Friday, July 26, 2013

Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

We left Phoenix this morning after I made french toast for breakfast. It made me realize how long it had been since i'd cooked. It was such a great break, that it was actually nice to cook again. We drove for several hours and stopped at a rest area for lunch. We were glad we decided to eat when we did because the next rest area was 123 miles away. There was a lot of, shall we say, open spaces today. It was amazing to be able to see so far that we watched storms with lightening while we were in the shining sun. We also got to see several dust devils while we were driving in Arizona. Those were really cool to see too.

 After a while these cacti developed personalities. Especially the ones with two arms. This one had an arm stolen by a coyote and he's kind of sad about it. He plots how to poke the coyote if he comes around again.
 Then you get to sections where you can envision the group dynamics if they were a crowd of people. The ones with lots of tall sections are rastafarians :) or maybe it's just too much time looking at desert that gives one an active imagination....
 This was one of the storms we were watching. Not sure if you can tell or not, but the closer clouds were actually pink on the bottom from reflecting the red desert dirt.
 We stopped by the Petrified Forest and it turned out to be very cool. These trees don't just turn into any kind of rock. they turn into pretty rocks.
 We were surprised by the colors.
 It's a tree, no it's a rock, no it's a rock that used to be a tree. crazy cool stuff.
 Hey Dad, I'm still super cute. You know you want me in that picture.
We also got to see the Painted Desert. The rock layers were just beautiful.
 We actually had really great weather for our visit. A storm was coming so it wasn't super hot.
 Well, then we drove on to see a 600 year old indian village and we were closer to the storm. The wind really picked up then. It was actually chilly, but we ran and saw what we wanted to see. It was very interesting.

 these drawings were on the rocks next to the village.
After that we drove through some rain, stopped at the visitors center so the twins could get their Jr. Ranger badges, and drove to Galllup, New Mexico. We ate at a local mexican restaurant on Route 66 because we felt that we had to have some good mexican food in New Mexico, although we did pass a Taco Bell to get there :) then we crashed in our hotel room and watched HGTV till we could watch no more. Tomorrow we head to a Lake north of Amarillo, TX and begin the last leg of camping to get us home. See you all soon!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Family fun time

Wow, what a great week in Southern California. We were so glad to get to spend time with family and everyone made time in their busy schedules for us. We stayed two nights with Aunt Marlene. She taught Jillian and Suzy how to knit. Jillian was so excited, she's been wanting to learn. We went to Laguna Beach and found a great little cove for the kids to play in. Since the waves were high, we thought we'd leave the kids in their clothes so there would be no arguing about "how far in was too far" and they could just play in the sand. This lasted maybe 15 seconds because the first wave (when they were in only to their ankles) splashed up all over their shorts. Veronica was the only one to stay dry, and she really tried not to get wet. A nice lady shared buckets and shovels with the girls, and they immediately set to work building "West Coast Fort Becks" ie a giant wall of sand to block the waves. They had a blast and we had a blast watching them. toward the end, Suzy decided to play her "run screaming from the waves game" that she has played since she was two. that girl loves to run. After a couple minutes though, there came a wave that Suzy could not outrun. It scooped her up and she tumbled head over heals sideways, ending up in a seated  upright position with her feet in front of her floating as if on a board as the wave rolled in. Poor thing looked like a wet cat and we had to yell at her to stand up so she didn't just ride the wave on out again. That wave also took out the West Coast Fort Becks level to the ground and finally got veronica wet. we decided it was time to head back. we stripped the children down to their underwear at the van and brushed them off as best we could before we put hoodies on them to drive them home. Suzy had a solid layer of sand everywhere. we lifted her shirt and she looked like she was covered in fur. her pockets were loaded down with sand. She was blessed to escape with only one scrape on her arm. We went back to Aunt Marlene's and showered and then went off to have dinner with GG Marge and GG Art. We enjoyed a wonderful evening visiting on their back patio and watching their hummingbird "Red" fend off all the other hummingbirds from GG Marge's gourmet feeders.

