Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, here it is... only 28 minutes until Christmas...

I did (almost) everything that I wanted to do. I have a few more gifts to pack up for the neighbors. And I did not get all my Christmas cards out yet. After running out of stamps, that project got put on the back burner. So my apologies to the half of the people on my list whose cards will be late! Also, I cannot for the life of me find the calendar that we bought for my Mom just last Sunday. Drat!

Overall though, things have gone smoothly this December. I'm ready now to enjoy Christmas Day and then Winter Break.

Hope I can get the rest of everything done in the next 12 DAYS before Ron comes home...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Quote

Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.

-James Buckham

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hungover? Or just getting old?

Last night was the Cowboy Christmas Dinner Show. Ryan wanted a cowboy birthday and Lynne mentioned this great show she had seen with her family. After a little investigation and conversation, Ryan and I decided that we should do this activity as a family plus one special friend in lieu of a party at the house.

The show is about 70 miles away. Google Maps listed drive time as 1 hour 20 minutes (and in parentheses, up to 1 hour 50 minutes with traffic). I thought that was nice to see how Google took into account the fact that we live in a major metropolitan area. So, the gates open at 5:45 and there are activities up until dinner time at 7. The kids got out of school at 3:15. After gathering everyone in the lobby and dropping off the extras in our carpool, we got home around 3:30. Mom went back to her place to get a warmer coat and we had to wait for Melissa to get home from her babysitting job. Once everyone arrived and we loaded the car and got on the road, it was 3:58.

Now let's add a little more background info for our drive... It is Friday before Christmas. It is raining. And it's still a major metropolitan area. Google... I would've loved to have been there in only 1 hour 50 minutes. Unfortunately it was more like 2 1/2 hours. We pulled in to the parking lot of the show at 6:30. We saw the horses in passing as we rushed to the wagon ride. It was the last ride of the evening and they held it for us as they saw us coming. Two more families got on behind us and off we went. After the ride, the other activites had already shut down and they were asking people to be seated for dinner. So bathroom breaks for everyone and then the dinner and show began.

My first impression - I've seen real cowboys. And these guys ain't it! But we are living in a big city. On the East coast. And this is just a theater, not a ranch. The tricks they were doing were pretty impressive so I got over that hangup pretty quick.

The kids enjoyed the show. The adults enjoyed the show. And we left the parking lot at 10:00 p.m. Stopped for a bathroom break before we got back on the highway. And google, you were right. When there's no traffic, it is a 1 hour 20 minute drive! One small wrong turn (the highway split and I went left instead of right) only set us back a couple minutes. I delivered Owen home at 1130. All tired out and ready for his drive to Florida today!

So anyway, we didn't get settled in to bed until about midnight. And of course I didn't go to sleep right away. Had to do important things like check my email and waste time online. Which means I was up until about 1. I woke up at 7:40 this morning and panicked that we would be late for school, why hadn't I set my alarm?!? but then realized that it was Saturday. I was still tired but had to get up anyway to let Darby out. And ever since then I have been feeling completely hungover. Headache. Dizzy. Tired. There was no alcohol involved in our cowboy adventure though so I'm thinking that it must mean I'm just getting old. How depressing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Making progress, one breath at a time

Well, as Ryan pointed out this morning (almost as soon as he woke up), only 8 days until Christmas. I think the kids see this countdown in a different way than I do. They are so excited and can't wait and the time just creeps by so slowly. I, on the other hand, am trying not to worry because oh my gosh there's only 8 days left to get everything done!!!

I still haven't found the notebook but I've made new lists and hopefully not left anyone off! I was at the post office with everyone else in the world this morning and all packages containing gifts for kids have been mailed. All you adults on the list - your packages might be late. I hope you understand. I also ended up ordering my stamps online after all. Too bad I didn't just do that to start with on Sunday when I ran out of stamps. They might have been here already. Instead, it will take 5-7 business days. So Christmas cards... are going to be late. Oh well. Too bad, so sad. Better luck next year!

Over all, I feel pretty in control of the situation. Which means on Tuesday afternoon I'll suddenly remember something huge that I forgot. And then I'll panic! But until then, we're all good.

Felisa is not sleepy tonight. Private Practice is on and someone on the show couldn't breathe. Which prompted Felisa to tell me that:
Breathing you really need to do.

Then she started talking about the fire and air experiment that they did in school. She talked and talked while I tried to type fast enough to get it all down. Here's my best effort:
The fire uses the air. put container on a candle. and a cup or a dish it traps the air and that's how much air the fire is getting. it goes off when all the air is gone. it borrows it and when we put the dish earlier again he lighted again and then put the dish fast and then it gives it back a little tiny dish and you can't see anything and you put a little dot. just put one. don't put dish there very long or it will get more air than us and it will get so much air. so small dish goes out faster and big dish goes slower.

So... don't forget to breathe everyone!

some tigers they live in teh jungle. there is air. they get some leaves. some tigers do this.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lost

You know you're reading Sheila's blog when... she's complaining about something she lost!

That's right, folks. I've lost something again. This time it's my Christmas notebook. You know, the one where I keep all my gift lists, hot chocolate mix recipes, Christmas Season To Do List, etc. The game plan. It's gone. Again.

Again, you say? Why yes, I did lose it last year too! I remember finding it at the very end of the season, buried at the bottom of the gift jars supply box. So I'm thinking that I would have put it away in a very safe place so that I wouldn't lose it again. (I looked in the gift jars supply box, in case you're wondering. It's not there.)

Or not. Because I CAN'T FIND IT!!!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

(pulling hair out, kicking and screaming in a tantrum on the floor)

Okay then. I guess Christmas really is cancelled. Ron gave me permission to just skip it (except for the tree and the kids' gifts of course!) this year and blame it all on him being gone. I just didn't think he would go so far as to hide my notebook so that I would be forced to go along with his plan.

(Okay, I know he didn't hide it. But it's easier to blame someone else for my problems than it is to accept responsibility for my endless disorganization and laziness and procrastination.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Poem

The Thanksgiving Feast
by Ryan
At the beginning of the Thanksgiving feast,
We were called in from our race.
Then we went in and
We all said "Grace."
At the middle of the Thanksgiving feast,
My cousins pulled the wishbone.
Aunt Carol got all angry and said,
"Don't make me use this tone."
At the end of the Thanksgiving feast,
We watched all our friends leave
And our Uncle George,
He finally heaved!



Oh so hilarious!!! I found this in the school papers he brought home and thought it was too funny not to share! Bella drew some really cute Dress-Up Turkeys last week too. Those will definitely make it into the scrapbook.

In other funny news...
Last week as Ryan was getting into the shower he told me, "Parents are like lice." Really?!? Why is that? "Because they don't like dirty hair."

Okay then. Good answer. Even if you did just call me a louse!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

War is Ugly

The latest count: 4 dead, one MIA, and one prisoner released.

After one disappeared, I found this morning when I went to check - no trap. Which means that it got away again? But no, as I'm looking around under the sink, I hear a rustling in the back corner. Uh oh. Sounds like a live one. I pull everything out very carefully. I don't want the mouse to escape still stuck in the trap. It's bad enough that he is hurt. I fish him out with a ruler and a dustpan. Darby was nice enough to come in from the backyard, leaving the door ajar, just then so that I could escape hands-free. I took the poor guy out to the back near the shed. Once I put him down, he tried to run away but couldn't because he was still in the trap. I was able to release him without him biting me. He seemed fine except for a broken front paw. Once free he scampered off into the leaves.

I really hate this part of the mice wars. I don't like killing them but it is the best compromise I can come up with for the situation. I want my traps to kill immediately every time. I don't enjoy killing them but even worse is not killing them. Finding a wounded prisoner is not fun. Leaves a pit in my stomach.

Yes, it's true. War is ugly.

Monday, November 17, 2008

They're Baaaack!

Tis the season... The weather is getting colder and winter is just around the corner. Time for all good animals to take shelter. Apparently my latest visitors did not get the memo from last season's crew... don't live under Sheila's sink. She will kill you!!!

I found the evidence of the mice's return a week or so ago. My vaccuum cleaner was broken at the time so I just ignored it. (I like to ignore problems and hope they go away on their own!) I fixed the vaccuum a couple days ago so today when I took out the trash I decided it was as good a time as any to set up the mousetrap once more. Took only a couple hours to catch my first one.

It's sad really - they're kind of cute. And though I talk tough sometimes (my nickname was once Killer), I don't enjoy killing them. But they cannot live in my house. So out they go!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nothing to Report

I feel bad that I haven't blogged anything lately. Apparently there are people out there who use it as a way to keep up with our family (Yea! That's partly what it's for!). So I feel bad. But - there is nothing to report.

Nothing new or exciting or interesting has happened. Each and every day is almost exactly like the one before it. I still didn't get anything done that I need to beyond shuttling kids and the minimal laundry, cooking, and dishes. At one point I had high hopes for what I could get done with my 6 months. Alas, I'm afraid my house is worse off now than it was in June. So, sorry Ron, but you'll be coming home to an absolute disaster area. Hopefully you won't mind. I'll try to work on it through the spring but I make no guarantees.

So here we sit, approximately 50 days from Ron's return. Just passing the time.

Nothing to report.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quote

"The intelligence of the creature known as a crowd, is the square root of the number of people in it.” ~Terry Pratchett

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beating the Streets

Oh my aching feet! Ryan and I spent over 2 hours this afternoon peddling Cub Scout popcorn at Safeway with our den. Then we went out around the neighborhood for another almost 2 hours. I just added up his order sheet and he's at almost $500. This doesn't count online orders from family members or his share of the sales from the storefront booth. A few more people should be ordering locally (including me!) so I think he's going to do super awesome this year! He would love to win the Nintendo DS2 but I doubt we'll make it to $2300 in sales before November 10! He worked hard but steady and didn't get discouraged so that was good. I had forgotten how long and exhausting door to door sales can be. It has been many years since I sold Girl Scout cookies, after all.

And because all of this popcorn peddling didn't make me or my feet tired enough... After dinner I made 8 half-pints of caramel apple jam and a pint of applesauce. That's what happens when you leave Grandma F alone with a giant bag of apples and a knife! She prepped them so I had to finish them off. That's the second batch of apples from our apple-picking adventure. Last time I made apple crisp and a quart of applesauce. Another couple days and I'll do the last batch. Maybe some more apple crisp...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Show Down at the Scout Corral

Ah, my poor neglected blog... nothing has been blog-worthy of late it seems.

This may not be either but my email connection is having issues at the moment and I haven't worked up the energy to hit the shower yet so I'll go ahead anyway.

