July 31, 2012

A Day in Minnesota

We now return to our regularly scheduled vacation update...

Saturday, July 7

We spent a full day in Minnesota visiting our friends Adam and Laura and their daughter Addie.  We actually stayed at Laura's parents' house, which is just down the street from them, as it was much larger.  Her parents are so sweet and made us feel very welcome.  We enjoyed getting to know them and Laura's brother Joel as well.

Addie had been at camp all week, so Adam and Laura went to pick her up in the morning, leaving us to have a leisurely breakfast and a bit of down time, which was very welcome.  We also did a massive amount of laundry, as pretty much every article of clothing we had was dusty and grimy from our Yellowstone adventure.  The Ts arrived in time for lunch, and then the girls launched into their adventures for the day while we grown-ups caught up on the past 3 years since we had seen each other.

The day sped by and ended with a movie night for the kids complete with ginormous movie wall and stove-top popcorn, while Laura and I thoroughly trounced Adam and Ted in a best 3 out of 5 pinochle game!  (Tee hee!)  We left after a HUGE, yummy breakfast Sunday morning and headed to Wisconsin, our last destination before returning home to Ohio.

We're so grateful for the gift of godly friendships and the opportunity to spend time together in person!

Muddy feet girls!  They went tromping through the backyard muck!

Best picture we managed to get of all the kids together!

Adam and Laura with Ted and me

Playing games

Working Our Way Toward Italy!

We interrupt this series of Vacation Adventure Reports (which were stalled out anyway) to answer all the questions we've been getting, namely, "When are you leaving?!"  Here is our move timeline:

Friday, July 27: Storage packers/movers come.  All the items that we are NOT taking to Italy are now sitting in a storage crate in the Dayton area.  Goodbye, books; goodbye, decorations; goodbye old AWANA awards and memorabilia.  We'll see you later!

Monday, July 30: Express shipment packers come.  This shipment contains basic items we will need for setting up house--basic kitchen supplies, the coffee maker (!!), homeschool books, sheets, towels, Zaden's crib, the boys' Legos, and so on.  We won't be able to enjoy the luxury of using our bread maker for awhile, but by golly, we'll have Legos to step on!

We moved into TLF (Temporary Lodging Facilities) on base last night.  We will be here for the next week or so, running back and forth between the house and base and the grocery store to fill in gaps for our many mouths that still need to be fed despite the crazy busy schedule.  (Can't we all just FAST for this week?!  It would be so much easier!)  All the items that will travel with us in person overseas are here with us in TLF.

Tuesday, July 31: Household goods packers begin the huge job of packing up all the rest of our worldly possessions.  This will probably take 2 days, or at least 1 1/2 days.

Thursday, August 2:  Movers will pack up the truck; a house cleaner is coming.  (Woohoo!)

Friday, August 3:  Final out with the property manager.  (Thank the Lord we do not have to sell a house!)

Tuesday, August 7:  Final outprocessing for Ted; drive to Great Wolf Lodge for some family fun!!

Thursday, August 9:  Arrive at our friends Craig and Mimi's house in Kansas.

Monday, August 13: Drive to St. Louis??  Or possibly do this on Tuesday the 14th.

Tuesday, August 14: Drop off the Suburban so it can be shipped overseas!

Wednesday, August 15:  Leave the country!

July 21, 2012

To Mt. Rushmore and Beyond

Friday, July 6

After a somewhat satisfying breakfast at the hotel, we packed everyone up again for our 4th National Park visit: Mt. Rushmore!  Since we were pressed for time, we only did the short walk past the flags to view it from a distance, so I must confess that our first reaction was..."Wow, it sure is a lot smaller in person!"  I'm sure if we had had the time to hike farther, we would have been duly impressed, but as it was, we snapped our pics and went on our way, ready to put some miles under our belt.

Travel went well, and by nightfall we were closing in on our destination just outside of Minneapolis, where some dear friends of ours live, Adam and Laura T and their daughter Addie.  We had not seen them since we moved from Las Vegas in 2009, and they obviously have moved since as well.  Laura's parents graciously allowed us to stay in their home for two nights, as they were away themselves visiting family Friday night.  We chatted a little while Friday night but then crashed before too long, knowing that we would have the next day to catch up.

