Saturday, March 31, 2007

First Girls weekend!!!

Whew! I would never characterize myself as a shopper, but boy did I do some damage this weekend! Two friends and I went to Stafford, VA, for a "Second Helping" clothing sale. A local elementary school (Anne E. Moncure Elementary School) holds a semi-annual used clothing sale each spring and fall.

What craziness! Since Gretchen, Melody, Kristen and I volunteered to help with the sale, we were able to shop on Friday night - the sale isn't open to the public until Saturday. It was semi-controlled chaos. Women lined up in the entryway of the school, tired from having set out their own clothes to sell, and having worked the set-up. Doors were open, and we were off. Have you ever seen a video of Pamplona's running of the bulls?

Actually, even though it was crowded, everyone behaved themselves. I scoured through the racks and tables of clothes, searching for items for my giggle of girls. I ended up coming away with quite a bit for each daughter. Since everyone is now asleep, I'll have to wait until after church to see if it all fits or not.

Of course, I didn't spend the entire time away from the girls just shopping for them. We hit Potomac Mills and the mall in Fredricksburg, VA. I'm tired, but satisfied with a job well done. Kind of like a proud hunter after bringing home its kill. :)

I definitely enjoyed some time off from being "MOMMY". Time with friends, laughter, conversation, finding interesting "things" in our hotel room... It all has come together to create an awesome memory for me to bring back to California.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kaitlin's debut.

I had the extreme privilege tonight of joining Kaitlin Gough at her 3
rd grade recorder concert. Kaitlin recently earned a "black belt" in her music class, attaining the highest level possible - only a handful of students in the 3rd grade have achieved this.

Tonight, all of the 3rd grade classes assembled to entertain and delight the parents and friends who gathered. Once the kids entered the cafeteria, there were so many flashes going off, you would have thought that it was the red carpet on Oscar night. Kaitlin gave a shy grin to her family assembled proudly in the front row, and the concert began.

It was short, but sweet. :) The excitement in the cafeteria was contagious, and the students did a wonderful job!
I remember very well learning how to play a recorder, and getting so excited when a song would come together.

Kaitlin played through all of her songs with poise! She was so calm and confident. She did a fabulous job. I am so proud of her!

Katelynn and Emily were able to meet Kaitlin's teacher and have announced "He's funny!" Beth was able to sit next to Big Brother Alec (he even let her cuddle with him). Hailey behaved ve
ry politely, even taking a few pictures of her "Nani" when Mom wasn't looking.

All in all, it was a pretty good night.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So she says...

As I was bathing little Miss Bethie-Boodle last night, she was mumbling something about someone. I waited for her to straighten out her thinking, but I was NOT prepared to hear: "I don't like you." OK, where had this come from? I wasn't punishing her, she hadn't disobeyed a direct command in the last 5 minutes, she usually loves baths... What's the deal?

The next sentence clarified everything: "I like Auntie and Uncle Rich better."

OOOOOOOHHHHH. I get it now.

She later stated "I miss Auntie and Uncle when we go home."

What a silly goose she is! Tonight she pitched a fit because she wanted to sleep with Auntie, not with her sisters. Uncle Rich even volunteered to sleep on the couch. :) I think she's working her magic on the Gough household.

Funny Faces in Cades Cove, TN

Monday, March 26, 2007

20 GALLONS of trash.

As Melissa helped point out, I've been a bit lax in my posting since arriving in Maryland. Many apologies!!! No excuse other than I've been having fun catching up on the local news, playing games with the kiddos, dealing with a #$%^&* doctor in California, settling back into a routine, and laughing a Beth.

The title of tonight's post comes from the amount of trash the girls and I accumulated from Gardner, KS to Lexington Park, MD. Melody helped me on Sunday afternoon to pull out all the YUCK from the truck. We filled one and a half 13-gallon trash bags with crumbs, papers, petrified food, and various objects of unknown origin. It is very humbling to have someone else witness the depth of disgust we created on our journey! It is so nice to actually be able to fit back into the truck though.