Cub Scouts vs. Brownies
Ah the differences are many, as has been brought to my attention several times the last couple of weeks. Let's review...

*Cub Scouts- the program is spelled out with little variation. To earn X rank badge, you must earn X requirements. And make sure you are done by February or else.

*Brownies - a book with MANY pages. Within the many pages, many try-it badges covering a wide range of subjects. Choose whichever ones you want. Do as many or as few as you wish.

*Cub Scouts - one boy is set as the denner for a meeting and is in charge

*Brownies - have a kaper chart set up with each girl taking a turn completing each of the various jobs that need to be done in any given meeting - teamwork!

*Cub Scout camping - very loosey goosey affair. Cubs can't even go without their families. And the dens can't even go without the rest of the pack. So that means each camping event involves approximately 200 people and 50 tents and 50 cars. Oh and one port-a-potty. And yes, it ends up as gross as it sounds by the end of the weekend.

*Brownies - each troop may go camping whenever it wishes. And girls are not required to be accompanied by an adult. It is up to the leaders to decide what works best for the group. And they have things like safety circles around the fire and hand-washing stations. And the girls actually participate in the cooking as opposed to emerging from the woods in time to stuff their faces then run off again as soon as they are done.

************************

So we survived the Cub Scout Family Campout last night... were warm enough while we were sleeping but froze our tails off once we emerged this morning. We all got to go fishing yesterday afternoon. We didn't catch anything (not surprising!) but a great first time fishing for all of us (the kids and I). I even baited the hook with a worm! Did you know worms bleed when cut?! I didn't. Of course I never really thought about it before either. Ryan got to shoot at archery this morning and got one arrow into the yellow (near the center). He didn't get breakfast (was doing archery and then ran off into the woods with his friends and then it was too late) but we stopped at McD's on the way home.

And now the car is unloaded and we are all thawing out nicely. Next time we'll pack gloves and hats!

Friday, October 03, 2008

How NOT to Fix a Toilet

In a few entertaining steps...

When we got back from Big Trip 3, we found that the toilet in the green bathroom, the new low-flow toilet that Ron and his dad installed over Christmas break, was leaking around the bottom. I consulted Ron long-distance in Afghanistan via pictures and Skype. Sounds like we just need a new wax ring. Okay, no problem. I'll call a plumber if I can't do it myself. And then I promptly warned all the kids not to use that toilet anymore because it was broken. Immediately after that, I got busy doing about a million other things that were much more important than fixing the toilet. After all, we have 3 others in the house. If it ends up not getting fixed before he gets back, no big deal.

Fast forward about a month and a half. I'm about to have a long-term houseguest and it's time to fix the problem. I was about to call the plumber when I thought to myself, why not look it up online first. Maybe it's not that hard and I can just do it myself.

So I googled it... and this is what I found. How to Replace a Toilet's Wax Ring. That doesn't sound too hard. I especially liked step 12 - To seal the ring, sit on toilet and rock in all directions. No problem! I emailed my buddy Shani to see if she felt up to the challenge. After all, step 8 warns that toilets are heavy and often require two people to lift them. She replies that her Friday morning is wide open and what better to do than fix the toilet. Look at us - two capable women taking charge and taking care of things.

Or not.

Let's see how it all went down, shall we?

1. Find the brand and model number of the toilet, if possible. This sometimes is stamped on the rim of the toilet near the tank or on the bottom side of the tank. If you can't find the information, proceed to step 3.
Yeah, I don't really need to do that. I'll just go to the store and buy a ring.

2. Take your information with you to a local hardware store or plumbing supply house to purchase a replacement wax ring.
See, here I am at the store, buying a ring. Regular ring or extra thick? Well it says that the extra thick ring compensates for pipes that are below floor level. Hmmm... Probably just the regular one will do for starters.

3. Turn off the water to the toilet at the water supply shutoff. This is usually found on the wall or floor near the toilet. If there is no localized shutoff, use the main water shutoff for the structure.
Piece of cake. Water is Off.

4. Flush the toilet a couple of times to drain most of the water.
Flush once then head down to the basement to gather the necessary wrenches and rags for the job. Once I get down there, I hear a loud dripping sound in the basement shower. Oh look - there is a 6 inch crack in the ceiling (below the toilet above) dripping lots of big drips of water. Crap! This is definitely a problem. At this point I realize that there is no way I am going to be able to fix the leaky toilet problem on my own. Not now that it is a leaky floor/ceiling problem also!

4a. This one isn't online... Shani and I decide that the plumber will have to lift the toilet off anyway to fix the ring and to see what else is wrong. So as long as we're here, we might as well lift it off and take a peek. Ha Ha Ha. Easier said than done. Rather than flushing again to drain yet more water through the floor/ceiling, we bail. First with plastic kids cups from restaurant (I think those two will go into the recycling bin next week!) and then with a turkey baster to get the last of it. Toilet bowls hold a lot more water than it looks like they are holding! Does anyone want to come over for turkey dinner on Thanksgiving?!?

5. Disconnect the water supply tube from the bottom of the toilet, using a large pair of adjustable pliers. (Have a bucket and towels ready as some water may drain from the tank.)
Initial upright attempts show me that I'm going to have to get down and dirty to do this job. So I'm on my back, lying under the toilet tank, big wrench in hand, attempting to disconnect the water supply tube. The tube has been sealed by some sort of silicone and it ain't budging no matter what we do. I take that back - it moved enough to let some ugly black water drain down. Thankfully the empty bowl we had in place caught most of the water. Only a couple drops got on my face and hair. I bust out the utility knife to try to break the seal so I can unscrew it. Doesn't help. At this point Shani and I give up completely. This just ain't happening. Time to call the real plumbers in.

5a. Call a plumber! (This step isn't online either!)

To celebrate our failure, we pick up Corey and Felisa from school and head to Artie's for lunch. I tell Shani I'm a little nervous about going back there in daylight hours (we usually go for a late dinner or drinks and always after dark!) after what happened two weeks ago. Lunch at Artie's and then Felisa ends up with a broken elbow at soccer practice. I had joked that it was my punishment for having such a nice lunch! And now today we have decided that it really is an Artie's Daylight Curse because as we were eating, my phone rang. It was the school nurse. Ryan had a stomachache and needed to come home. So we hurried through the rest of our lunch and picked him up on the way back home. When we got back, Ron was online so he got to hear all about it - all the latest disasters to befall us while he is away.

So now I'm just waiting to hear back from Alexis (who owns a plumbing company) on who she recommends to fix my toilet.

Maybe next time step one will be "Call the plumber!"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clubbing with babies?

I haven't seen the whole story yet - just the teaser. But apparently the news story is about how it's now hip and cool and okay to bring your baby with you to the club.

Say what?!?! Let's start with the most obvious - the noise level cannot possibly be good for their ears. It's not good for an adult's ears. And the overstimulation? And... oh I could go on forever.

***

Okay, it's called Baby Loves Disco. And it's a family thing that happens on Saturday afternoons. But I still think the noise level would be too much. But then again, maybe that's my own personal noise issue peeking through...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Monkey Bar Madness

So never a dull moment is a saying that applies way too often to my life.

This afternoon/evening's plan was to take Bella to soccer practice then help Mom out with her car. Dinner might be the McD's drive-thru since I didn't have anything planned and then we would be home free and relaxing until about 2:00 tomorrow when we head out for soccer games.

Practice started at 6. At 6:10 Felisa comes back from the playground, crying because she had fallen from the monkey bars and her arm hurt. As I was holding her on my lap, trying to calm her down, Mom called. We told the coach's wife that we were heading out to pick up my mom and we would be back before the end of practice. Felisa calmed down on the walk down the hill to the car but when I lifted her up to put her in she started crying again. And then she just didn't stop. Which led me to believe that this injury might in fact warrant a trip to the doctor.

So we picked up Mom then came back to the house to find the doctor's phone number. We're in that in-between stage between Kaiser benefits which are ending any day now as far as I know and Tricare. We are tricare standard already by virtue of Ron being on active duty so we are entitled to health care but only at Ft Belvoir which is probably 40 minutes away, without any major traffic incidents blocking the way between here and there. The Prime paperwork that I filled out on Monday won't take effect until Oct. 1. I called the close (prime) clinic first because I was told they might help me before oct. 1 if they have open spaces. No dice. So I called the other number (ft. belvoir). Decided I really didn't want to drive all the way over there in Friday traffic. So I called Kaiser. They said that my benefits were still active and made me an appointment at the much-closer-than-the-Army urgent care facility. While I was on the phone with the healthcare merry-go-round, Ryan and Grandma were practicing their first aid on Felisa. Ice packs and a sling.

Ryan and Mom went back to the soccer field to get the chairs and blanket I left (because we were coming right back! ha!) and bring Bella home. Once they came back, Felisa and I took off for our appointment. Fortunately I remembered the way to the clinic since I hadn't been there in months.

Two and a half hours later (a decent amount of time for all that we had to do though it seemed like an eternity while we were stuck in the waiting rooms!), we have bone pictures, a soft cast, and an appointment to see the orthopedic doctor on Monday. Looks broken on the x-ray which the other doctor will confirm or deny and then set with a permanent cast if necessary.

And now - off the sleep. As long as Barky McBarkBark doesn't keep me up all night...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My House is Dirty

Felisa's having a playdate with her best friend from school, Adam. I'm sitting on the couch, being "available" while working on my way-behind-schedule digital scrapbook. I overheard Adam say, "Your house is dirty." Felisa stuck up for us though. Her prompt reply, "My house is Not dirty!"

Funny. Embarrassing. And true (my house IS messy). But funny.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Attack of the Green Monsters!

Bella forgot something in her desk at school this afternoon so we walked back to her classroom with her. While we were there, the subject of her pink glasses came up. For some reason today she decided to wear the big round pink-shaded glasses that came from who-knows-where and now live in our dress-up box. I figured it was just a lark. The fad of the day.

So anyway, when we were talking about her glasses she told us that she was wearing them to keep the green away. Apparently Green sometimes attacks her. We asked what that meant and she said that it just makes everything look green. But the pink glasses help.

So is she just weird? Or what? Will I someday be able to look back on these things and understand? Because right now I just really don't know what to say.

Oh and does anyone have any pink shades we can borrow? When we got home, the glasses broke.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Are Husbands Good For?

Well, I can name a few things today that need a husband's touch...