Let's Hit the Road...Again!

Thursday, July 5

Time to leave Yellowstone...but we did take the scenic route!  We drove through the park (meeting a deliberate buffalo on the way)...

...and wound our way down the mountains and into Buffalo, Wyoming, where Ted's aunt and uncle live.  We did not have cell phone service--still!--so we stopped in the church where they attend, and Ted was able to call them from there.  Despite the lack of advance notice, they were completely up for having us crash at their place for a two-hour pit stop!  It was so fun to see Anna and John again; I believe the last time we saw them, Charis was about 8 months old!  And they are in a new house now, which is just beautiful.  Charis connected with her great-aunt Anna immediately, as they share a common passion for creativity!

We left John and Anna's house just as a huge storm was rolling in, which was great for them since it is SO dry out west.  But we had one stop to make before leaving town, and that was to go to the cemetery where Dad J is buried.  By the time we got there, it was absolutely pouring down, so Ted, Charis, and I sloshed our way to the grave site and stood just a short, reflective moment.  We love and miss you, Dad.

We headed out and made it to South Dakota, where we stayed the night at a Comfort Suites.  It was pretty much a miserable night all around; we were tired and crabby, and it was late when we got there.  We had hoped to stay at the TLF at Ellsworth, but thankfully we were able to call them from Anna's house and learn that they were totally booked, so at least we didn't go out of our way only to find there was no room in the inn.  Ted took the older 4 kids swimming after we got kind of settled; we did need to do a small load of laundry, as we had no clean clothes for travel the next day!  The little boys did fall asleep pretty fast, but by the time that happened the older kids were coming back into the room.  We dealt with severely tangled hair on the girls, delaying our bedtime, and a spasmodic bout of coughing on Arden's part that kept him, Tobin, and myself awake most of the night.  While we had had some interrupted nights of sleep in Yellowstone, those were tame compared to this night.  The only saving grace was that our driver and the baby were able to sleep through most of it!

Pictures from the Camp Site

Arden rocks the lens-less sunglasses, doesn't he?!

Outside shot of the trailer

Eating dinner in the stroller

Lucan is winking!  And borrowing a neighbor's Strider. :-)

Kenna, our social butterfly, of course found friends to play with!

Charis told stories to Kenna and Lucan before bedtime, using stuffed animals as characters.

Yellowstone, Day 3

Wednesday, July 4

This last full day in Yellowstone was a lot of fun, but we did start our day with a big damper--Kenna took a huge tumble when the kids were walking with Ted to see a closer view of one of the waterfalls.  Oh, was she screaming!  Her knees and hands were scraped up pretty badly, and it took a good half hour or so of nursing her wounds to get everything clean and bandaged up.  So, she was pretty much done for the day before we even hit lunchtime!

It was easy to see that the kids were starting to weary of constantly getting in and out of the Suburban, so not everyone hopped out on the majority of our stops.  Ted and I took turns getting in and out, and we were able to see some gorgeous sites.  One of the highlights of our whole Yellowstone experience was hiking down to see the Lower Falls--the rainbows were so amazing! Tobin and I hiked down together, and Charis and Ted went after we got back.  The little ones NEVER would have made it down the steep hills and over 325 stairs!

So, we did a LOT of exploring this day!  Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the Upper & Lower Falls, and more.  It was so awesome to see such a variety of terrain, and we enjoyed being able to take our time and explore--when Ted and I were here 14 years ago, I think we had 2 days to "see it all," and the weather wasn't nearly as wonderful as the weather we enjoyed this time around.  (We had rain, hail, snow, and fog all in one day that time; I remember that we bought sweatshirts because we were unprepared for COLD weather, being in the middle of a move from Texas to Idaho in the middle of the summer!)

Favorite pictures from the day; here is the whole album.

Lucan and Charis...Yellowstone Lake

Charis and Tobin overlooking Sulphur Cauldron.  (See the buffalo off to the right?!  He was rolling in the dirt!)