Today has seen several "firsts" for the Stringer Zoo. We finally got back into our school routine this morning, while Alec and Kaitlin were in classes as well. It is funny how quickly the girls settle back into a routine after almost a month of randomness. Hailey began taking 2-3 steps unassisted, today. She has discovered that she can have my undivided attention if she stands with Auntie Mel and totters toward me. It has been fun to laugh with her as she gradually builds the confidence she'll need to keep walking. The other exciting first was that Emily is now officially riding a two-wheeler. Rich took a few moments with her outside this evening, and once her confidence was built up, she took off! YEAH! What an exciting day it has been around here.

I'm going to get to bed at a decent hour tonight, REALLY! I've been staying up way too late as I enjoy adult conversation with good friends, and as I deal with the emotions of missing Scott. It is funny how being here has reminded me that Scott is oh so far away... Two months down.

Just for giggles, here are two pictures taken by Beth when we visited the Meteor Crater. Beth's perspective sure is curious - enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Stringer Zoo has landed!

It is official. The first part of our mind-boggling, life changing, patience testing, epic cross-country adventure has come to a conclusion in Lexington Park, Maryland.

We arrived around 5pm tonight, with many SCREAMS of joy - the girls screamed too. :) Everyone quickly piled out of the truck and dashed off to various parts of the house and yard. This was our first visit to the Gough House since construction was completed, so I got the extended tour.

The kids quickly settled back into their friendships, the dogs worked out the pecking order, and the adults gabbed away - like no time has gone by since we last sat down together.

It feels like I've come home again. I can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead during our time here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Maryland, here we come!

In theory, the girls and I have one 5 hours of driving time left. In reality, that translates to about 7 hours of northward movement. Add in about 1 1/2 hours of preparation time, and hopefully 8 hours of sleep for me, and we have about 16 1/2 hours until the Stringer Zoo lands in Lexington Park, MD. Since it is about 10:oopm now, that has us arriving around 2:30pm tomorrow. Of course, that calculation assumes I go to bed right now, we get up EARLY, and actually get moving in a timely manner... I think not. However, things are looking good for us to get there before dinner. Sooooooo, what's for dinner Mel? :)

Several people have asked recently if I'll be glad to be in one spot for a while. And I have mixed emotions on this one. I am so anxious to see everyone in MD, and we have so many awesome things planned, that I'm ready to get moving this minute! Why wait until morning? The kids can sleep in the car, I can catch up on sleep in 20 years or so... Yet, on the other hand, I really do enjoy driving around the country. Over the past three weeks, I've seen such beauty, met some really awesome people, had to depend on the Lord for EVERYTHING, and grown to appreciate my girls in a deeper way than I ever have before. So, for those reasons, I'm not eager to stop the driving. What a funny creature I am. The Lord sure has created me with some odd quirks, hasn't he?

I have so much I want to try and write down from the past few days, but I know I need to catch up on my sleep tonight. (Abbey's sensitive stomach kept me up until the wee hours of the morning last night.) So, I will try and gather my thoughts about our second day in the Smokies, our visit with Rich's mom (I've got a few blackmail items for that blog), and our visit with the Hassengers here in North Carolina.

Pray for the girls and I as we finish up stage one of our journey. I covet prayers for a detail-oriented mind tomorrow as I hitch up. I don't want to forget any small detail - especially since I'll be driving on a tall, narrow bridge over the Potomac River tomorrow. Prayers for diligence and attention as I drive, as well as patience with my giggling girls and their never ending excitement at being reunited with friends.

Numbers 6:24-26
May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.

Tired, yet feeling EMPOWERED.

We've had a great first day in the Raleigh-Durham area. (It's pronounced "Dur-uhm", not "Dur-HAM" by the way.) The girls and I made it up to visit with Lisa and the boys around 11am - the trailer is parked quite a bit further away from their place than I thought. After visiting for a short while, I left to get the oil changed in the truck. Lisa had selflessly volunteered to watch the giggle of girls for me while I took some time off. That was REALLY nice! I actually enjoyed my time at the dealer, chatting with another customer, and one of the managers. The manager, "MJ", grew up in Ventura County - Thousand Oaks to be precise, and his daughter graduated last year from the same high school Scott and I went to. Small world, isn't it?