 The next morning we had a delicious breakfast with Aunt Marlene and then packed up for Uncle Marlin and Aunt Patti's house. Since the beach was not cooperating, we called cousin Cassidy and went swimming in their pool for a couple hours. It's a fun pool and it's salt water, not chlorine, so the kids eyes weren't hurting. I hope this idea takes off in Ohio. Then we dried off and headed to Marlin and Patti's. They were so sweet and offered us a date night out, so we happily took them up on it. Aunt Marlene had given us a great coupon so we decided to use it and go to a local italian place for dinner. Marino's was delicious and the service was awesome. We then followed some of Cassidy's advice and headed to Belmont Shore. We parked our hoopdie minivan (which i had to ask mike how to spell it by the way, so that means we definitely aren't cool enough to use that word- especially because Mike wasn't sure how to spell it) and strolled with all the hip and happening crowd.   We ended up at Sweet Jill's to pick up a couple treats to share with Marlin and Patti as a thank you. We were going to get ice cream, but were still too full from dinner. We got home and realized that our poor "slightly warm" Jillian had turned into a shivering but hot sicky girl that evening. Her fever lasted all the next day, so she and I stayed home from church. Danelle still brought her kids over for lunch in the afternoon, so we kept Jillian upstairs for most of the time which was a bummer because Eli loves rocks as much as Jillian. The rest of the kiddos played happily for the afternoon, and then the rest of the crew went over to see Danelle's house and tree house while Jillian and I stayed at the house and prayed her fever would go away for Disneyland the next morning. Sadly her fever did not break, but she was very understanding  (and we certainly are praying that nobody else takes it on cruises or off to college or anything else with them). She had to miss out on Disneyland, but was comforted by a whole day of screens and a promise to go to Kings Island when we get home. Mike gets the World's Greatest #1 SuperDad award for taking the other 3 girls to a busy crowded Disneyland by himself for most of the day.  Cousin Sheri did come help make the day a bit more girlie by bringing awesome tiaras and glow necklaces for the kids after the evening parade. And Aunt Patti gave me the chance to run up to Starbucks for a little time out of the house after sitting with fever kid for a couple days.

 Thankfully Jillian's fever broke during the night before our last full day in California, so she was able to swim in the pool at Uncle Larry and Aunt Lori's house and then go to the beach one last time and then swim in the pool some more. In a very exciting turn of events, Veronica learned to swim in their pool. We took a girl who didn't know how to come up for air and are bringing home a girl who can almost tread water and can certainly jump in one side of the pool and make her way to the other side of the pool by herself. We are also bringing home slightly pinker children than we left with. There is no amount of sunscreen that can completely hide the ohio-ness of our fair skin, so we are glad that we reapplied the 50 as often as we did and guess that when you get to the point where 50 times longer than zero is still zero minutes till you burn, then it's time to come in. The girls had a great time with their cousins Cassidy and Crystal. Veronica decided to be a mini-me for Crystal and Alyssa has declared she is never going to take out the braid that Cassidy put in her hair.

Our last day in Cali we headed to downtown LA to see the Hollywood sign and drive down Hollywood Boulevard. We also drove through Beverly Hills where I accidentally sang the song about Bel Air instead of one about Beverly Hills. We then saw some Beverly Hills Cops and drove down Rodeo Drive and talked a lot about stuff that our kids couldn't give two hoots about, bless their hearts. We did tell them that some of the clothes in those stores probably cost more than our van and that impressed them a little :)

So after driving in LA traffic we decided to hit the road and head to Phoenix. It's very very hot in Phoenix. The great news is that our AC works really well on the highway, so we didn't even notice how hot it was till we stopped for gas. Then it was very hard to convince the children to get out of the car. We drove through some neat desert and enjoyed seeing all the giant cactus. The kids took turns reading out of the "States" book as we had missed reading about California and Oregon and caught up to Arizona. We got to Aunt Meribeth and Uncle Dave's house around 7:30 and enjoyed visiting for a couple hours. We saw this beautiful sunset on the way.

Uncle Dave had several appointments the next day, so we decided to hang out at our hotel and swim the next morning. Then we headed over and visited with cousin Elizabeth and cousin Andy till they got home. We got to meet Elizabeth's son Logan. He is such a cutie. I wish i had a picture of his belly button, it's just like a cabbage patch doll's belly button.

We were so glad to have a chance to sit down and visit with them, and we were especially glad that Uncle Dave was home from the hospital and we were all healthy enough to get to see him. We had a delicious Italian dinner with a baked ziti that will probably make baked ziti part of our dinner rotation from now on.We finally said goodbye and headed back to our hotel, which we are loving with it's super great price and little kitchen to cook in. If these were all over the country, we wouldn't be camping. and the fun part of it is, that it looks like this...
which totally reminds us of National Lampoon's Vacation hee hee.

