophy without any doubt in my mind and be credible at the same time. I also understood why public school kids act like they do. It's called loss of motivation.

I quickly realized that if I had to endure that shit for 9 years, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today. Friends have told me "you would have been a complete honors student!". I say no, I would've have been a lazy ass bum that wanted nothing more than a couch in life. (Which, I might add I learned a lot from TV. But you get my point. ;P) The thing that made me responsible, smart, and motivated was my unschooling life. And as stupid, annoying, unmotivated, whatever most of the public school kids are, you really can't blame them. While the other public school kids that can relate to me somewhat complain about them as well; they don't understand either. You never really can unless you have lived a free life. (Something else that I realized were the people that I was already friends with, were some of the most intelligent people in the building. How's that for coincidental?) Some personalities are different and can endure 12 years of school plus college, most cannot. Between teachers telling them they're not good enough, and wasting years of their life on something that doesn't really matter, they get fried. Most of the time it goes unnoticed too, you just kind of evaporate. I started to feel the same thing happening to me just in those nine months. Every thought you have, dream you want to fulfill, inspiration that strikes you, it all goes on the back burner, and eventually you just forget how to live any other way altogether.

Would I recommend sending a kid to school? Absolutely not. It's much too easy to lose your way. One thing I would advise though is to find unschooling friends. Would I recommend any other unschoolers go to school? If it's going to do them good like me, sure. If they want to see what it's like, sure. Otherwise, it's going to be a shit hole. Plain and simple. It would be beneficial for everyone to see what it's like, but not everyone can go through it with the same view point. So like everything else in our lives, it's up to us to make that decision. But now here I am, the year I thought would never end completed, and I have to decide what I want to do for the remaining 3. Over the last few days I've really been reflecting about what I truly want. Is it to finish high school, deal with everything I don't like, and benefit from the things I do? Or stop and go straight to college, and focus on what I want with life? That's something I'll be thinking about for a while.

I don't think he has any idea how reassuring his words are. Thank you Kevin!

Saturday, July 19

Colorado summer

I would hate for anyone to think all we do is work, in fact, it's been two weeks since I took those last work photos, and since Joey has worked. Somehow he threw his back out, and was unable to work at all. Trying not to stress about it, we found plenty of ways to try and take our mind off of things....
Day Off
....and, of course, to rest Joey's back.

We'd row out to a small floating island in the middle of the lake.
canyon lake

Try to catch fish with our bare hands.

Hold down small children against their will
canyon lake

My walks around the lake have pretty much stopped, though.
Hike through the lake
Not because I have to walk through the lake in order to go around it, but because the mosquito's are too hungry in the morning, and it's too hot in the afternoon, and the mosquito's are too deadly in the evening. I try to make up for it by swimming, and I do put fins on and swim a lot, but mostly I just tan. I was instrumental in Jewel officially becoming a swimmer, though! I took off her life jacket and told her she could do it....and she did. The look on her face was priceless. She obviously thought she couldn't do it. We always said once all our kids could swim, our family options were limitless, so we're so ecstatic about this, to say the's got us thinking live aboard's again. And Hawaii. Not today, not tomorrow, but hopefully, soon.

We also drove to Green River, Utah last weekend to meet a blogger I'd been reading for three years. It was a spur of the moment thing, and a two hour drive away but everybody was willing to go, so we took a chance, and ended up having a great day. Emily's on a road trip after finally getting out of the Army, with two tours in Iraq and getting caught up in stop-loss. We wish her a lifetime full of crazy travel stories!

What else? Oh yeah, did I mention we hang out at the lake a lot?
Huh? You say something?

Jake kickin' it
The boy's favorite thing to do is put fins on and then race across the lake. The fins make them feel like rockets!

Eventually, though, even fish need a break.
Fish on Break

Friday, July 18

Another rig call
Another day at the office
almost there

Hill's too steep
Water truck retreat
Backing back down

Steal a shot of my
Man hard at work
welding pipe

Afraid I may have been caught
welding pipe with boss man watching

Between all my questions
Illegal picture taking and
Company men
I am no longer welcome

The End

Saturday, July 12

We got your stinkin' drilling rigs right here

There's so much talk these days surrounding the pros and cons of drilling. For us, it's mostly about the pros. One day last week I got to spend some time with Joey "chasing the rigs", getting called out to a drilling rig to do some welding. We started out on an early morning call to do a quick weld on a pipe "head"...on the mesa of this mountain range:
Heading to work

We enter right in the center and hit the first of FOUR guard shacks, and a sign loudly stating 1) No Drugs 2) No Alcohol 3) No Firearms 4) No Cameras. Driving on....and up....
road to work
The roads look great today, but I couldn't even imagine going up these roads in slick mud or slippery ice, perhaps even hauling a trailer loaded with long pipes. Yikes. That's a long way to the valley below.
overlooking valley below

We're only about half way up at this point, and then we come across this creepy tunnel.
creepy tunnel
It seemed to go on for three miles, at least, but was really only half a mile, but at only ten miles per hour, a thirty degree incline, and thick, deep seemed like we were in there for an hour.