The girls and I were able to visit with Lisa, and eventually Mike, for a short while longer before we returned to the trailer for dinner, and a minor repair. Ever since the Grand Canyon, I have noticed that the water heater just hasn't been heating up as quickly as I remembered from past trips. In fact, the burner flame was quite yellow, not the nice blue a gas flame should be. So, I called the trailer manufacturer this morning on my drive to the Hassengers and received some tips to try before we set up a maintenance call. I had previously fiddled with the air gap slider - the doo-hicky meant to change the amount of air the burner receives while burning the flame, and had seen no change in the flame. So, I dug under the girls bed for the air compressor Scott purchased while we were in Yuma, AZ for a flyball event. I had buried it way in the back, never thinking it would be so valuable. With the hot water heater turned off, I blew air into the burner tube, expecting some debris to come out. I did not expect a super fine black ash to come flying out! In short order, I was covered with tiny black specks that only smeared when I swatted at them. I really must have been a sight.

I re-lit the burner, no change in the flame color. Hmmm. OK, more compressed air, re-light the flame, fiddle with the air-gap doo-hicky. Voila! Blue Flame. How cool. :)

Feeling pretty darn proud of my ash-covered self, I started the rice cooking for dinner and thought I would try out my new trailer gadget. A small hand-held vacuum that runs on 12-volt power - the same as you get from a cigarette lighter in your car. Well, that was a mistake. Our 12-Volt outlet in the trailer is real tight, and the end of the vacuum power cord came off inside of the outlet. Hhrrrrruummphhhh. I proceeded to unhook both batteries and the electrical power, and fish around inside the outlet with tweezers and pliers. Nothing. I finally studied the "broken" end of the vacuum power cord, and realized a piece of it was threaded. I was eventually able to rescrew the power cord onto the piece stuck in the outlet and correct the situation.

The girls and I sat down to a dinner of turkey and rice outside on the picnic table after 8pm. What a funny schedule we keep these days. We have all enjoyed the time together on the road. I've been able to remind Katelynn lately that one reason I wanted to take this trip was so that I would get to know her better. She really lit up when I said that tonight. Each of these precious girls has been hand crafted, and hand picked by my Master to be in my family. I'm having fun getting to know their many quirks.

Lesson learned for the day: Don't randomly throw two Jelly Bellys into your mouth at the same time. Peanut Butter and Cherry together are OK - Peanut Butter and Pina Colada - not so good.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nearing our destination.

At the moment, Hailey is crawling around on the dinette bed, Katelynn is cuddled on the top bunk, Emily and Beth are actually quiet on the bottom bunk. We are listening to Adventures in Odyssey at 10 o'clock at night, trying to wind down from 6 hours in the car. Tomorrow we will get the oil changed in the truck and get to visit with good friends the Hassengers.

It was an uneventful drive, albeit a beautiful one to Smithfield, NC. (We're planting ourselves at the KOA here for the next few nights.) It was rather interesting to be pulling the trailer over, around, and through the Appalachian mountains today. Oh, and don't worry, if you've read Scott's blog today, I was not IM'ing him while driving the curlique roads. :)

Our time in the Great Smokey Mountains was just AWESOME!!! It was really cold, 24 degrees up at the top of the Newfound Gap Outlook, but just beautiful. I've never been to the Smokies before, and really didn't know what to expect. We stayed at a gorgeous campground (Smokey Bear Campground) about 10 miles outside of Gatlinburg, TN. One of the owners, Chong, took some of her precious time to talk me through the map of the area and give me her perspective on what was worth seeing while in the area. We both happen to enjoy nature, and God's creation, more than the shopping and attractions available in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. the girls and I had two days to explore the Mountains, some time was in the car, and some was spent on foot.

The first day we drove around the Motor Nature Trail, stopping to visit the Oliver settlement and take a 3/4 mile hike. The girls were amazed at the tiny size of the two room home, they didn't see how a family could live there. (Oh, how spoiled we modern Americans are!) I was so proud of my little troop as we trekked through the woods. Over and around rocks and roots, Katelynn, Emily and Beth had a great time. Hailey enjoyed the view, safe from the sling on my hip. Toward the end of the loop, Beth decided that her "yittle yegs" were tired, and the roots were too much for her "yittle yegs" to walk over. It is so cute to hear her big thoughts in such a little voice. :)

For now, it is late in North Carolina and the girls are all asleep, so I will have to detail the rest of our Tennessee adventures in another post at another time.