*Jumpstarting the car
*Picking up his mother from the airport so I can do my assistant leader job at Cub Scouts

This weekend is a 3-day crop. Only happens twice a year. But arranging child care, carpooling, etc. for 3-days is like planning a world summit. And when things like the above happen, it just makes the (temporary) abscence of my dear husband that much more vivid. It's hard enough planning for my abscence when my signed-in-blood, dedicated life partner is around to pick up the slack. Without him to fall back on, things are that much harder. Add a few kinks like the above and it's almost more than I can handle.

Light Bulb Moment...
So while talking to Allie and lamenting about my bad luck today, I discovered something about myself. I'm okay at accepting help that is freely offered. I have a little more trouble asking for help repeatedly. An occasional here and there is okay but in my current position, I find myself asking for help more than I'd like. I don't feel like I've earned 6 months worth of help. Helping points are like money - you earn some by helping others and you spend some by asking for help or by accepting help that is offered. I am feeling many things today. One thing is exhausted, more mentally than physically. Another thing is frustrated. And lastly, I'm feeling a little unbalanced in the helping department.

So, I went upstairs and had a good cry to vent all the pent up frustration and stress. Then I thought about it for a few minutes. I think what's missing right now is the income of helping points. No one is asking me to help them with anything. I'm guessing it's because they know I'm all alone here and don't want to burden me. Which is lovely. And I appreciate it. But I still need to do small favors here and there or else I'm going to be unable to ask for any favors back. I'm spending my help points without replenishing them. And I don't want to be bankrupt before Ron comes back!

So people... ask for my help! But not this weekend. I'm busy...

:)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened

That's the name of a play, right? A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum?

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to McD's... I noticed 3 guys in matching orange shirts at the bus stop outside McD's. It seemed a little odd since they were all dressed alike. Most people waiting at bus stops are individuals and not dressed in matching t-shirts. So I went through the drive-thru to get my iced coffee fix and when I pulled back out to the main street, I was behind a garbage truck. The truck stopped at the bus stop and two of the orange-clad men climbed in and they all drove away. I guess the other orange guy belongs with a different route...

I just really thought that was funny and had to share it with the world!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday Night Blues

This weekend started with soccer practice Friday night at 6. Tropical Storm Hanna's first sprinkles started as we were leaving the field on our bikes.

I was tired from a long first week of school but the kids were still full of energy. I wanted to go to bed and let the day/week be over. I was having a hard time convincing them to do the same.

Saturday morning started with rain. Lots and lots of rain. Darby got a long wet walk before the worst of it hit. Then I spent the day moving boxes and organizing and pricing things for the yard sale. I haven't heard the official total yet but I think 9" of rain. By the end of the day I was very, very tired.

Sunday morning started early - 0545 - in an attempt to get my yard sale items out and ready before the early birds showed up. At 0730 the first shopper had arrived. I really hate how they come in and disrupt my rythym of trying to get it all. I was hoping to be ready before 0800 early birds but it wasn't to be.

Made lots of money but still have lots to sell so we're going to try for another sale in a couple weeks. The kids were good in the house all morning. The weather was beautiful and the shoppers were bountiful. All was good. I got Darby out for a walk around 3 then spent a couple hours with my feet up, reading. Then dinner out with Shani and all the kids.

To this point, a lot of hard work but overall a good weekend. Now comes the Sunday Night Blues part... I'm tired. The kids are not. I want to go to bed and be done with the day. Lurking in all the shadows, however, are the nags. The mess that is my house. The to-do list a mile long. The fact that I really need to stop eating and start exercising. Real life is out there waiting for me but I'm not sure I'm ready to face it. Weekends packed with too much activity are bad for this reason. Not enough down time equals extra stress over the usual way-too-much-to-do lists.

So I've got the Sunday Night Blues. And Felisa sitting next to me, sniffing, wiping her nose, and stroking my arm, touching me at all times, NOT sleeping.

Calgon take me away!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Be careful what you wish for...

So I have been lamenting off and on this summer about how all the big and fuzzy, black and buzzy, carpenter bees have disappeared from my garden. I attribute it to the garlic spray I used in the backyard to keep the mosquitos away. Which may or may not have worked on the mosquitoes. It did however work on keeping the good bees away and had absolutely no effect on the very mean wasp/bee creatures that set up shop in the backyard and ultimately stung Bella and I. (They're dead now, by the way. I killed them! You see, that's what happens when you break the rules of living at Sheila's house. If you come inside my house and are too ugly or if you bother me outside, then you will die. Remember that, random bugs and spiders, if you ever stop by.)

So anyway, as I was leaving the house earlier, I was struck by the pure volume of big and fuzzy, black and buzzy, bees that are hanging around all over each and every flower on my obedient plant. The bees that I missed and that I wished would return. Well, they're back. And I really am glad to see them. Let's just say that my recent bad experience with the mean bees has left me a little jumpier than usual.

In other news...
I have once again completely forgotten whatever it was that was so earth-shattering that I just had to post immediately for all the world to see...

But there is this - after lunch I'm going on a soccer cleat hunt. Bella and Ryan tried on their shoes last night and none of them fit. Before I go buy new ones, I need to find the other pair that Ryan wore in his first year because they just might fit Bella now. But I have absolutely no idea where they might be or if they even exist. I may just be imagining that other phantom pair of soccer cleats. And I have to find them today because Bella has practice tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oh the craziness of our world

So I'm just sitting here watching the news... there is a story on about how we are driving less which has reduced the amount of money the state has collected in taxes. So now we don't have enough money to pay for road repairs and maintenance.

So... we should drive less because it's bad for the environment. But wait - don't stop! Keep driving because we need the tax money!

Some sort of proposed solution regarding tolls with congestion penalties (much higher prices during peak hours) which should discourage people from driving so much during rush hour. I'm assuming that means that the idea behind the congestion penalties is to switch us to mass transit or carpooling.

So which is it? Should we drive more or drive less? Make up your mind, government dudes!

In other news...
*School has started. Two days down, two days left for this week. So far no one is tired but me. Waking up earlier and staying busy all day - why isn't it making them tired?!?! I just don't understand and really I don't think it's fair at all.

*I made a poor choice today... I chose to buy a latte at Starbucks this afternoon while I was at Safeway with Felisa. So now I am exhausted but not the least bit sleepy. Darn it all anyway.

*We are supposed to be having a block-wide yard sale this Saturday. Hurricane Hanna is also scheduled to be in the area on Saturday. Unfortunately I think hurricane beats yard sale. Contingency plans are still in the works. I hope we figure out something because I have collected a very LARGE amount of junk, I mean fine used items, to sell. One way or another it's all leaving this house. Hopefully soon!

*While I am not sleepy, I am definitely tired. Too tired to figure out what else it was that I meant to blog about tonight. Oh well.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quote

"The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself."

Franklin Roosevelt

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Friday Notes

Some notes from yesterday while I'm drinking my coffee and mentally preparing for today...

*We went school supply shopping. Target first where we found everything but the erasers and glue sticks. I picked up some plain t-shirts for the girls and some jeans for Ryan. My grandma told me I needed new underwear (she had done some of my laundry while we were on the road this summer) so I bought some.

*We were hungry so went to Burger King for lunch. The kids got to play on the playground though they decided it wasn't as exciting as all the taller McD's ones we visited on our trip. There were negotiations between Bella and Felisa over whether or not to switch happy meal toys. Felisa would not give in so Bella had to settle. We also had a discussion about why Burger King is called Burger King. After all, a king is a person, not a burger. Or a restaurant. I tried my best to explain but she wasn't buying it.

*Next stop... Car Wash!!! The kids have been begging all summer to go to the car wash. We couldn't go before because the rooftop box was still on the van. Today though, the box was off (thanks Shani!) and we went to the car wash. It was quite possibly the highlight of the day. They were all very happy that I decided to pay for the long car wash not just the short one.

*On to Staples. Finally. Ryan had been declaring his love of office supply stores all morning. I can't blame. I love them too! We managed to get out of there without buying too many crazy extra things but we did go up and down all the aisles oohing and ahing.

*Last stop - Safeway. Ryan objected because he thought we were done. I think the length of time spent shopping was just too much for him. You know, he used to be my best shopper when he was younger. After all, I started him out before he could even crawl. Oh well. All the kids got donuts and Ryan got to pick out my coffee. For some reason he really likes to choose the coffee. Maybe it's because he likes to operate the pouring and grinding mechanisms.

*A little rant about Safeway... They have TVKarts now. Really? TV Karts? Our kids are so mind-numbingly incapable of surviving 30 minutes in the grocery store without watching TV?!? And I can only imagine how many commercials there are. Buy fruit snacks! Buy sugar! Buy! Buy! Buy! There didn't appear to be too much room for actual groceries in the cart and I'll be surprised if they're not broken in a week. The plastic car carts that my kids like have already lost half the steering wheels. Why on earth are people so incapable of caring for things? Especially things like these carts that don't belong to them? What are those other kids doing for crying out loud?!?
Safeway - I am NOT happy with your decision to offer TVKarts.

*Okay... let's see now. What else was there? Oh yeah. Dinner. I picked up a Rotisserie chicken (on sale for $4!) and some country crock already prepared mashed potatoes (I'll do anything to avoid cooking it seems!). So look - dinner! And minimal effort on my part. Anyway, Felisa declared dinner to be not as good as daddy cooks. I about choked on my chicken. Boy is that girl confused! Daddy doesn't cook! Which I immediately pointed out to her. I did say though that dinner was not as good as it is when daddy is home eating with us. Because it wasn't. The chicken was dry and the potatoes tasted funny. But whatever - it was dinner.

And that's about it. Today we have a couple errands. I need some anti-itch creme since I lost the one we brought with us on vacation and this bee sting is ITCHING LIKE CRAZY!!! Later tonight we have putt putt golf with the Cub Scouts. Oh joy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bumblebito Buzzito

Oh my god!

Bella and Kana (and then me when I went to rescue them!) were just attacked by a swarm of bees!

Apparently the girls decided to slide on the plastic slide over on the side of the house. And apparently some bees have taken up residence there this summer. Must've been while we were on vacation because this is the first time anyone has really been over there since before we left.

They both came running up the stairs and back inside. I saw two dark bugs on Bella's shirt and thought they were beetles. I shoo-ed her back outside to brush them off. I went outside to help at which point I realized they were bees. And they weren't just on her shirt - there were at least 10 of them stuck in her hair. So Shani and I are frantically trying to brush them off. Then they were in my hair. And then one stung me on the arm. Finally Kana is clear and then Bella is clear and I am clear. We slam the door and commence freaking out! Well, Bella and I were freaking out anyway.

