Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Summer Vacay - Stop 4 - Part 1: The Happy Campers

Of course it happens that every time we set off on a road trip, we are motivated to sell off everything and travel the country.  Permanently.  This trip was no different.

While on our amazing road trip this past summer, Charlie and I did what we do best:  We questioned everything about life - what we were doing - where we should be - and if any course adjustments were necessary.   Seven months later: the jury is still out. 

There is something so incredibly freeing about just taking off with everything you need to survive in the vehicle you are driving.  You have no responsibilities, except arriving safely - and enjoying the journey.  We listen to books on tape, read stories, sing songs, listen to music and talk radio, play games like, "I'm thinking of an animal…" and "This is the game of concentration - no repeats or hesitation … category is: sedimentary rocks!"  And the kids all get frustrated with Charlie and I because they don't appreciate geology categories as much as their parents do.




After spending an amazing time with Charlie's family - we loaded up our trusty 11-year old minivan which was absolutely packed to the brim, with all of the supplies and camping gear we would need for our three week vacation.  And in that space between the driver and passenger seats, Kathy gave us an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden.  And then - just as we were pulling out of the driveway, Steve eyed a minuscule patch of space on Henry's lap and quickly darted in to the house returning with - of all things - a baritone.   Yep.  Let that soak in.


I'm not sure what we ever did to hurt Steve … but there you have it.

"No, really, I insist.  It is because of my affection for you, the children must take this horn to play on the nearly 2,000-mile drive from northern California to southern Texas. Isn't that right, children?!" 



Once we departed Santa Rosa, we continued on - partially deaf - to the southeast for Calaveras County; the gateway to Yosemite National Park.  It was in Angels Camp, that we tread in the footsteps of Mark Twain … and learned all about the jumping frogs.  They really exist!


We toured the historic town, ate peppermint stick ice cream (our favorite)…


And Charlie and I had a Ms. Pac-Man showdown wherein I impressed the socks off our children by landing the HIGHEST score on this arcade game (NOTE: my video game ability rises and sets on this game, only.  With two quarters and a Ms. Pac-Man table game … it's on like Donkey Kong.)


After touring the town, the kids, not me because I'm not totally cra-cra, swam in a ridiculously cold campground swimming pool; and then we settled down with a game of cards around our campfire - before climbing in to our newly pitched, 8-man tent that had been set up in a picturesque location.  Thankfully, there wasn't any inclement weather or wind, because after we set it up, we realized that we had TWO remaining poles.  Oops.  Instructions would have been useful.


The next day, we woke up at the crack of dawn - ate fresh vegetables from Kathy's garden for breakfast - and continued southeast to Yosemite National Park, the first of what would be five national parks that we would visit over the next five days on our beautiful drive back to Texas.

Hop on back soon for more to this story.

Get it? Hop? Like a frog?


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Summer Vacay - Stop 3 - Part 3: The Russian River

Yes.  I know.

It's nearing the end of March, and I'm still writing about our summer 2016 vacation.  Seeing as summer 2017 vacation starts in approximately ten weeks … I better hurry up and finish this series, or my blogging backlog will be seriously out of control.  Especially since I also need to write about Charlie's 50th birthday surprise, and 2017 Spring Break - which concluded, today. 


So, the day after our amazing anniversary celebration, Charlie's brother - Steve, and his incredible wife, Kathy … and Charlie's sister - Susan, and her brilliant husband, Jeff … and their awesome daughter, Jessie - all took off for a day of paddling on the Russian River.


We had so much fun, together.


Even though Charlie and I - and our children - are a big group in and of ourselves … we are part of a much larger family, and when even a portion of us all get together - it really is an awesome sight.  Being together on the river in our canoes and kayak - gave me that feeling that we were WITH our tribe, and it was spectacular.  

Jessie, our wildlife biologist - who actually works in remote places like Alaska, tagging owls and tracking wolves, was in the kayak - while the rest of us were in canoes.


Kathy and Steve, with Elizabeth and William. 


Susan and Jeff, with Carolyn. 


Charlie and I with Henry.   


Our "assigned" boats didn't stay as such for long … after less than 30 minutes, people started moving vessels.  Henry made his transition while underway.


Elizabeth abandoned ship, when Uncle Steve took a nap.


She rendezvoused with Jessie on the kayak.


Then Jessie migrated to a canoe, and Elizabeth and Henry took off on the kayak.


Then Charlie was in the kayak.


Then Jeff.


Then all the kids … and the kayak partially sank.


Then our very own Chief Smaka, suggested that we stop for a picnic lunch.


Kathy is Julia Childs, Martha Stewart and Paula Deen all rolled in to one … so you might imagine that her idea of a picnic lunch was a big step up from my typical PB&J, Cheez-Its and apple slices.  Since she had planned this event weeks in advance, every detail was meticulously executed.  From the coolers that had been stored at a specific take-out location; to the linen blankets that we sat upon.  To the humongous focaccia sandwiches that she had prepared with vegetables grown in her own garden. To the chocolate chip cookies, pita chips, and ice cold drinks.


And, to make it all the sweeter, our picnic stop just so happened to be in an area that was overrun with wild blackberries.


It was a beautifully perfect day.


Made all the better because of the fantastic family members we were so fortunate to spend it with.


Monday, March 06, 2017

a spot of roundhouse kick tea

I've developed an addiction to green tea and honey.  I'll have at least two cups of it, every day, and am convinced that concoction has healing powers.  I can definitively say that whenever I feel myself coming down with a cold - or general fatigue - a cup of green tea and honey will soon make me right as rain.   It's remarkable! 

For my entire life, I've always been prone to respiratory infections and would catch everything that the children brought home. But since my green tea and honey ritual, my immune system is as strong as Chuck Norris.

Why Chuck Norris?

Because Charlie and one of his colleagues have this ongoing discourse of jokes about Chuck Norris. Each day they try to out-Chuck-Norris each other.  It's totally juvenile and hilarious.  I've learned that there are entire website (s) devoted to Chuck Norris jokes and Charlie now has most of them committed to memory.   Here are a few that I can remember:

Chuck Norris can ride a motor. Without the cycle. 

When Chuck Norris does push-ups, he doesn't push himself up - he pushes the earth down.  

Chuck Norris will never have a heart attack, because his heart isn't fool enough to attack him. 

When Chuck Norris was born, the doctor cried. Never - ever - slap Chuck Norris.  

All this to say, green tea and honey is tough stuff.  And best of all, a few of my children enjoy drinking it, too … it's truly a highlight of our day sitting down with each other over a cup of tea.

Moments after I took this picture, William said to me, "Mom, did you know that Chuck Norris was born in a log cabin … that he built with his bare hands?" 


So not only are my habits rubbing off on the children, it would appear Charlie's are, too!