In the middle of...WHERE?

We are parked in the middle of a Super-WalMart parking lot somewhere in Western North Carolina. (Near Hickory I think.) What a great few days in the Great Smokey Mountains we have had. I've missed having cell phone and internet though, I'm looking forward to the wi-fi internet access at Smithfield, NC KOA tonight.

The girls are enjoying a lunch of chicken strips, the dogs are under the table praying for some crumbs. I'm "enjoying" a protein shake as I try and update the blog. I hope my cell phone battery holds out. :)

The girls are all taking turns holding up their shirts, sucking in their bellies to show how "skinny" they are. Em and Hailey do it well. Katelynn and Beth on the other hand... Well, they are just too squeezable to be skinny. *giggle*

I've missed posting over the past few days and sharing our adventures with everyone. As long as we get in and out of WalMart quickly, we should get into the KOA at a decent time. I should have time to add pictures and a few words about our latest adventures.

In the meantime, we are all doing well. The girls are about ready to bust at the seams, they need to get to Maryland quickly!!! The truck and trailer just aren't large enough to contain all their energy and giggles. :)

Off we go to pick up milk and other yummies for the drive...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quick update...

Just so people don't get too worried...the girls and I have safely made it to Kentucky. We enjoyed a FABULOUS dinner of BBQ tonight with Rich's Mom, Stepdad, Aunt & Uncle. I felt extremely welcomed to the family. :) I'm tired after driving bridges and two lane roads most of the day. I'll update on our Missouri trip when I catch a few moments tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


When the girls and I drove from Kansas City to Mansfield, MO, we past a few interesting sites. We were able to visit the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, we drove past Crazy Debbies Fireworks, and before those two spots, we drove through PECULIAR, MO. Now, I know we are in the middle of the country, and it is fairly sparsely populated, but come on. Naming your town Peculiar?

We made it to my friend Trish's house around 7pm. (Another late night, the girls didn't make it to bed until around 11:30.) What fun we had, catching up and letting the kids get to know each other better. Trish and Gene have one daughter, Madison, a funny, sparkling little girl that enjoys teasing and chasing the girls around in her wheelchair. It didn't take long for the Stringer girls to realize that they could run in a circle from living room, down the hall, through the kitchen, and by the dining room table back into the living room with Maddie in hot pursuit.

Trish is so busy, it is hard to keep up with all she does. She breeds yorkies and malinois, trains dogs for narcotics detection, plus keeps up with an active 4-year old. (You can check out her websites at and It was so fun to watch Trish work with one of her Malinois at drug detection. She let us come into her training barn and watch VJ work, after he successfully found all the hidden drugs, I was given the opportunity to handle him - WOW! That was fun. Even with an inexperienced person at the end of his leash, he did his job with style, never missing a beat or a hidden drug.

Next up, I brought Abbey into the training barn and Trish helped her to begin to distinguish the scent of cocaine, and after a few minutes, Abbey was alerting to cocaine! It was so fun! I've always said that Abbey doesn't have a very big brain, but she proved me wrong this day. She did so well, and I was having so much fun with her that I'm hoping to find something like this in California to begin training her for more scents and see where we go with it. I brought Eli in next, and he did well. He was so eager to work, he loves to try and please me.

Later, after dinner, I was then given the opportunity to be a "decoy" for VJ, wearing a bite arm. Talk about an adrenaline rush. I had been loving on VJ during the day, we worked together in scent detection, and yet once given the command from Trish, he was ready to attack me. The power in his neck and jaw was incredible. He didn't spare anything, and was quickly enticed to bite me - on the bite arm of course. I'm in awe of this powerful animal and his abilities.

We all had fun, golden dogs included. We took Abbey, Eli and VJ's sister, Jade out into the field and played ball for quite a while. Everyone was exhausted, including the people & kids. Katelynn was in love with a new pup Trish had - Turbo Turd. :) He is a blue heeler (Australian cattle dog) and jack russell mix. He was so small that even Beth was carrying him around. Katelynn was very patient, but firm with him. I love seeing her grow in her ability to relate to dogs! Working with Abbey in flyball has definitely given Katelynn confidence.