I sat with Bella on the couch for a few minutes trying to get her to stop crying and calm down. Skippyjon Jones, one of her favorite books, was within reach on the bookshelf so I offered to read it, hoping for a distraction. And ironically enough the villian in the story... is a bumble bee! I mean really, what are the chances?!

So Bella has gone to her room to watch a movie and I gave her two motrin because she said her head hurts. I can't tell if one stung her there or not but maybe the motrin will help.

And I just have to say... Bee stings, well, they sting!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If It's Not One Dog, It's the Other

Last night was one of THOSE nights...

I had the opportunity to go to sleep earlier than what has become my usual midnight or beyond, but I wasn't tired. I did finally fall asleep some time after 11 while trying to watch the women's final gymnastics event.

At 1:00, Darby woke me up, whining to go out. By this point I had already had at least one weird dream and pushed Felisa off of me at least 5 times. I kept covering her up, hoping that if she were warmer, she would stop tossing and turning ALL OVER ME!

Darby and Cody went out and I went back to bed.

Sometime around 3, Cody started barking at who know's what. Which is probably what woke Bella up because a minute later, she was in bed with me. I told her to lie down and gave her a blanket to cover up with. Cody came back to bed as well. So bed total: 2 kids, 1 mom, and 1 dog.

At 4 Darby had to go outside again. At this point I start to put everything together. He had a soft poop last night when I wallked them before bed. Which means he has diarrhea AGAIN! That dog has been sick more often in the last few months... when you add his freak-out carpet-licking, paper-and-plant-eating episodes it's at least once a week.

Cody didn't want to go out at 4 so the two of us sat on the white couch and tried to not wake up too much while we waited for Darby to come back.

When we were all finally back upstairs, I was hearing phantom noises and had to check at least 3 times that both dogs were still in the room and not out causing trouble somewhere in the house.

I was able to go back sleep which left plenty of time for more weird dreams and more restless Felisa. Darby was whining again at 8 but it was time to get up anyway. My stirring woke up the girls. We all went downstairs where we found Ryan and Cody watching TV.

Grandma D came by and is walking the dogs now. I gave the kids breakfast. Now I need a shower and we all need to get dressed to go to the farmer's market and various other playdates and errands.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tidbits

We're home (in case anyone didn't know - I thought I had posted a message to that effect but I guess not since there isn't one here!). We ended up arriving back two days early.

I'm enjoying a few minutes of quiet this afternoon... listening to some music while I work on my digi scrapbooks. The kids took Darby for a long walk with Grandma D and now they are at her place "watching and eating". I even moved my laptop from the bedroom to the dining room table for a change of scenery.

The weather is hot today.

The kids are bored with each other after an entire summer together. They play well for awhile but then they start picking and arguing. I'm ready for them to go back to school and be with their friends. Then they'll be happy to see each other here at home.

Melissa leaves tomorrow for college. All of us are going to miss her. Ryan was crying in the closet for awhile this afternoon because he was sad about her leaving. Daddy is gone and Melissa is gone and [3 teachers at his school] are all retired and gone... Heartbreaking I tell you.

Ron seems to be doing fine in Afghanistan... 4 meals a day and a job to do. He says he misses us and asks for pictures daily.

I got to go to Artie's with Bill and Christy the other night while the kids were all having sleepovers (at Zoe's and at Grandma D's). Yummy tuna, a margarita, and good company. Haven't spent much time with Shani yet but hopefully that will work itself out once we get our school year routine settled. I need someone to drink the vacation wine with...

The house was clean when we arrived but was trashed again in short order. I think I finally have everything unpacked except the kids' backpacks (which they should be doing, not me) and a bag of food souvenirs in the kitchen. Which means all the mess now is regular every day mess. Joy, joy.

Obviously I really don't have anything to say today so I'll let it go at this...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Walking in Memphis

We're here in Memphis - decided to skip St Louis completely and get on down the road...

Went to Graceland today.

My outgoing email is blocked so I won't be able to answer any messages until tomorrow night when we get to the hotel.

Almost home!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 22

August 10, 2008 – Sunday – Day 22

0740 Wake up

Enjoy a nice quiet morning then leave to take Grandpa R to the airport.

1052 Pigs! Finally! We have been looking for pigs since we left and these are the first ones we’ve seen.

1113 Leaving the Peoria airport. I went inside to use the bathroom and bought some postcards and picked up a free Home magazine while I was in there. Some funny quotes from Felisa so far this morning:

“The corn rides again.”
Upon sighting many many cornfields along the road once more.

“I’m the expert.”
She had been “navigating” us to the airport and we mentioned something about knowing which way to go and that’s what she told us.

1140 Felisa rolled her window down while we were driving through Farmington. It scared me since she hadn’t asked first but she did meet my open window requirement of “not on the highway”. I have no idea why that girl always wants the window down in the car. Anyway, she had put the window down so that Hot Dog could get some fresh air.

1230 Bella has developed some sort of fixation with her lips. What is that noise called? Raspberries? But not against the skin. Just flubbing her lips to make cat purring sounds, horse sounds, car sounds… She has been doing it seemingly almost nonstop for over a week now. Good thing she sits all the way in the back row so I don’t hear it as much.

1235 Back at Grandma’s and starving for lunch. Yummy ham salad again and other assorted leftovers.

After lunch we went to Uncle Ron’s house and the kids played with Tegan while the rest of us hung out on the porch. The weather has been amazingly perfectly glorious ever since we got to NM. I love it!

Dinner out at the café in Bushnell then home to unpack and repack the van. The last repack was in Albuquerque and we were in serious need of reorganization! While I was doing that the kids were practicing a play. We watched “Animal Band in Birmingham” then it was bedtime. I started putting together a small package for Ron to mail from here tomorrow.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Day 21

August 9, 2008 – Saturday – Day 21

Wake up when Bella comes back to bed. The kids were all playing musical beds last night. All 3 of them started in my bed watching Looney Tunes. Bella, the only one who didn’t want to watch the movie, was the only one awake at the end of the movie. Since Ryan was asleep in her spot, she went to sleep with Grandpa R. In the middle of the night, Ryan woke up and said, “Why am I sleeping in this bed?” and went to Grandpa’s room. Sometime in the early morning Bella started roaming and eventually came to my room and went back to sleep.

Breakfast and coffee then a trip to the post office to check the mail. Grandma was going to go without me but I made her wait. When I was a kid I always walked to the post office with Grandma.

Lana went to town to get a haircut and buy more bags of Kitchen Cooked chips for all of us to bring home. Yum!!! Unfortunately I forgot to get my entertainment out of the car so no cross-stitching or crocheting or reading (except the newspaper) until she gets back. There’s no internet so I can’t even waste time online. Oh well, maybe I’ll work on a few scrapbook pages. My next quarterly deadline for CM is September 30 so I need to get at least one book finished by then.

Uncle Ron came by with Tegan to play with the kids. She was shy at first but then didn’t want to leave. We promised to come up to their place to play after lunch.

Ham salad and chicken salad for lunch – yum! And Kitchen Cooked chips of course.

The kids had fun playing at Tegan’s. Felisa and Tegan got wet watering the flowers so Tegan reluctantly loaned Felisa a dress for the day. Once again Tegan didn’t want to see the kids leave. It was good for all of them to play together since Tegan’s an only (though not for long!) child and my kids haven’t had many other kids to play with this trip.

We drove to town so Emilio could see downtown Macomb. Then home in time for dinner. Grandma made goulash and mashed potatoes (she dug the potatoes from her garden just this morning!). After dinner it was time for our daily park trip.

The kids are watching Pink Panther and the grown-ups are watching Family Feud on GSN. Lady (Grandma’s cat) is looking at me… apparently I’m sitting in her chair. So she walks over to my black bag with the scrapbooks inside and sits down on top of it. I guess she showed me!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Day 20

August 8, 2008 – Friday – Day 20

0610 Wake up. Talk to Ron online.
0715 Breakfast
0803 Leave the hotel.
0840 Stop at McD’s for coffee and a potty break. I realized a few minutes ago that the girls hadn’t gone potty yet this morning. I figured it would be wise to stop at the next available bathroom before it turns into an emergency pee on the side of the road incident. As luck would have it, the next available stop was McD’s so I could get my iced coffee as well. Yea!

1110 Des Moines, IA - See a sign for Sonic and stop since this may be my last chance (well, at least until after we drop off Lana and head home). Plus, it’s been at least a week since I last ate at Sonic…

Here’s what we ordered:
Ryan: hot dog and strawberry slush
Bella: grilled cheese, tots, and water
Felisa: Chicken strips and strawberry slush
Grandpa R: #4 grilled chicken sandwich and a coke
Lana: #8 grilled chicken wrap and a diet dr. pepper
Sheila: #12 Super Sonic breakfast burrito with tots and cherry coke

I had to write it down so I could get the order right so I figured I might as well record it for posterity…

2:05 p.m. Mt. Pleasant, IA stop for gas. $3.65/gallon

2:45 p.m. Illinois! And the Mississippi River! Once we were across the river we could see the flood damage in Gulfport. There is still standing water a third of the way up houses and buildings and you can see the water line where it was higher before. The road is closed so we go the long way around the Good Hope.

3:15 p.m. See a sign for Roseville. Felisa is happy to have a place with her name.

3:33 p.m. Arrive at Grandma’s!

The kids played for a bit then we had beef and noodles for dinner. Super yum! After dinner we went to the park then home for popsicles and then finally bed time. The kids were not tired at all (something about riding in the car all day…) so I put in a movie for them. Of course that means they are all in my bed so there is no room for me until the movie is over. Guess I’ll go upstairs and watch TV with the grownups for a while. Felisa came up after about 20 minutes so I had to go back down and squeeze in on the edge.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Day 19

August 7, 2008 – Thursday – Day 19

0614 Wake up
0650 Go downstairs for breakfast
0733 Loaded and leaving the hotel.

We decided to drive through Custer State Park again since it seemed like the most direct, least curvy road way to get up to the interstate in Rapid City. I’m really glad we did because along the way we saw lots of animals. Wild turkeys (even babies!) crossing the road, deer, a chipmunk (trying not to get run over), mule deer, and… buffalo! A huge herd of them! And since I downloaded my other buffalo pictures and realized that very few of them turned out, I was able to take bunch more. Yea! Hopefully these turned out better. If not then I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

0930 On the way to Wall Drug in Wall, SD. We passed a truck pulling a motorcycle trailer. On the back of the trailer was a sign that said “Just Married”. Not 30 seconds later we saw a billboard that said Free Coffee and Donuts for Honeymooners. How weird is that!!!