Friday, July 19, 2013


So today i got lazy and just uploaded a bunch of pictures to Facebook, they're in my Summer 2013 album if you want to see them. We are having a wonderful time in LA with family. We got to Grandma Maxine's house on tuesday night. The drive from San Fran to Phelan (which is pronounced "feelin" according to the people who know these things) was pretty boring, BUT it was one where I actually drove a bit (which hadn't happened for a while, poor mike) and the kids realized that when mom and dad promised them two episodes of their new pokemon shows from Nanny they scored gold because they were full length movies, not episodes and we had promised two.... so they watched tv almost the whole drive.

We felt very loved because Grandma Maxine cooked for us and we had heard from very reliable sources that Grandma Maxine doesn't cook. The bonus was that there was even ice cream with magic shell.
We chatted till dark and then got a great night's sleep. We spent the next morning hearing stories of Grandma Maxine's travels and mission trips. We shared scarey mountain road stories and agreed that the jungle probably has more mosquitoes than Diamond Lake. probably.  Grandma treated us to Subway for lunch and then we headed out to Uncle Bernie and Aunt Jeanette's house "down the hill" as Grandma Maxine called it.

We got there in time to unload and let the children run around the house marveling at all the fun to be had because Aunt Jeanette had told them it was a "kid friendly house" and they took her at her word :) They were very sweet and drove us all to the picnic so we could have leg room and simply be along for the ride. it was heavenly:) The picnic was great. There was more than enough delicious food and the company couldn't have been better. We got to catch up with California cousins/Aunts/Uncles/Grandparents and hear all about the Portland Becksforts' trip to Disneyland and the beaches. The sadness of the picnic being over and having to say goodbye to the Portland Becksforts was tempered because after the picnic, we got to take another cousin home with us. Ava and cousin Mandy had planned a sleepover and there were 3 little party crashers that Mandy was sweet enough to take on for the evening as well. Sadly, by the time Mandy got them all to sleep, the rest of us had crashed (this is the part where our being "old" begins to show).

By the next morning, the kids had decided to draw up adoption papers for Aunt Jeanette. Who wouldn't want to live where cousin Chad lets you beat him with pillows and there are Lucky Charms and Trix for breakfast? Aunt Jeanette tried to explain to them that life is a little different when you live there all the time, but I don't think they bought it.

We had our first In-N-Out Burger for lunch. It was tasty! I have to admit that I'm a fan and that it's probably a good thing they don't have them in Ohio. We headed over to the shop to visit Bernie and show the girls where Mike worked when he lived here for a summer. They are very curious children and would have kept Bernie busy all day with questions and their desire to touch and explore everywhere. It was at the shop that i realized that I didn't get a picture of us with Aunt Jeanette and Chad and Mandy. boo. Bernie didn't get away so easily:)

Finally, we headed out to Aunt Marlene's via a quick little road trip to drive past the house where Mike lived with Grandpa John and Maxine, my goodness so much has changed. We didn't even recognize the house.

We arrived at Aunt Marlene's and settled in. Sadly, we have learned the beaches are closed because of riptides till Monday. This is something we had not really considered when planning our trip. Poor Jillian is just having no luck getting into water this summer. The pool at the hotel in San Fran was closed too. we may have to stay an extra day just to get some beach time in.

Monday, July 15, 2013

San Francisco

Mom and Dad arrived safely and it was great fun to see them "on the road". Mom and I did pretty well only chatting for a short bit when they got here even though we were excited to see each other. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was 3am for Mom, but we'll credit our self control and wisdom to conserve our energy. We planned a short day in the city for our first day and it was a good thing we did because our "short day" took us till 8pm to get back home. Figuring out public transportation takes a little while when you're used to being able to drive everywhere. We rode lots of buses and tram-thingys and a cable car though. The cable car was a roller coaster for the kids. Those roads are crazy. I think that will probably be my main impression of San Fran. "those roads are crazy". We visited Fisherman's Warf and Pier 39, spent some time in an old arcade. We ate at Fisherman's Grotto for lunch and it was delicious. We also went to the Ghirardelli Square where we got ice cream sundaes made with the world's best hot fudge. That was pretty much dinner.

Today we were a little better prepared thanks to Mike who had spent the evening figuring out bus routes and BART routes. We adjusted a little on the fly today, and definitely had a better grasp on what we were doing thanks to his research.

Crazy story of the day: We were downtown waiting for a bus when a van pulled up and a lady and her son jumped out. It was Missi Kershner, a mom I know from my Strategies group. We laughed at the odds that we would manage to run into each other, she snapped a pic and they ran off to buy her son pants at Old Navy because he forgot to pack any and it turns out that San Francisco is really stinking cold.