As always, this trip ended all too quickly. Only one full day to visit really isn't much, but we do pack them full.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

Our trailer has another sticker on it... We've added Kansas to the side of the trailer, proudly proclaiming where we've been. :)

Our visit with my cousin, Lisa, and her family was awesome! I feel so recharged and ready to go. We arrived in Gardner, KS around 5pm to two boys and a beagle in the front yard. Nicholas and Nathan were ready to greet their road weary cousins, and Belle, the pup, begrudgingly allowed the goldens to invade her yard.

What chaos we bring to every home we visit. *chuckle* Four girls, two dogs, a 30' travel trailer, and one crazy Navy wife is quite a footprint to descend on any normal household. Mike, Lisa and the boys handled our invasion with grace though. We were allowed to take over the basement and we used every square inch to spread out. I know we left at least one pair of socks around, who knows what else they'll uncover in the next few days.

Saturday evening we were able to just hang out and catch up on each others lives since we were last able to visit with each other nearly a year and a half ago. The kids all ran around, everyone got along so well. Katelynn really enjoyed Nicholas showing her the wonderful gadget called "Xbox", she's mentioned it a few times since we left. We also discovered that Veggie Tales will keep Hailey quiet - what a blessing computer animated vegetables can be at the end of a long day.

Sunday was a very memorable day. We were able to go to Mike and Lisa's home church (I'll get a link later - my bulletin is out in the dark trailer) where the pastor spoke about work. For whatever reason, that was exactly what I needed to hear that day. (Coincidence? I think not.) Some of his points I've heard numerous times before - Colossians 3:23-24 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Yet, one of his points really struck me. I have always thought that work was a result of the fall - a consequence of sin and its curse. However, we can see that in Genesis 2:15 that the LORD placed Adam in the garden of Eden to tend and care for it. Hmmm, sounds a bit like work to me. There is more to it than what I've simplified it to here, but I was really hit by this thought. Work was given by the LORD!

Sunday afternoon all 8 kids played while the 3 adults rested and relaxed. OK, I know you can add and 4 Stringer girls + 2 Beach boys does NOT equal 10 kiddos, let me explain. Mike and the boys picked up 2 of my cousin Tony's daughters to come and visit with us. So, 2+4+2=8, right? Rachel and Emily kept up with the rest of the kids, and everyone had lots of fun outdoors and in. That was a LOT of energy in one household though. :)

Sunday evening found us at Mike and Lisa's flock group, or small group bible study, where they are working through a Crown Financial Ministries study. It was fun to meet everyone and to feel so included. This group has been praying for my trip across the country, so it was exciting to be able to report how the Lord has been answering their prayers. Many thanks to them for their continued prayer coverage.

We all got to bed way too late - I think the girls and I are beginning to live as if we were on the ship with Scott. As a result of a late bedtime, we ALL slept in this morning, even Beth my one true early bird. After much packing, and getting lots of help cleaning out the truck, we were back on the road, heading south this time. It was tough to leave after a short visit, I felt such a connection with the Beach family, I even kept threatening to take Belle or Nathan or Nicholas along with me. :) I hope they've checked to make sure everyone was accounted for, I may have snuck someone away.

So, now we are in Mansfield, MO, after seeing many fun, beautiful, and crazy things on our drive down from near Kansas City. I'll have to detail them for you another time, as you can see by the posting time, I'm up extremely late again. I'll just whet your appetite with one word - Peculiar.

'Night all!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

On the road...AGAIN!

Our time in Oklahoma has come to an end. We crossed the state boundary between Oklahoma and Kansas just after lunchtime. Katelynn and Emily were working on some Math and spelling while Beth and Hailey snoozed or looked outside. I was attempting to stay on the road with semi's passing me and the occasional wind gust. (Lots of red vines were consumed today - I stayed up way too late recently, and the sugar kick really helped.)

We arrived in Gardner, KS right around 5pm, eager to greet cousins Lisa, Mike, Nicholas and Nathan. (Plus adorable beagle pup, Belle. I'm threatening to take her with me when we leave.) The leap ahead in time tonight is going to mess with my already confused internal clock, I'm barely tired, and it is 2 in the morning already!

I'm eager to go to Sunday School and church in the morning with the Beach's. I'll even be able to join them at their small group Bible Study tomorrow night - the same Bible Study group that Scott was able to visit when he and the "Bigs" drove through in September, 2005.