Ted with the kids at the Upper Falls overlook; Kenna and I were in the parking lot nursing her wounds from the nasty fall she took on the way to see the view.

On the way down to see the Lower Falls.  The hike was strenuous but worth the effort!
Charis made it, too! Beautiful!

Yellowstone, Day 2

Tuesday, July 3

Our second day at Yellowstone also involved meeting up with someone--one of Ted's good buddies from his deployment!  Barclay, or "Potsie" (his call sign), and his wife were visiting family in Montana, so he and Ted had arranged to meet up so we could meet each other's families.  (Well, he is a newlywed, so we met his sweet and beautiful wife Natalie!)  Amazingly, once again, even though we had no cell or internet connections, God allowed us to meet up without prior arrangements!  We had a leisurely morning at our camp site, then took a picnic lunch with us and made our way north to Mammoth Springs.  (Flagg Ranch, where our trailer was, is at the very southern entrance of the park, so it takes awhile to get anywhere!)

We made a little side trip through the Firehole Lake Drive area, where Charis and I got out and walked a ways with Ted puttering along the road.  Then at lunchtime we were at Mammoth Hot Springs for our picnic with Barclay and Natalie.  We enjoyed visiting and then seeing the Mammoth area before parting ways.  The friendship between Ted and Barclay was a huge answer to prayers, both mine and Natalie's, as we had prayed for our husbands to have close Christian fellowship during their year overseas.  We look forward to being in touch with this couple in years to come and seeing how God blesses them!

Charis and I explored the Artists Paint Pots area on our own, which was good in that it was 1/3 of a mile walk one way, so it took us awhile, and the little ones never would have made it.  But not so good in that Ted was stuck in the Suburban with some crabby kids!!  He deserves a medal. :-)  Then we drove by the canyon area and took a quick look at the Upper and Lower Falls, with the intent to come back and explore them more fully the next day when we had more energy.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day; view the whole album here.

Tedro & Potsie

Arden and Tobin at Mammoth Hot Springs

Charis & Kenna at Orange Mound (or something like that)

Lucan and Kenna join Ted and me with Barclay and Natalie

Charis and I at the Artists Paint Pots area
Overlooking the Lower Falls from a distance

Upper Falls

Dragon's Breath Cauldron at the Mud Pots area

Yellowstone, Day 1

Monday, July 2

Our big event for the first day of our Yellowstone adventure was meeting Rhonda with Great-Grandma Shirley at Old Faithful!  Rhonda had driven to Montana after meeting up with us in Idaho to spend time with her mom and family in Butte.  It had been over 7 years, I think, since our whole family saw Grandma Shirley, so it was a blessing to be able to introduce the latest family members to her.  We met up pretty well, which was a total miracle, because Ted and I had NO cell phone service the entire time we were in Wyoming.  We prayed as we pulled into the parking lot that God would help us find Grandma, and sure enough, she came driving by as soon as we started walking toward the geyser viewing area!

We enjoyed visiting and having a picnic lunch around the Old Faithful area and watched the eruption twice, which was very cool.  The visitors' center area had been completely built up since Ted and I were there 14 years ago, and there were some great things for the kids to see and do.  We're calling our whole experience at Yellowstone "science class." :-)

After we said goodbye to the grandmas, we went to the Excelsior Geyser Crater area.  This was a spectacular area to explore--so weirdly beautiful, just extraordinary with the colors and smells.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from this day; you can view the whole album here.

Walking around our camp ground area

Thar she blows!

The kids with Ted and Rhonda

Great-Grandma Shirley with a smiling Zaden!

This was probably one of our very favorite places to explore--so amazing!

Family pic!  

July 16, 2012

On the Road Again

Sunday, July 1

We left Mountain Home at a pretty reasonable time after I did my best to leave Mr. M's house as spic and span as possible!  He's a bachelor, so I'm pretty sure I left it a lot cleaner than we found it, heh!

