Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life after the BFFRVV...

Since we've been home for two and a half weeks now, I guess I should update on life since our big trip!

First some random things that weren't photographed:

I watched Florence Foster Jenkins with a friend (the hilariously true story of an opera singer who couldn't sing!)  Meryl Streep was fantastic.

Caleb ran his first non stop mile on October 12th in 12:07!

The kids started AWANA again (after missing the first few weeks while we were gone).

I did my second self defense class with Fearless and Female (with a few friends):

 The whole group

 Melissa and I with "Bob"

Our friends, Taylor and Rachel not being so kind to Bob

At our second week back to CC, I was in Keenan's class and the teacher did a fun review game where the kids had to put on a costume piece if they got an answer wrong (they had an uneven number of kids to pair up, so I ended up playing too).  I don't think many of us actually got answers wrong, we just really wanted to dress up;)

Haha! (well, everyone except Keenan wanted to dress up!)

A close up of my 'stache

We hosted some of our house church friends for Canadian Thanksgiving!

My fall mantel (with help from some borrowed decorations from a friend)

Serving up the spread!

Our friend, Bonnie, made butter tarts!   Katie picked up another "Canadian dessert"...maple cookies (actually made in Canada!)  =)

The whole group
(L- Jon, Bonnie, Josh, R - Drew, Lindsay, Katie)

After a delicious dinner, we opted to play some games...and the genders chose Very different games from each other =)  
The girls opted to play Whoonu, Dixit and Speak Out...

...while the guys played one intense game of Seven Wonders

Moving on to some things our creative kids have made recently...
Keenan and Moriah with a fun rainbow craft they made at Bible study the week we were talking about the flood in our Genesis study (Caleb wanted to get in there too)

Caleb with his set of homemade armor

Moriah with an elephant she drew at CC

Moriah and Caleb with headpieces they made

Keenan's Giant Lego pyramid!

Yesterday, on the 14th, we and a bunch of friends showed up for the KAFP-F (Kansas Academy of Family Physicians Foundation) 5K, and it got cancelled because of storms!  =0/  Boo!  They did, however have all you can eat pancakes so most of our group thoroughly enjoyed that anyway. ;)

Philip renamed the race from "Let's Run, Kansas" to "Let's Eat Pancakes"

After the race I went to the hospital to take pictures of this little beauty.    I may or may not have mentioned on the blog two years ago when I took birth photos for this baby's mom when she delivered a tiny baby, Nevaeh, who had multiple congenital abnormalities and only lived for five days.   After that, the family moved to Texas and we lost touch.    This summer, I ran into Tajah (the mom) when both of our kids attended the same VBS!  They had moved back to Wichita and she was pregnant with another baby girl, this one healthy!   She was born on the 13th and Tajah asked if I would come take some photos at the hospital.   This was a Much more joyous event!

Ni'omi Hope

There was another exciting thing that happened this week, but I will post about it in a couple days after I get some photos... =)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Big Fat Family RV Vacation (September 2017) Summary and Index

Since our September 2017 Big Fat Family Recreational Vehicle Vacation (BFFRVV) took up so many posts I've decided to create this index for the whole trip to make it easier to find specific posts (just click on any of the links below to open that post in a new window)...

Days 1 and 2 - First Two Days (Colorado and Las Vegas)

Day 3 - Death Valley and The Bellagio

Day 4 - Home Sweet RV!

Days 5 and 6 - Zion National Park, Utah

Day 7 - Canyon View Hike (Zion) and First Day at Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 8 - Bryce Canyon and Hiking the Hoodoos

Day 9 - Arches Hike in Red Canyon and Travel to Grand Canyon (North Rim)

Day 10 - North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Day 11 - Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam

Day 12 - Monument Valley, Mexican Hat and Four Corners

Day 13 - Mesa Verde National Park

Day 14 - Treasure Falls, The Continental Divide and....Our 13th Anniversary!

Day 15 - Great Sand Dunes National Park

Days 16 and 17 - Urgent Care, Travel To Denver, Pack Up... Drive HOME!

BFFRVV Days 16 and 17 - Urgent Care, Travel To Denver, Pack Up... Drive HOME!

On our second to last day I woke up still in a Lot of pain (despite alternating Tylenol and Motrin around the clock).  I dreaded each time I would have to swallow.   It was time to find an Urgent Care.   Philip found one an hour away, so we made the second Urgent Care visit of the trip, this time in Pueblo, CO.   They charged us way too much and confirmed what we already suspected, that I had Strep Throat!  =0/

Fortunately, it was right across the street from a Walmart, so we were able to pick up my medicine there.   The kids were happy to provide entertainment while I waited:

Such sweet children

This might be one of my favorite pictures of all time =)

Next, we drove to Aurora, CO and picked up the van from my friend Andrea.   We gave her a brief tour of the RV and then drove about 20 minutes to Cherry Creek State Park, where we were staying that night.   Then it was time for full on packing/unloading mode!    You wouldn't believe how many nooks and crannies and cupboards and storage compartments there were in that RV to clear our stuff out of!   The whole process actually went really smoothly and surprisingly fast!