We hopped our bus and went to the Golden Gate Park and played at the children's playground. It was really cool and the kids had a blast running around and being free to be regular kids for a while, not tourist-y kids. they had a carousel in the park and we rode on it too. Alyssa made a friend. She is amazing at that. Give that girl 5 minutes on her own and she'll find a new friend.

 After that we went to find some lunch because it was like 1:30. Time is flying here. We ate at a little place called the Irving Street Cafe. We couldn't have had a better lunch. They were so nice. The 4 girls ate at the counter and the waitress took care of them like a mother, so we could eat peacefully at the table behind them. And the food was delicious! Simple easy food with fantastic prices. 8 of us ate our fill for under $50 and that included drinks. If we lived here, we would be regulars.

After lunch we hopped a bus back into town and headed to Lombard Street. It was crazy to see the tiny garages and driveways of the people who actually live on that street. they must all drive tiny cars or Vespas. We took the bus through Chinatown and then headed back to the BART station.

 I could definitely do the subway/train thing into downtown if they had it in Cincinnati. The buses were a little crowded sometimes in downtown, but almost everyone we spoke to was very kind.

 about 1/8 of the people smell like weed. some of them were smoking it right in the street. Veronica said at one point "why does it smell like poop" what has she been eating? why does my 4 year old's poop smell like weed? we're going to go with the general idea that she meant to convey it stinks and we can all get on board with that idea.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Portland Fun

So, I've realized I have no pictures with me to post as I am in Mom and Dad's hotel room waiting for them to arrive in San Fransisco and Mike has the camera in our room with the card on it. I can, however, tell you that we have passed the 1000 picture mark. Oh yes, friends, the slideshow after the trip is going to be FOREVERLONGAWESOME.
So just to bring you up to date....
We arrived in Portland and there was much rejoicing! yea! Ez and Hadley had made us cute little signs (yes, I'm claiming myself in the "us" because an Aunt can dream ya know ;) Cousin excitement and fun was so sweet to see. They all got along marvelously, especially considering that there was no such thing as down time while we were there. Sure Hadley could escape for a little tiny nap, but even then I napped with her one day (which was awesome and precious and she's the cutest and sweetest nap partner ever, she didn't kick me in the face once like some other "not-to-be-named" children who live in cincinnati) They had sleepovers every night that culminated in a giant sleepover our last night camping where both families slept in the same tent. Best sleepover EVER according to my children. but I have leapt ahead too far.
We ran around Portland a little, taking the kids to do fun stuff like play in a splash park, and eat ice cream at Ruby Jewel's. But we also gave them plenty of play time at home (which was Alyssa's favorite part, even to the point where she grumped a little about going out). The girls loved playing chicken farmers and practically reached under the chickens to get the fresh eggs. They loved getting the "still warm" ones.  they had meetings in the chicken coop to plan defense strategies to defend the chickens from I'm not sure what, and they built forts in the kids rooms.
We did drag them out to Mt. St. Helens one day. we did the Jr. Ranger program at the Visitor's center and had a nice afternoon there. They all got their badges and were proud Jr. Rangers for a day.
It was a great visit in Portland, and then the best part was that when it was time to leave, it wasn't really like leaving because we all went! We camped in mosquito-ville near Crater Lake the first night and then drove and camped in the Redwoods the second night and then d-r-o-v-e to Santa Rosa and camped on Bodega Bay the 3rd night. For the record the 101 takes longer than a freeway and I'm pretty sure the Redwoods are so big that you don't really process the time passing as you stare at them. The great news is that while we have gone our separate ways today, we'll get to see them again in a couple days and that has made saying goodbye easier on the kids. I'll post pictures to go with this part of the trip tomorrow night when I'm with my SD card.
some street fireworks were very fun and exciting.
The OPs at the rose garden. (that's old peeps, for you unhip peeps like me who needed an explanation from Ali)
come hide and giggle in my cabinet with me. ok. (slight paraphrase, but that's what they did)
Helping Aunt Lee cook. V is going to be a cooker when she grows up.
Making a small earthquake at Mt. St. Helens
Cousin Jason! Yea!
Lunch at the splash park
Kettle Corn filled to the brim!
Ruby Jewel Ice Cream.
We found frogs at Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake
 Crater Lake is crazy blue. Gorgeous!
Family pic for Oma
Mamas making lunches.
While the kids find trees to climb in with their Dads.
The minivan wouldn't fit, but Uncle Jeff's Land Rover drove through the tree.
And all the kiddos got to ride through too.