On our way to Yellowstone, we took some time to tour Craters of the Moon.  It had been years since Ted and I were there, and since we had visited with our dog, who was only allowed on certain trails, we had never even realized there were caves to explore.  So, after we hiked up and saw a couple of cinder cones, we took a trail to Indian Tunnel, one that we did NOT need a flashlight to explore, and let the kids climb around.  We probably spent at least a couple of hours there before getting back on the road.  (For more pics, see the album here.)

The next leg of our journey took us through Jackson, Wyoming, and through the Grand Tetons.  We were getting there in the evening, and it was just so beautiful!  We made our way to Flagg Ranch, which is where our rented RV trailer was parked.  Mountain Home AFB owns 11 of these trailers that are parked there from May through November.  We had reserved one for our stay two months prior to the trip.  The reservations clerk told me that only 6 people were allowed in the trailers, but when I asked, "Even if two of them are babies?" she put me on hold and spoke to her manager.  We ended up getting special permission to have all 8 of us there, with the caveat that we REALLY needed to make sure we left the trailer clean so as to avoid the $100 cleaning charge!  Well, that was a no-brainer...of COURSE we always try to be good stewards of the places we stay!  So, anyway, our trailer was waiting for us, and we had plenty of light for making beds and settling in.

It was a tight squeeze indeed, but we managed:  Charis and Arden were each on a bunk; Kenna and Lucan shared the dining table that folded down to make a little bed; Zaden's pack-n-play was placed between the table area and the couch, where Tobin slept; and Ted and I shared the "queen-sized" bed at the end.  Our trailer was right next to the shower house, which was nice, as the teeny shower in the trailer really wasn't conducive to my or Ted's preferences.

It took awhile, but finally we got kids settled down and got a reasonable amount of sleep, which was good, since we were eager to explore Yellowstone Park the next day!

Zaden and I hang out in the cave.

Cinder cones in the background

Tobin and Lucan


In Jackson, WY, Zaden decides to take over the wheel!
A view from Ted's and my bed"room" to the other end of the trailer.  This is with the pack-n-play down, but at night, it was in front of where I was sitting, where the stroller is.  Lucan and Kenna slept on the little dinnette fold-down table across from the tiny kitchen area, and the bunks are at the back left behind the wall and next to the bathroom door.

July 15, 2012

Friends & Family in Idaho

While we were in Idaho, we were privileged to be able to visit with Ted's sister and family, who drove over from Oregon to see us for a bit.  Ski, Clint, Megan, and Tabitha had stayed with us in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving 2008, so it had been awhile since our families had gotten together!  They drove in Wednesday of Commission week, and Rhonda drove up from Colorado so she could see them as well.  (She was headed to Montana to visit her mom and family in Butte.)

We visited Wednesday evening after Commission activities were finished, and then the kids and I spent a leisurely morning with all of them before going to lunch at McDonald's.  Then Rhonda hit the road to get on to Montana, and I did a quick shopping trip to buy Kenna a bathing suit so she, Tobin, and Arden could swim with their cousins at the hotel pool for the afternoon.  We joined up again at the school for dinner and the evening Commission activities, and then we got to visit some more before bedtime.  Their family headed out Friday morning.
Tabitha loved holding Zaden!

Tabitha and Kenna--these girls had SO much fun together!

Rhonda, Ski, Meghan, Clint, Arden, Tobin, and Tabitha in front

We're just missing Charis, who was with the Commission campers.

Ski with Zaden, who had a fixation with water bottles that week. :-)

Saturday after our Commission clean-up was over, we went to John and Michele R's house for a barbeque.  Their daughter Andrea, who was in the youth group when we were stationed in Idaho, was visiting with her little boy Keaton.  They live in California, where her husband works way out in the middle of nowhere.  Michele and Andrea did a wonderful job of preparing yummy cookout food, and John grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks for us, so we were very well fed.  Andrea even made some patriotic lemon cake pops that were oh-so-yummy!  It was fun to have more time to visit with them.  Andrea and I had chatted a bit in passing throughout the week, but we were busy with kids and didn't really have much time to catch up, so it was a blessing to get together and just relax before our next road trip adventure.

Ted and Zaden

Andrea and a very sleepy Keaton!

John, king of the grill!

Michele, Andrea, and Keaton