When we popped out of the tunnel it was like we were in a different place.
emerging from the tunnel
It was lush and green, and felt nothing like work.
Once we arrived to the drilling pad though, Joey did get to work.
He spent about five minutes welding, and ten minutes dealing with an ass of a company man, before we drove back across the mesa and down the mountain.

Up in the mountian
You can barely see the roads. See the zig zag lines? Big rigs and heavy machinery...on zig zagging, skinny dirt roads, with a steep incline..definitely not for the weak of heart.

We were back home in two and a half hours, fed the kids, and took them swimming in the campground's lake.
Armed Noodle

Late in the afternoon Joey got another call for another quick job, so I decided to join him again. This drilling rig was at the bottom of the mountain, along the Colorado River.
Drilling rig on other side of the river

All the rigs up here are drilling for natural gas, and they hit gas with every single well. The rigs also pop up and down daily, as they quickly hit gas and move on. We don't know too much about it, but originally the gas companies came here to extract oil from the shale rock, and accidentally hit natural gas, so for the last four or five years they've just been concentrating on the gas and put the shale aside. They say there's twenty years worth of work in these I've got some time to get all the details.

From the mesa to the valley floor....all in a good day's work.

Sunday, July 6

Sparking a living

Cutting the pipe.
Cutting pipe

Torching the pipe.

Grinding the pipe smooth.

Burn one by one.

Ready for delivery.
Finished platform project for drilling rig

Wednesday, July 2

Fastest Thumbs in the West

A couple weeks ago while driving in Grand Junction we saw a sign for "The Fastest Thumbs in the West" video game tournament. The boys' ears instantly perked up, and tongues started panting. Maybe their ears didn't actually perk.... but they were panting. I wish I were kidding. Anyway, the game for the tournament was Halo 2, so we bought a used collectors edition copy of the game, and a huge strategy guide book. The boys were so excited to get home and start playing that we didn't even see the movie that we came all the way to town for, only to get home and discover they only have the special effects/bonus DVD and not the actual game.

We do the eighty mile round trip a few days later to get the game, and for our trouble they repair a couple of scratched Xbox games. After getting home, none of the games work. Another eighty mile round trip another few days later, they give us a new Halo 2 game, and clean the Xbox. Normally I would be really annoyed with these unnecessary trips but the guys that work at the Gamerz Planet in Grand Junction are the most professional and customer pleasing bunch of guys that we've come across in gaming stores...I just couldn't be mad at them.

After a week, and only six days until the tournament, they finally get to play and learn Halo 2, besides just reading about it in their book.
Playing with the Big Dogs
We get to the tournament and see all these big guys, and right away Jonas backs out. Jacob's unphased, and even ends up playing in the very first round.

The guy on the right won that round, and eventually the whole tournament, but Jacob did a fantastic job holding his own. He went on to take first in his next round, to getting knocked out by the top three finishers of the day, in the third round. The guys running the contest recognized Jake's talent and told us they wanted to give him some kind of award. (They didn't even know that he'd only been playing a week, and never online.)

After the tournament was over the organizers gave a special speech and announced The Sportman's Award for Jacob, for being such a good competitor and actually winning a round against guys two and three times his age, and size. Then he got to pick any used game he wanted in the store. He got Pokemon Fire Red for the DS (to replace the one stolen from him two years by a kid in a campground in Michigan.

It was a long day, longer than we planned, but it was so much fun. The turn out was great, they fed us pizza and pop, and Jacob(with Joey) got interviewed by the local paper:
Halo 2 Tournament talking with reporter
Best of all: Jacob has found his sport.

The next competition is in three weeks, it's a newish game, Super Smash Bros Brawl, which we've had for a while now, so it should be an even playing field next time. Go Jacob!

Link to article added: Video Games aren't just for Kids
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