1048 Leaving Wall Drug. Big. And Crowded. But kind of fun, at least in the backyard where the covered wagon, giant roaring dinosaur, and 8-foot jackalope were.

1130 Stop for gas ($3.83/gallon) and lunch in Kadoka, SD. There is just a whole lot of nothing out here.

12:22 p.m. Leaving lunch. I miss McDonalds… We haven’t seen one since Denver.

12:43 p.m. Time change. It’s now 1:43 p.m. I really don’t like giving my hours back on the return trip!

2:59 p.m. McDonald’s!!! Iced Coffee!!! Yippee! Yahoo! Oh and we also just crossed the Missouri River. It was actually blue. I don’t think I’ve seen a blue river in a while.

4:05 p.m. Stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. Interesting. A good distraction from the miles of prairie. And since crossing the river, we are back to miles of corn fields.

4:50 p.m. Leaving the Corn Palace. We bought cheddar popcorn as a snack for the kids. We still have about 2 hours to the hotel.

7:00 p.m. Iowa! Cross the Big Sioux River. We can even see Nebraska just across the river. If I wasn’t so tired of driving, I would cross the river just so I can add Nebraska to our list of states for this year!

7:10 p.m. Arrive at the hotel in Sioux City, IA It smells like cows here.

7:34 p.m. Dinner at HuHot Mongolian Grill. Delicious food but there was a large group of loud obnoxious teen girls at the table next to us. The handful of adults were just as bad as the kids.

8:40 p.m. Leaving dinner. It still smells like cows.

8:43 p.m. Stop at the gas station next door. Gas is only $3.49/gallon. Wow!

Back to the hotel for swimming in the cold pool then bedtime. I was hoping for a chat with Ron but it’s Friday there so I guess he’s sleeping in (Fridays and Sundays are the slow days).

Oh! I forgot!

I realized today while driving that I forgot to tell the story about the motorcycle dude that flipped me off yesterday. For no good reason!!!

We had stopped at the bathroom then went on the short hike. While we were hiking, a motorcycle had gone into the ditch somewhere up in the curvy hilly road we had just driven down prior to stopping. The park rangers closed the road at the bottom of the hill so the cyclists could wait on the flat road while a tow truck was pulling the bike out. When we came back to the car, a ranger was there holding up traffic. He told me what happened and asked which way we were headed. I told him we were going the other way so he said to go ahead.

About 5 cars/bikes or so back in the line, a motorcycle dude flipped us off after he (I can only guess) arrived to see us pulling out of the parking lot and driving away. I suppose that he thought we were the cause of the holdup. I really have no idea what his problem was.

I bounced his bad energy off and turned it into good deeds and public service... I stopped at every car and group of bikes down the rest of the line and explained why everyone was stopped. And all of them were very nice and thanked me for telling them.

So there - mean, grumpy, rude biker dude. Take that!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Day 18

August 6, 2008 – Wednesday – Day 18

0645 Wake up

0700 Get out of bed

0740 Go down to breakfast – made it just in time to beat the rush

First stop of the morning is the Crazy Horse Monument. Looks like we beat the crowd here to which is great. We take our time looking through the museum and the gift shop then take the bus tour a little closer. By the time we’re ready to go, the crowds have descended. Our favorite parts:
Felisa: getting a rock
Bella: bus tour
Ryan: nature gate
Grandpa R: Korczak the sculptor
Lana: the history behind the monument
Sheila: the family aspect and getting a rock

10:58 p.m. Leave Crazy Horse

We spend the next two hours driving around the Wildlife Loop of Custer State Park. We saw more buffalo, mule deer, prairie dogs, and burros. We took a 3 minute hike in the prairie since there was a trailhead right next to the bathroom (We had to stop for Felisa). Lana, Bella, and I all got our feet wet when crossing the stream.

1:25 p.m. Back in Custer for lunch at Pizza Hut.

After lunch we had quiet time. The kids were in Grandpa’s room playing and watching TV while he was napping.

5:00 p.m. Time to hit the pool.

6:15 p.m. Time to shower and get ready for dinner.

We went to a different restaurant for dinner and were seated at the teepee table. That’s right – a table inside a teepee! The kids thought that it was great fun but I was a little too tall so my head kept brushing up against the side.

Then… back to the hotel and bedtime!
Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam...

Most of my buffalo pictures were less than spectacular but this one was awesome I thought!

Just a teaser to hold you over until I can get more posted...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Day 17

August 5, 2008 – Tuesday – Day 17

0154 Wake up. For no reason that I can discern other than to see what time it is.

A BIG thunderstorm rolled through at I don’t know what time then…

0400 Wake up to register Felisa for gymnastics class. Online registration starts at 0500 Eastern Time and this class always fills up before I can get in. So this time I’m biting the bullet and waking up in the middle of the night to sign up!

0540 Calendar feature of my cell phone rings to remind me to register for gymnastics. I was nothing if not thorough in my backup systems this time!

0600 Alarm – time to wake up

0720 Breakfast at the hotel. The serving area was way too crowded so we grabbed what we could and went back to our room to eat.

0754 Leaving the hotel, headed for South Dakota

0809 Ryan remembers that he left his CD bag in the hotel room. He was staying in Grandpa’s room and apparently neither one of them did a thorough check before they left. So we turn around and go back to get it.

0826 Leaving the hotel again.

0949 South Dakota!!!

0952 Motorcyclists heading in the opposite direction. Each one of them points out the roadkill to the next guy behind.

1030 Arrive at Custer State Park.

1115 Stop to see the buffalo along the side of the road.

1124 Stop to see the burros on the side of the road. Someone is feeding them and when he runs out of food, they come looking to us next. Two of them have their heads stuck in the driver’s side window. We barely escape…

12:00 p.m. Arrive at Mount Rushmore. Along with about a million motorcyclists (or so it seems) and a bunch of other tourists. By this point I am tired from driving on the very curvy road and I have a headache from the constant sound of motorcycles on the road. I’m also getting a bit hungry which is never good for my attitude. We took pictures then went to the gift shop. Then it was time to escape the insanity and head for our next stop.

12:48 p.m. Leaving Mount Rushmore

1:11 p.m. Stop at the Golden Spike restaurant outside Hill City. Hill City was closed to cars. Only motorcycles could drive into town. Everyone else had to go around on the truck route. Lunch turned out to be surprisingly good. The food came out very quickly and it was actually not busy so it was calm and quiet. A nice change after spending the morning on the road. And did I mention too many motorcycles?!?

1:58 p.m. Leaving lunch.

2:07 p.m. Stop at Prairie Berry Winery for a taste. Interesting wines. Most of them are made with different berries from South Dakota. As usual, I definitely liked the sweet wines best. Between Lana and I, we picked up 6 bottles then wondered which child we should evict from the car to make room for the wine. Ultimately there was room for all the kids and the wine. Phew.

2:50 p.m. Stopped at Cosmos Mystery Area. This place had been recommended by a friend of Lana’s as fun, especially for the kids. Lana ended up with a headache, I remained a skeptic, and the kids had a blast! Basically you tour a cabin built on a “hot spot” in the area which pulls things in strange directions such that you can practically stand on the walls without falling.

3:36 p.m. Done with our touring for the day. Time to head back to our hotel in Custer and relax a bit.

We went across the street to Dakota Cowboy Café for dinner. Another pleasant surprise in that it was quiet and not super busy. We even ordered smores for dessert… cooked the marshmallows over a small fire right at our table. Fun!

On our way home for dinner, we noticed the gas station across the street was almost empty so we went directly over. Every gas station we had passed today had been overflowing with motorcycles. So time to get our gas while the getting is good!

Back at the hotel it was swimming time then bed time. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted!

(License plates: British Columbia, Connecticut - only 4 states left to find and we'll have all 50!)

Holy Motorcycles, Batman!

So we made it to Custer today. So did a lot of people. All of them on motocycles!

We went to Mt. Rushmore, a winery, and Cosmos Mystery Area. Everywhere we looked, everywhere we went, there were the motorcycles. They were ahead of me, behind me, and coming at me in a steady stream from the opposite direction. All day long. If only the engines weren't so loud...

We also got to see a herd of buffalo and made smores at dinner.

So that's the highlight reel... a detailed post to come probably tomorrow.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Day 16

(I have backposted below the Rock Story for anyone who is interested in Days 13-15)

August 4, 2008 – Monday – Day 16

0545 Penny is barking which wakes me up.

0605 Get up and start getting ready.

0630 Wake up the kids and start loading the van.

0712 Leave

0715 Pass a house with a space shuttle mail box.

0716 Dad called – we forgot the sippy cups.

0718 Back to pick up our cups and Ryan’s Gatorade. And leaving again…

0835 Stop in Parker for gas and breakfast. $3.87/gallon.

0837 Pull across the street and stop again. Bella has a bloody nose and needs a new shirt.

0910 Arrive at Denver Airport to pick up Grandpa R.

1000 Stop at first available gas station for another clean-up. This time Bella threw up. She says she was reading too many princess stories so maybe she was just car sick. Guess we’ll be doing laundry at the hotel tonight.

1054 Wyoming!

12:03 p.m. Leaving the Old West Pioneer Days Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming. There is not immediately obvious place to stop for lunch so I get back on the highway figuring I’ll stop and the next exit or two.

Turns out there is nothing at the next exit and before I know it, there’s a sign telling me No Services for 50 miles!

12:14 p.m. The prairie out here is very windy and empty.

We passed an accident. Looks like two pickups flipped. No one appears to be hurt and a few other people have already stopped to help.

12:45 p.m. Buffalo Grill in Chugwater, WY is the next available food. And the only services for another 30 miles according to the blue sign on the highway. So, Chugwater it is. Population 244. Not much going on except a few motorcycles who have also stopped to eat at the Buffalo Grill. Oh and a word of advice – when the sign says “dip” you should SLOW DOWN. A LOT! While we were eating, a few guys came in and got to talking about the accident. No one was hurt. One guy was driving a pickup and towing another one behind him. They think the tow bar broke and the gusty wind caused the accident. Eavesdropping pays off because now I know a little more!

1:37 p.m. Leaving lunch.

2:07 p.m. Stop in Wheatland, WY for gas and coffee. $3.99/gallon. No McD’s so I have to get iced coffee from Burger King. Not my favorite but it’ll do. Lana ordered an iced tea. She added her splenda then took a drink. That was NOT iced tea! I tasted it as well (by request) and agreed with her diagnosis. Coke. With Splenda. Which in case you were wondering is not actually very good at all. Yuck!