The visit in Oklahoma was fun, but short. The kids all enjoyed playing together, we even managed to get all of them sitting together last night. (Seven kids in one home - that is a LOT of movement.) Friday, Charlotte and I took 5 young girls to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It was powerful to see the field of 168 empty chairs, memorializing the lives lost in that senseless moment. We found the name of a friend of ours on the survivors wall, and the girls drew in the chalk garden. I have such vivid memories of April 19, 1995 - working out in Cal Poly's new rec center while glued to the TV news. Confused and saddened, so frustrated at my inability to help. I'm thankful we took the time to go downtown and see the memorial. Our world is so different than it was when I was Katelynn's age.

On a much lighter note, I was able to join Adam and Charlotte at their Sunday School's social event for the month. A "Penny" Auction! Everyone brought items (white elephant type of items) to donate to the raffle, and we bid for the items with pennies. I think the bidding actually went as high as $5.50 for one item! I laughed so hard, my cheeks STILL hurt. :) I ended up coming home (or trailer) with 5 Pottery Barn mugs. Perfect for this trip - 5 mugs, 5 girls.

Words seem so inadequate to describe how wonderfully awesome this trip has been so far. The Lord has truly blessed us with good health, semi-happy kiddos, no mechanical troubles, and fabulous people and places to visit. I've traveled across this beautiful country more than once, but my appreciation for the United States is growing more this trip than it ever has before. Maybe it is because of the relatively slow pace we are moving at. I'm able to really look around, listen to the people, reconnect with my family and friends. God is good.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'm a grandma!

Two years ago I became a grandmother to 4 adorable bundles of fur. Abbey gave birth in the early evening of October 17, 2004 to 3 little girls and 2 small boys. (The last boy was a stillborn, perfect in shape and size, but not destined to survive in this world.)

What a whirlwind we were in for. Little Miss Fushia, Miss Pink, Miss Orange and Mr. Purple (named after their rick-rack colors we used for identification) quickly grew into yipping, peeing, eating machines. The two months the puppies lived with us was a time full of laughter at their antics, and moments spent cleaning up their messes. Katelynn, Emily and I enjoyed our time with the puppies, but there was one who stole our hearts...
Mr. Purple.

This little boy was so personable, easy to love, and fun to have around. Scott and I briefly toyed around with the idea of keeping him, yet life circumstances intervened. (We discovered that Hailey was going to be joining our family in a few months.) Even though I knew I couldn't keep him, Mr. Purple had seized my heart, and was able to enjoy some extra perks because of it.

The Lord sure has a funny sense of humor, and this circumstance was no different. Adam and Charlotte Scott were friends we had made in our newlywed days in Pensacola, and ended up in Southern Maryland with us at the Naval Test Pilot School. Neither Charlotte or Adam were what I would call "dog people", but one thing led to another in the Lord's timing, and Mr. Purple ended up joining their family on Christmas Morning, 2004.

What a perfect fit! Cooper (as Mr. Purple was renamed) now is the much adored canine member of the Scott family. He has survived his first Navy move, from Southern Maryland to Oklahoma, and he continues to charm everyone he meets. In fact, while I've been visiting with the Scotts for the past few days, I have heard their friends say they want a dog like Cooper. :)

Cooper, Abbey and Eli have had fun playing together, and conning the humans into throwing balls for them to fetch. Adam was actually able to get all three dogs to lay still long enough for Charlotte and I to snap a few photos.

Eli, Abbey, and Cooper

Yes, I'm thankful for how the Lord knows better than I do. I just need to be reminded of this every so often.

Friday, March 09, 2007


The Stringer Zoo has landed...for at least the next two nights. Of course, it is after midnight as I post this, so maybe we're only here for one more night. Details, details.

We had an uneventful drive from Amarillo, TX to Edmond, OK. My daughters have learned not to ask me how to spell when I'm looking for our next turn. I missed the entrance to the Scotts neighborhood and we had to drive a few miles until we could right ourselves. Narrow roads in this part of Oklahoma means I'm not going to try a U-turn with the trailer. :)

It has been a fun night, I have hardly even seen my daughters, as they've been upstairs playing with Emma and Laura. Even Hailey was eager to leave my side in order to play with the toys she discovered. (It has been almost a week since she's played with anything other than silly putty and spoons.)

Charlotte and have stayed up late, two night owls, catching up on the past years news. I truly do love these visits!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

5 hour butt, and a 6 hour drive.

We've landed in Amarillo, TX, at the Sundown RV Park. Some very friendly men in the RV next door offered to help me hook-up the rig tonight. Thank goodness I was almost done. OK, maybe they were just being nice, but it was dark, and I was a bit weirded out. However, this little park DOES have wi-fi internet, so I was able to add a few pictures to a past blog, and hope to make tonights blog a bit more interesting. :)

Poor little Hailey, she is the reason for the funny title to the blog tonight. From the day she arrived, she hated to be in the car. Finally around 6 months old, she was able to tolerate it for short rides, and her acceptance of long rides has definitely grown! For the past several months, she has what Scott and I called a 30-minute radar. Once we are about 30 minutes from our destination, the sirens will open up, and Hailey will howl until we are done. Needless to say, this makes the last half hour of any trip quite tiresome, and can take the joy out of getting where we were going.

I've discovered, that she has a 5 hour limit to the amount of time her little rear will be patient enough to sit in the car seat. Since most of our long driving days are 6 hours of driving - not counting traffic - the girls and I have had to endure Hailey's screams for the final hour of most of our full driving days. I had to laugh tonight, when Hailey opened up, and the "Bigs" (Katelynn and Emily) just asked me to turn up the volume on the Adventure in Odyssey we were listening to. No sympathy from that corner, Hailey!

Now to go into more details about our own adventures at the Grand Canyon. What fun we had!!! We pulled into the Trailer Village inside the National Park about 8pm, MST. As I passed the registration booth, I noticed a little sign that said "Water pipes may freeze at night". Hmmmm. The girls and I had been watching the temperature drop as we drove North on Route 64. I glanced up at the thermometer, to read that it was approximately a chilly 28 degrees outside. Sure enough, as I hooked up the trailer to the electrical power, I tested the faucet nearby. Nothing. No showers on Saturday night, and bummer - I couldn't wash the dinner dishes either.

The girls and I slept in on Sunday morning, and woke to a beautiful day!!! It was cold, but sunny and clear. We all bundled up and prepared for a short hike into the Canyon. Yes, you read that right, I took all four little girls down the Bright Angel Trail. They were so excited to be INSIDE the canyon. Hailey rode on my back in our Kelty backpack carrier, and I gripped Beth's little hand in mine. We cautiously made our way down the beginning of the trail, over patches of ice and snow. Beth was thoroughly disgusted at the "Mule Poop" and proceeded to "eeeeewwwwwww" at every new pile we encountered. She was very concerned when we had to walk through a mud puddle, as she didn't want any mud on her shoes. This is the girl who routinely uses her shirt as a napkin or kleenex, go figure!

In reality, we only hiked about 20 minutes down the trail. It was wide and easy to move down. Once it began to narrow and become more shaded, in other words, more icy and slippery, I decided to head our little group back up to the rim. We enjoyed a hot lunch at the restaurant inside the Bright Angel Lodge, and headed back to the campground to rest and play. I rested with the "Littles" (Beth and Hailey) while the "Bigs" found a few friends in the campground. It was fun to hear them make friends so quickly with two little girls who lived there.

Monday began in much the same was as Sunday - sunny but cool. We packed a lunch and some snacks and got ready for a hike along the South Rim. We loaded up the dogs this time and drove to the Grand Canyon Village. Once we finally made it to the Bright Angel Lodge, we headed west. Emily and Katelynn were pushing Beth and Hailey in the stroller, while I kept a tight leash on the dogs. (I realize that not everyone wants a Golden nose in their crotch, even if the pups mean it in the kindest way possible.)

We quickly realized that this arrangement was not going to work. The rim trail from Bright Angel Lodge toward Hermits Rest Point is much narrower and has many hills to travel, unlike the relative level trail between Mather point and Yavapai Point which we had hiked in November with our friends the Beane Family. So, Emily held onto Eli, Katelynn held Abbey, and I wrestled the stroller full of 55 pounds of girl up and down the roughly paved trail. The dogs were a hit! Many people stopped to pet them, including a rather large school trip of middle-school kids. I received numerous comments along the lines of "You've got your hands full".