Continue our drive towards the hotel. There are several trains out today and we even saw a section where they were building NEW train tracks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen NEW train tracks before.

3:35 Arrive at the hotel in Lusk, WY. Pretty small town. Nice hotel with a HEATED pool and flowers hanging outside all the rooms.

4:45 p.m. Go to the pool for an hour to swim. Amazing how much more fun it is when the water isn’t ice cold. They also had two floating lounge chairs that we all enjoyed using.

7:15 p.m. Back from dinner at the Outpost Café. Good food. Good service. Sometimes small towns are the best place.

9:00 p.m. Get the kids settled for bed. Ryan will sleep with Grandpa in his room. I start the laundry.

Chat with Ron…

Work on updating blog when I realize I forgot the laundry! Go quickly to change it. Notice a minivan with the light on. The family just went inside so I’ll check again on my way back as it may be on a delay. When I pass by again, the light is still on. I knock on the door to tell them. She gave me a bit of a look but after our dead battery in LA I figure better safe than sorry!

And now it is 10:18 and I’m waiting another 15 minutes for my laundry to hopefully be dry so I can go to bed.

The Rock

We went out to dinner tonight at a new steak house that used to be a different chain steak house. While we were there, Ryan needed to use the restroom. When he came back to the table, he had a small rock. He put it down on the table top next to his plate.

Ryan: Look! I found a rock in the bathroom!
Me: Where in the bathroom?
Ryan: I found it in the bathroom.
Me: But WHERE in the bathroom?!?
Ryan: On the toilet.
Me: And you put it on the table?!?
Ryan: Well, I washed it off.

Okay then. What more can I say to that?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Day 15

August 3, 2008 – Sunday – Day 15

0640 Wake up

0846 Leave the house, headed for Cave of the Winds. We tried to go to Cave of the Winds last summer but the line was waaaaaaay too long so we’re trying for an early morning tour this time. As we’re headed out the door, we see a snake in the front garden.

0911 Arrive at Cave of the Winds.

1100 Leaving… good tour. Took less than 2 hours all together including a 45 minute tour and shopping time. Our favorite parts survey:

Felisa – going into the cave
Bella – the frozen waterfall
Ryan – cave bacon and the frozen waterfall
Grandpa F – “cool” cave and watching Lana hit her head (gee, aren’t brothers just so nice…)
Rosanne – cave bacon
Sheila – Tall Man’s Headache, Fat Man’s Misery (Tuck, suck, and duck. With any luck you won’t get stuck!)
Lana – No blood after hitting head and the frozen waterfalls

1118 Stop at Primos Pizza in Woodland Park for lunch. Mmmm… Chicago Deep Dish pizza…

12:37 p.m. Leaving lunch

1:04 p.m. Arrive at Florissant Fossil Beds. We shopped (of course!) and added more critters to our travelling zoo. Then we watched the movie about how the fossil beds were formed (volcanic ash trapped insects, leaves, and redwood trees). We went on a short hike but it was spitting rain so we didn’t do the whole trail.

2:38 p.m. Leaving the fossil beds.

3:00 p.m. See a very furry llama alongside the road. Makes me think of Mama Llama. But Mama Llama is much less furry and much cuter!

3:42 p.m. Back at the house.

On our way back down the mountain I checked my oil life. I’m at 20% now. Hmm. Guess I need an oil change soon. I went to Jiffy Lube and the girl there remembered me (and all my kids) from last year. After I get back from this errand we all went out to dinner at Texas Land and Cattle. After dinner there was a full rainbow and some pretty cool clouds above the mountains with the sun setting.

Once back at the house it was time to get the van back into travelling order and start the packing for our departure tomorrow.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Day 14

August 2, 2008 – Saturday – Day 14

A nice relaxing day. The kids played all morning while the grown-ups relaxed and visited. Then we loaded up and hit the stores. Target and Costco and lunch at Red Robin. Then I got to go out by myself for an hour or so and I hit the scrapbook store, the teacher supply store, Whole Foods, and Starbucks. Everyone was full from lunch so we had leftovers for dinner then enjoyed some more peaceful evening air on the back porch.

License plate update: Alaska! Two of them! Woo hoo! Now I have mainly New England states left to find.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Day 13

August 1, 2008 – Friday – Day 13

Once again the 13th day of our trip falls on a Friday. Friday the 13th in a way. Weird, eh?

0610 Wake up. Get to have a little online chat with Ron while Lana is getting dressed. Then it is time for the kids and I to get dressed.

0733 Leave the room with all our gear, ready to check out of the hotel. The Colorado morning air is cool, crisp, and refreshing. Ahhhh….

0834 Leaving McD’s after another fine golden arches meal. The kids got to play at the playplace and we even saw the Durango Scenic train pulling out of the station.

0925 Stop for gas in Pagosa Springs, CO. $3.95/gallon.

1020 Impromptu stop alongside the river that we are following as we cross the mountain pass. We walk over and admire the river then take a few pictures before heading back to the car to continue our journey.

1131 Stop at Wendy’s for lunch in Alamosa. After lunch Lana heads across the parking lot to Walmart to buy more film while I start getting the kids shoed and sunscreened (changing from our flip flops to more suitable hiking shoes with socks as well). There is a horse trailer parked next to us with 3 horses. While we are waiting, three young cowgirls come out and hop into the truck. I took a picture but I was trying to do it without them noticing so it’s not perfect. Hopefully Ron will like it though – I took it just for him! I also made sure Bella and Felisa noticed that they were cowGIRLS getting into the truck with the cool horses.

1:29 p.m. Leaving the visitor’s center at Great Sand Dunes. Time to find a trail for a hike.

We stopped at the bathroom in the campground near the trailhead. On the door was posted a sign about bears in the area. Lana said it made Bella nervous. Our hike was short – the kids wimped out. They were complaining of being too hot. While it was definitely hot and sunny, I didn’t think it was unbearable. I think the problem though was that we weren’t walking towards the dunes but rather were just skirting them on kind of an overlook trail. So we went back to the car and drove over to the dunes parking lot. There was a small stream of water at the edge that we had to cross and there were lots of people playing in the sand and the water – kind of like at the beach. We made it across without getting our shoes too wet then we started the long hot walk across and up the dune. Bella and Felisa were still whining but Ryan was determined to make it at least up to the top of the first small hill. I took pictures to prove we were there then we went back to the car. Amazingly Bella was suddenly full of energy and ran almost the entire way back to the water’s edge.

I decided that the water at the sand dunes falls into the category of “just weird water”. I felt the same way after visiting the Great Salt Lake oh so many years ago.

2:58 p.m. Leaving the sand dunes and headed for Colorado Springs. But first, time for our favorite parts survey:
Felisa: Going up the first hill
Bella: Walking through the water
Ryan: emptying his shoes of all that sand when we got back to the car
Lana: the view
Sheila: Being on the dunes and seeing (what I believe to be) Pikes Peak

On our way out, I stop at the trash cans so Lana can empty our trash bag. It takes few minutes because the park has installed bear-proof cans. And the how-to-use-bear-proof-trash-can labels have been torn off. I told her that you just have to be smarter than the bear!

3:30 p.m. Blanca, CO has a dead tree sculpture that is playing the fiddle! Now that’s a cool dead tree!

*side note here—for some reason I am fascinated with dead trees and taking pictures of dead trees. So now it’s become a joke about all the pictures of dead trees I’ll have in my scrapbook. But really, they are quite pretty in their own way.

4:27 p.m. We have made it back to the interstate. No more winding 2-lane mountain highways.

5:56 p.m. Arrive at Dad’s house.

The kids played and we all had BBQ for dinner. After dinner we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the view and some nice, cool, refreshing Colorado air while the kids ran around burning off their all-day-in-the-car wiggles until bedtime.

License plate game update: Hawaii! And Minnesota and Idaho!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 12

July 31, 2008 – Thursday – Day 12

0600 Wake up. Get dressed, start loading the car.
0630 Wake the kids up so they can get dressed and I can finish loading the car.
0650 Ready to go. Grandpa has disappeared so I drink some coffee.
0700 Grandpa is home with breakfast burritos.
0735 Time to go.
0738 Gas. $3.74/gallon.
0747 Stop at the Starbucks Drive Thru. I wasn’t going to stop at Starbucks this morning but we were driving right by. And they have a drive thru… Really I had no choice but to stop.

0930 Crossing the Continental Divide. Elevation 7380 feet

1026 Passing by a bunch of Navajo cornfields. They look strange – so green out here in the middle of dry dry desert.

1055 Farmington, NM Gas $3.90 This area is a lot more industrial than I would’ve imagined. I guess it makes sense since it’s the only large town for miles and miles and miles. To the west there is a plant of some sort spewing smoke. Which would account for all the smoggy haze we’ve been seeing out here. It’s worse than Albuquerque. We pass a sign that says 4 Corners Power Plant so I’m thinking that must be what it is. As much sun as they have out here they should be using solar power.

12:20 p.m. Leaving McD’s in Shiprock. Service was excruciatingly slow.

12:49 p.m. Arizona!

12:59 p.m. New Mexico! We are arriving at 4 corners.



1:32 p.m. Leaving 4 Corners. We have now been to Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado in just 30 minutes!

1:34 p.m. Colorado!

2:16 p.m. Cortez, CO – I have decided that Colorado is much nicer, much more scenic, than New Mexico. I love them both but Colorado wins.

2:56 p.m. Arrive at Mesa Verde Visitor Center. We can see a smoke plume off in the distance. Looks like a forest fire.

3:41 p.m. Arrive at the Museum and trail to Spruce Tree House.

4:57 p.m. Back to the car. The altitude made it a tough hike but the kids enjoyed seeing the cliff dwelling. Ryan was disappointed that he didn’t get to climb down into the hole but there were some school groups there and the line was ridiculously long.

5:33 p.m. Made it out of the back and back to the main road.

6:35 p.m Arrive at Hotel. It is along the Animas River and we have a river view room.

6:50 p.m. There is an Applebees attached to the hotel and the sign at the front desk said that kids eat free. I have yet to have a good experience at Applebees but I’d rather not have to drive somewhere else to eat so we’ll give it a shot. Unfortunately it was another bad experience. We had to wait 20 minutes for a table (which is reasonable in my experience) and we were able to watch some of the X Games while we waited. Then we waited almost 45 minutes for food (which is NOT reasonable at all). The waitress was missing for most of the time so getting follow up service and getting our bill took forever as well. I had spilled my water at one point and had to clean it up myself. I don’t mind cleaning it, but no one had at least offered to help. I told Lana that my kids are too well-behaved in restaurants because if they were being holy terrors I bet the staff would work a little harder to get us out much quicker! The tip I left… pretty tiny.