Eventually we made our way to a great location for a picnic lunch. We parked the stroller, hooked the dog leashes onto a tree branch and ate PB&J sandwiches right near the edge of the Canyon. God sure has created some gorgeous scenery, just for the sheer pleasure of it!

We pulled out of Trailer Village on Tuesday morning, sad to be leaving the beauty and majesty of the canyon, but eager for what lay ahead. We stopped in Flagstaff, AZ for a Barnes and Noble bookstore fix - I had left my cookbook "Saving Dinner" at home, open to the page for this weeks menus, and Katelynn was already running out of some of her reading material. A quick run into WalMart, and we were on our way again.

There was little interest in stopping to admire the Petrified Forest National Park, so when I began to see signs for the Meteor Crater, I scrapped the original plans. After paying an exorbitant amount of money, we were able to climb out to see another big hole in the ground. :) The girls were impressed, but wanted to see the actual meteor. They enjoyed the telescopes situated around the viewing areas, but quickly ran out of "oohs" and "aahs".

We continued on, and eventually pulled in the KOA Kampground in Gallup, NM last night. It took us FOREVER to get out of there this morning. Beth was being her usual graceful self, and I had to stop pack-up preparations numerous times to doctor her various cuts and bruises. I'm thankful I packed 6 boxes of bandaids. I think I'll be using most of them.

Tomorrow we'll land in Edmond, OK, with our good friends, the Scotts. There has been some confusion on Beth's part, as we had to explain that we would not be going to Daddy's house tomorrow. So when I tucked her in bed, she clarified that "We go see Scotts 'morrow. But NOT Daddy's house, 'kay?" Katelynn and Emily remember our special time with Cooper, Abbey's son, and are eager to see him tomorrow - as the Scotts were the family to adopt him. I'm eager for some adult conversation, and a hot shower not limited by a 6 gallon water heater. :)

The GRAND Canyon - oh, and a meteor

WOW! What an awesome trip we've had so far. We are back among the connected, with cell phone and internet. I wish I could post some pictures for everyone tonight, but my cell phone battery is running low. My cell phone acts as my modem when I can not find a wireless connection. Most KOA's have wireless internet, not this one in Gallup, NM. However, it does have a 24 hour laundromat in front of it. And believe me, we NEEDED the laundromat more than I need the wireless internet. :)
I finally got the girls in bed at 11pm, and I'm attempting to catch up on the 79 messages in my inbox. Thank goodness I can disconnect while I read them.
I will upload pictures and stories as soon as I can. Just know that we are safe, and the Lord is definitely blessing this trip.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Life is a Highway.

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 7, 2007 - Pictures added

Well, we did it. The girls and I made it out of San Diego County, and are on the first leg of our epic, mind-expanding, strength-testing, nail-biting, cross-country adventure!!! YEAH!

Of course, we left 3 hours later than I had hoped. Between my own lack of organization, propane issues with the trailer, and Hailey having yet ANOTHER ear infection (in other words, another doctors appointment), we didn't leave our house until 3pm. A few hours later, stuck in traffic on I-15 near Corona, CA, I called my sister, Melissa. She always makes me laugh. Tonight it was when she crooned "I'm on a Highway, I want to ride it all night long" in my ear that I began to chuckle. She was making up her own lyrics for the Rascal Flatts song, but didn't know how accurate her words would be.

We eventually made it to Apple Valley for dinner with my Grandma and Aunt Candace. A very late, extremely YUMMY dinner. The girls blew off some steam by wrestling with each other, causing Great Aunt Candy to giggle at their antics. After being spoiled by Grandma's yummies and treats, we hit the road again for a short trek to our nights destination: KOA in Yermo, CA.

I followed my GPS to where the KOA address was. No KOA in sight. Hmmmm. I hopped on the internet (isn't modern technology wonderful???) and discovered that I was not where I thought I was. So, with laptop next to me, GPS in front of me, and all girls sleeping behind me, I drove around the Calico Ghost Town and eventually found where I thought I was.

So, the adventures have begun. I'm so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us down the road. I have such high hopes for what we will see and do while away from our home. As long as I get to spend time with my girls and dogs, I'll be happy. :)