After dinner we walked along the river near the hotel then went swimming. The water was ice cold so we didn’t stay long. Then back to the room to shower and go to sleep.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 11

July 30, 2008 – Wednesday – Day 11

0645 Wake up. Coffee and the newspaper.

0750 Shower and get dressed for the day.

0815 Catch up on my notebook – realize I need to update my license plate game. Here we go… Sonora Mexico, SD, OR, MO, UT, KS

0820 Write a letter to Ron and get his package taped up and ready to mail.

Lana and I went to Hastings to check out the used DVDs. I bought a Happy Feet game for Ryan’s new PS2 (a hand me down from my brother) and a few movies. Then we stopped by the post office to mail the package. The postal clerk was a bit grumpy over the customs form but now I know – always use the big one no matter what! We went home to eat leftover pizza for lunch but Grandpa had already given it all to the kids so we left again and went to Gardunos for lunch – yummy!!!

After lunch we took the kids to the pool then they played in the kiddie pool at the house. Grandma picked up dinner from Buca diPeppo since no one wanted to cook and no one wanted to take 12 people (6 kids!) to a restaurant for dinner out.

Over all a nice relaxing day. After dinner I cleaned out the car and got everything repacked and ready for our departure tomorrow. I missed my evening chat with Ron since I had to lie down with Felisa upstairs so she would go to sleep.

Double Trouble Strikes Again

Just a quick interjection here...

Felisa and Philip (also known as Double Trouble) have been thick as thieves all day today. Just a few minutes ago I was surfing the net, checking my email when I heard two little voices in the bathroom across the hall. Before I came in to check my mail, Felisa had been loitering suspiciously in front of the closed bathroom door but denied everything.

Mom: What are you doing?
Felisa: Nothing.
Mom: Do you need to go to the bathroom?
Felisa: No.
Mom: Why are you standing there? Is someone
inside?
-no answer so I shrug and move on-

Fast Forward about 5 minutes to the little voices in the bathroom.
Felisa: Maybe you should wash your underwear.
Mom: What are you guys doing in there?
Felisa: Nothing! (door slams shut just after I get a glance of a
half-naked boy)

I sent Philip's dad in to check out the situation. There had been a small accident. Jared took the offending undies outside to power wash with the hose and when he came back in he said they must've tried to wash them because when he got them wet, they were soapy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 10

July 29, 2008 – Tuesday – Day 10

0705 Wake up. Enjoy some coffee and chat time with Emilio. Discuss possible plans for his trip to SD with us. Find out Lourna took Seth to work with her this morning. Poor little guy! Then time to pay bills.

0936 Leave the house to run more errands. Ron emailed me while I was asleep to add a few things to his list.

1032 Leave Office Max and Target with everything on the list.

1036 Stop at Sonic for a breakfast burrito then head for Los Alamos

In Los Alamos, we pick up a cranky Seth and take all the kids to McD’s for lunch. Then we drive over to Grandma and Grandpa’s L.A. house to leave all the kids with Grandpa while Lana and I go to the Science Museum. When we arrive at the house, Lana asked Felisa if this was the right place. She answered, “Don’t ask me. I’m not the driver!”

1:45 p.m. Arrive at the museum. I enjoyed reading the biographies and experiences of different people who had been at the lab during World War II. We also watched the movie about “The Town That Never Was”. We stopped at the gift shop next door to the museum. I picked up a book that I had been wanting for awhile but couldn’t find a souvenir book I was looking for. Lana found a few more postcards.

2:48 p.m. Headed back to the LA house. Elena called Grandpa. She and Philip have been sick but they are in Gallup and will be in Albuquerque tonight.

4:10 p.m. Stop for gas ($3.78/gallon) and pick up some consolation pistachios for Lana and beef jerky for Ron.

4:19 p.m. Stop at Sonic for cheese tots and coffee. They gave me the wrong coffee drink and the new flavor of cheese tots – not so good.

Head south, back to Albuquerque. When we exit the highway, we pull up right next to Grandma and Grandpa’s car. Elena’s car is just ahead of us. We couldn’t have planned it any better if we tried! Our car stops to pick up Papa Murphy’s Pizza for dinner then the Cousin Reunion Party kicks off once we arrive back at the house.

9:15 p.m. All the cousins are changed for bed and ready for their slumber party in the living room. We turn on Bugs Bunny cartoons for them to watch.

Hopefully they’ll go to sleep soon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 9

July 28, 2008 – Monday – Day 9

0615 Wake up

0700 Call Shani to catch up on all the latest and greatest back home

0740 Ron texts me while I’m on the phone with Shani – guess it’s time for our webcam call! I get online and everyone (all the kids and Grandma and Grandpa R) come to see Ron and say hello. Ron gives me a list of things to send in his care package.

0805 Eat my breakfast burrito that Grandpa R got for me.

0825 Shoes on – time to go!

0833 Everyone is loaded up and we’re off to see the petroglyphs.

0838 Stop at Smith’s for gas ($3.82/gallon) and empty all the garbage bags in the car.

0841 ATM

0912 Arrive at the visitor center of Petroglyph National Monument. I have seen the signs every time we come to town and we are finally going to see what it’s all about.

0937 Leave the visitor center. Everyone bought something. Just doing our part to support the national parks!

0946 Arrive at the easy trail that we selected. They weren’t kidding when they said easy. That trail could hardly be called a trail. I think the loop was a whole 50 yards long. We went on the second easy trail on the other side of the picnic area and it is not much longer. At some point in my life, I have been somewhere with awesome amazing petroglyphs and pictrographs. It must’ve been somewhere in Utah. I don’t want to make too harsh of a judgement since we chose the absolute easiest, shortest trail, but I wasn’t awed and amazed by what I saw. Interested, yes. Amazed, no.

1017 Leave the trail area.

Drive to Old Town Albuquerque to visit the Dinosaur Museum and do some shopping. While at the museum we saw a show at the planetarium. Now that was awe-inspiring. It has been awhile since I have been to a planetarium show and therefore it has been awhile since I have been reminded exactly how vast Space is and how miniscule we are. They also did a short preview of a fractal show that is exclusive to this planetarium. The computer-generated pictures where amazing but psychedelic. I even had to close my eyes a couple times so that I didn’t get sick.

After the planetarium and the museum (and the museum gift shop of course!) we had lunch in Old Town. A bit more shopping. I found some awesome authentic Indian items (a tomahawk type thing and a rattle made from a turtle shell) but decided against buying them. Ryan bought an arrowhead. The girls found stuffed animals. And Lana found some southwestern souvenirs.

2:21 p.m. Leave Old Town and head home

2:37 p.m. Arrive back at the house.

We rested a bit then Lana and I went out to my favorite thrift shop and then to Target and Lowes to get the items Ron had requested. We also hit Sonic for happy hour (1/2 price drinks!) then home again. As soon as we got back the kids wanted to go swimming so we got in another short swim in the cold water before dinner. ALL of the kids went off the diving board. Felisa almost drowned me in the process but she thought is was great fun!

Dinner was noodles and fried rice – yum. Then Grandpa hooked his camera up to the big screen TV and we looked at pictures from the beach over 4th of July and of our trip to Petroglyphs and the museum today. I spent the evening uploaded pictures and then it was… bedtime!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day 8

July 27, 2008 – Sunday – Day 8

0625 – Wake up. I think that is the most sleep I’ve had in weeks!

Shannon makes breakfast then we spend the morning hanging out and talking while the kids play one of their made-up games. Dana had suggested mini golf yesterday but the weather today is just as rainy as yesterday. Hurricane Dolly strikes again!

1112 – Car is loaded and we hit the road.

The kids are hungry so we decide to head back towards town to grab a bite before we go over the mountain on the back road towards Alamogordo. When we near the interstate there is a sign warning Transmountain Road is closed. Guess we won’t be going over the mountain after all. We discuss whether or not to go the long way around or to just skip the pistachio farm that may or may not be open on Sundays and just take the interstate up to Albuquerque. Albuquerque wins.

1159 – New Mexico!

12:28 p.m. I found a Jack in the Box in Las Cruces. Unfortunately it’s moving super slow and now I’m trapped at the drive-thru.

12:37 p.m. Finally leaving. Now I have a second complaint when I call 1-800-JackintheBox. See, I knew there was a reason I hadn’t called after the Texas problems! And even after all that I still like Jack in the Box and would stop again if I saw one!

12:59 p.m. Border Patrol checkpoint. It’s been a long time since I’ve been through one of these. Apparently we look innocent enough with our mini-van full of Virginians so the officer merely wishes us a nice day and sends us on our way with barely a glance.

1:38 p.m. Police car on the side of the road with a flat tire. A few cars behind us is a Border Patrol SUV. Do you think he’ll stop to help? He doesn’t…

2:00 p.m. The first of several HEAVY rains that we drive through. These are the white-knuckled can’t even see the road type rains. We also see some big lightning in the distance.

4:00 p.m. Arrive in Albuquerque.

Grandpa is assembling his new grill so the kids and Lana and I go swimming while we wait for dinner. We only swim for about 20 minutes before Felisa is shivering and ready to leave. I give Ryan and Bella a 3-minute warning. 30 seconds later it starts to rain so we leave right away.

Dinner is delicious but apparently all the rain they got here yesterday has brought out the flies. They are EVERYWHERE! I’ve never seen so many flies around this place.

Finally it’s bedtime. On the news they are talking about all the flooding in Ruidoso which is near Alamagordo. Looks like we made the right choice by skipping the pistachios. Oh well. Maybe next year!

Hand Picture

(Day 7 added below... Day 8 coming soon!)

Some clarification... it is not a real hand. More like a prosthetic or costume hand. Two summers ago we found a prosthetic leg in the field on the ranch. Here's link to the leg stories. It's kind of mixed in with the rest of the posts and if you read backwards from the earliest date it makes more sense.



I meant to post a picture before I left Texas but didn't get a chance. So here it is now...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 7

July 26, 2008 – Saturday – Day 7

0625 Wake up, shower, start packing

0705 Wake kids up so they can get dressed and then I can finish packing

0740 Car is loaded. Time for breakfast.

0851 Leave the ranch… heading west again.

1054 Stop in Ozona, TX for gas. $3.95/gallon. We have driven approximately 2200 miles so far.

12:31 p.m. Ft. Stockton, TX for lunch at McD’s. As we were driving through town on the business loop, we saw an old man in an electric wheelchair driving along the road. Doesn’t look too safe to me!

1:07 p.m. Leave McD’s and get back on the road. Kids had a bit of a playtime at the playground. Hopefully they got enough wiggles out to get us all the way to El Paso.

2:48 p.m. – now 1:48 p.m. Time change to mountain time zone.

2:32 p.m. Sidetracked trains… I love it when I discover the origin of an expression! I talk about being sidetracked all the time. Today I saw those train cars sitting along a lower track to the side of the main track. What an a-ha moment. Those trains are “sidetracked”!!!

2:55 p.m. Out of gas! We have been in El Paso County for about 20 miles but this is the first gas station I have seen. Just as I’m looking over at the station trying to decide if I should stop there or keep going to another one closer to town, the gas light comes on. Decision made – we’re stopping here!!! Gas is $3.89/gallon.

4:00-ish Arrive at Shannon and Dana’s. I haven’t seen my brother in a year. He looks older and a touch heavier but otherwise still the same.

We grilled burgers and Dana made quesadillas for dinner. The kids (and the adults sort of, while talking) watched Evan Almighty and Surf’s Up.

9:00 p.m. In bed. The earliest bedtime we’ve had since hitting the road.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 6

July 25, 2008 – Friday – Day 6

0645 Wake up. Check my email and surf the net while I wait for the kids to wake up.

0730 Get everyone dressed and go to the house for breakfast.

After breakfast the kids are playing outside again with the cowboy guns and the rocks. All this fresh air is good for them. Mostly bug-free and humidity-free. Love it!

We decided to feed the animals this morning since we’ll be gone later this evening. When we go out to the field across the street, we find a hand stuck in a bush. There are many theories as to how it got there… we think maybe some guy was feeding the goats early this morning with his pajamas on. When he ran out of food, the sheep got mad and tore his hand off and took his pajama sleeve with it. Betty Lou called the ranch office to report it found but so far no one has called to claim it.

After all the hand and animal feeding excitement, it’s piñata time!

Lunch

1:30 p.m. Grandpa Ford, Ryan and I are all changed into our jeans and ready to head for the stables for our trail ride. This was Ryan’s first ride. He said it was really fun and pretty easy except watching out for branches. He caught one on his neck and got a little scratch. I, on the other hand, wasn’t paying attention and caught a pretty big branch on the top of my head. If I hadn’t had my sunhat on, I’m sure there would’ve been blood. Even now it still hurts. And then by the end of the ride my knees were sore. Aging ain’t for sissies as they say!

After our ride I get showered and have a little quiet time before we head into town for dinner with Grandpa H and Evelyn.

4:52 p.m. Leave ranch

6:21 p.m. Leave Grandpa’s house after drinks and hors-d'oeuvres.

6:27 p.m. Arrive at Mamacita’s Mexican restaurant. It’s like a newer, brighter Casa Bonita but most definitely not nearly as cool. Food was good but dinner was long. Lana, Betty Lou and I ordered cheesecake to bring home for dessert.

8:53 p.m. Back at the ranch

9:41 p.m. Get kids into pajamas and turn on Backyardigans. Go back to the house to eat my cheesecake.

And now I’m tired and ready for sleep!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 5

July 24, 2008 – Thursday – Day 5

0650 Wake up. Bella is already awake and playing with the mouse and cheese tic tac toe game. I check my email and the weather forecast. Looks like rain all day so we probably won’t be visiting the Alamo after all.

0723 Go inside (we sleep in the barn/guest house) for coffee and breakfast.

1000 Back to the barn to shower (me) and get dressed (all of us).

When I get back inside, James and Lana are watching the news. Looks like a tornado touched down in San Antonio.

Lunch time

12:57 p.m. Lana and the kids and I leave the ranch, headed for the San Antonio Airport to pick up Grandpa Ford.

Once we get out on the highway, Betty Lou calls with an updated forecast. A tornado warning has been issued and the storm is heading up the highway between us and the airport. We find the news radio station to listen for updates and keep driving with our fingers crossed. When we get to Boehrne, the clouds are dark and hanging so low it seems like you could just reach out and touch them. We are looking for a tornado but fortunately do not see any. I am very relieved to put those dark ominous clouds behind me. The weather is a little clearer (we must be between bands again!) until we get into the city and are exiting to the airport.

2:24 p.m. Arrive at cell phone waiting area. Lana and I read the USA Today paper that we got from the hotel yesterday while we wait for Dad to call.

3:11 p.m. Dad finally calls. His flight was delayed in Houston. It has started to rain again as we try to find our way back to the terminal. The signs are minimal at best and I end up in a taxis only lane. I eventually find a way out and back over to the passenger car side of the road. We open the door and Dad jumps in. Then we can’t find our way back onto the highway we came in on. Too much construction and too few signs. Spend a lot of time going around in circles. Stop for gas ($3.93/gallon) since we’re almost out. Get directions and finally get on the highway headed back towards the ranch. No dark ominous clouds this time, just rain off and on.

5:17 p.m. Arrive back at the ranch after a much longer trip than I had anticipated. Grandpa Hunley and Evelyn have arrived just in front of us. Must be dinner time soon!

The kids played with the toy cowboy guns and water guns outside while the grownups had drinks and appetizers. Dad got a tour of the barn. Then dinner and cake for dessert. After dessert, the girls returned to their wooden hammer toys while the grownups talked some more. Grandpa and Evelyn left at 9 and I brought the kids to the barn for pajamas, movie, and bed.

9:59 p.m. The kids are watching Madagascar and laughing hysterically.

10:45 p.m. My blog is up to date and I’m hoping the movie will be over very soon because I am TIRED!

*Update on my license plate game:
Today we saw only one new one – Mexico. We think. I told Lana it counts as – 2 points since it almost caused an accident by stopping right in front of me on the highway.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 4

July 23, 2008 – Wednesday – Day 4

0615 Wake up. Check my email and chat with Ron. The kids woke up in time to see him and talk to him via webcam. I got an email that Darby seems to be feeling better this morning so that’s good.

0715 Breakfast at the hotel. Ryan had a Texas-shaped waffle. They even had peanut butter. Just last night I was thinking that next year we need to travel with a jar of peanut butter for those occasions that Bella won’t eat anything but bread.

0817 One load has already gone to the car. We gather up everything else and head for the front desk to check out.

0824 Leaving the parking lot after refilling water, changing batteries in the cd player, and emptying trash bags. Almost left my notebook in the back seat. That would’ve been awful. I can’t drive on a road trip without my notebook to catch my thoughts.

0834 – Miss our turn onto Hwy 31. Maybe if they would actually put a sign up it would be easier to find! We only saw it because Lana happened to turn and see the sign that was pointing the other direction.

0849 Cows!!! I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more cows and other interesting scenery today since we’re off the interstate.

0907 UFWB (Unidentified Flying White Birds)

0927 Lana says she saw a deer behind a fence.

0937 Pecans! I always regret not stopping for pecans on these trips so today was the day. We stopped at a pecan shop along the highway. We also saw a dog which is what Lana was searching for. (I’m still waiting for my armadillo!)

0952 Gas at the station next door to the pecan shop. $3.79/gallon

1004 Stop at the McD’s drive thru for an iced coffee to tide me over until we stop for lunch at Jack in the Box, probably when we get to Waco.

1018 Donkey and a cow in the field

1103 Waco, TX - Getting on I-35 South. Felisa is asleep so we decide to go a little farther and stop at the next Jack in the Box.

1120 Find out Lana has eaten turtle, frog, rabbit, and squirrel at some point in her life. This is an example of one of those interesting tidbits that you can find out about someone while driving endlessly together in a car!

12:10 p.m. See a blue exit sign with Jack in the Box. Lana says that it would probably be closed. I’m pretty sure she’s joking until… we pull up and the parking lot is blocked by cones because the JITB is closed for renovation. What?!?! But I’m hungry! And I have to pee!

12:12 p.m. A few raindrops. Are they from Hurricane Dolly?

12:23 p.m. See another blue exit sign with Jack in the Box. We park the car and get out. Everything is going fine until… the door is locked. Closed. Two JITB’s in a row are closed. A worker comes around the corner to tell us that it is closed for renovation. He assures us that the next JITB is only 2 miles and it is indeed open. Do we take his word for it? I’m hungry and about ready to give up. Lana is getting pretty hungry too.

12:29 p.m. As the man promised, there is another Jack in the Box a few miles down the road. And it is amazingly enough, actually open and serving food. Unfortunately the air conditioning in the dining room is not working so I get my JITB fix but sweat to death in the process.

1:12 p.m. Leave JITB

2:22 p.m. Stop at the LBJ Historical Park in Johnson City, TX. We always drive by but never stop. We had some extra time this afternoon so I decide to check it out. Turns out we are at the LBJ boyhood home. We miss the tour of the house so just peek through the windows. We skipped the hike through the settlement area because it was pretty hot. We walked through the museum display of his political career and presidential accomplishments. It was quite interesting. I had no idea that he had been a teacher. Then (the kids’ favorite part!) … the gift shop. Bella bought a jackrabbit stuffed animal and Felisa chose a bird that sings. Ryan ended up with a book about presidents. I really wanted to buy the armadillo stuffed animal – it was really cute! – but I resisted and bought an armadillo postcard instead. We opted to skip the tour of the Ranch because it would’ve taken way too long.

3:14 p.m. Leaving LBJ park. Favorite parts:
Bella – listening to excerpts of LBJ speeches in the museum
Ryan – seeing the boyhood home
Felisa – buying her bird
Lana – the museum
Sheila – the museum in general and the stepping stones that LBJ had all special visitors sign when coming to see him at the ranch.

3:58 p.m. More hay bales in the field… which brings up a question. How many horses/cows does each bale feed? How long does a big bale like that last?

4:14 p.m. After meandering through Fredericksburg, we made a wrong turn on the ranch roads. Called Betty Lou and got back on track.

4:18 p.m. Pass a construction crew taking their afternoon Coke break in the shade.

4:19 p.m. Get a strange look (and a wave!) from a rancher that we pass along the road. I guess my minivan with the luggage rack and Virginia plates looks out of place on the back roads of Texas Hill Country.

4:39 p.m. Arrive at the ranch.

We spend the evening playing with the dogs, feeding the deer and sheep, eating dinner, showing off my scrapbooks from last year’s trip, and unloading the car. The kids watch a DVD until 10:30 p.m. and I stay up much too late updating my blog through day 3.