We also did laundry while we were there and the kids were delighted to find that the State Park had a Junior Ranger program for them to do and earn one last badge!

Here is the complete set they each earned on this trip!   Pretty impressive!

We fixed our last dinner in the RV (which beautifully helped us use up the last refrigerated/frozen food (other than what we'd need for breakfast the next morning).

Sorry about the lack of photos in this post... since I was sick, there weren't any planned activities or hikes or special places on this day, and since I'd already taken so many by this point, I guess I was just done =)

On the 28th, we packed our final stuff into the van, I drove it behind the RV and we left the campground, filled up the propane tanks, the (ginormous) gas tank and went to Road Bear to drop off the RV.   The checkout process took FOR-EVER because there was a group in front of us and because they have to check over every.single.tiny.part of the RV to make sure nothing is wrong with it before they let us go.

I thought this comparison was amusing

Finally we were ready to start the 7 hour drive home!   We listened to a bunch of Adventures in Odyssey, (thanks, Tim and Steph!) had lunch, I did a bunch of blogging, we stopped at Subway for dinner before reaching home at 8 pm.


Our friend, Wendy, had gone grocery shopping for us, so was waiting for us in the driveway and stocked the fridge....And left us dinner in the crock pot for the next day (after our busy CC day!)  What a blessing she is!

Oh wow... home.  It felt like a Month or more since we'd been there!   We were all happy to be back in our own beds, and I was happy to once again have a bathroom that I could move around in and couldn't touch every wall without moving an inch!  ;)

Here is a map of our entire trip with some stats to follow:

16.5 days
1 flight
1 rental house for 3 nights and 1 hotel night
2 rental vehicles (not counting the RV)
6 National Parks (first ever for the kids and 5 new for the adults) plus multiple other National Monuments, Forests and Recreation Areas
2 Navajo Nation Tribal Parks
5 new states for Keenan, 4 new states for Moriah and Caleb, 2 new states for Philip and me
1 thirty-two foot RV, and in it:
     1,445 miles travelled
     181 gallons of gas consumed (at 7.97 miles per gallon)
     10.9 gallons of propane (water heater, furnace, stove and oven)

1,250 photos snapped
35 million pieces of sand collected on bodies, in hair, pockets, shoes, ears and noses
35 meals prepared 
49 state license plates plus DC spotted, missing only Hawaii

With the drives in the 2 rental vehicles, we traveled nearly 3,000 road miles, with an additional 628 miles in flight.

The Lord tremendously blessed us with good weather and safety throughout the trip.  The most severe injuries were scraped knees and sore muscles.  We didn't have any rain until the last two days after we were done with all of our planned outdoor activities and even then He gave us a break in the rain during our time unloading the RV to repack the van.  We had beautifully cloud free skies at Bryce during the new moon to reveal awe inspiring views of the stars (and Saturn!) but partly cloudy days during most of our hikes to keep us cooler.

What a great trip and wonderful family memories we made together the past 2 weeks.  I am So grateful to Philip, who outdid himself planning this trip!   I certainly don't think we're going to do an RV trip every year (Philip says the driving is too stressful for him to do it that often) but it is certainly something we would consider in the future to visit the west coast, or the northwest national parks like Glacier and Yellowstone...maybe a Canadian trip to some of the provinces we've never visited!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

BFFRVV Day 15 - Great Sand Dunes National Park

When I woke up on this day, I. Felt. Miserable. I was in tears from exhaustion (I felt like I'd woken up about a hundred times in the night), my head and chest hurt, I had sweats, and my throat felt like I was swallowing knives. Philip looked in my mouth and confirmed that my tonsils looked pretty bad. After a shower and some Motrin, I felt a little more like greeting the day.

I was able to take a nap on the way to the Sand Dunes.   (Full disclosure:  This was the one day of our trip that I wasn't very excited about.   I don't love sand in my shoes, or blowing sand, or being hot, or walking up hill in sand.... (do you see a theme here?) 

Fortunately, the sand dunes looked gorgeous (and rather innocent in these photos) and it was quite cool, not hot, so that helped a lot!

We looked around the Visitor's Center for a bit and then drove to the parking lot where you start hiking from.   Almost immediately, we had to cross a river (but it was nearly dried up, so it involved hopping and jumping over small areas of flowing water and trying to choose the most firm patches of wet sand to step on).

We had rented a couple of "sand sleds" and Philip and Keenan carried those for us.  This proved to be one of the best investments of the trip =)

Caleb's first time trying it out!

There he goes!

Keenan very quickly looked like this

I'm not exactly sure what is going on in this picture, but I like it 
(the man in the background is the one who took this next picture for us)

What a different landscape than what we had been seeing in previous days!

It was quite windy (although it didn't really blow sand in our faces, just kept trying to blow my hat off).  We had the camera in a zip lock bag to protect it, though.   Walking uphill in the sand was not fun, especially when the sand was really soft.    I decided to go barefoot and carry my shoes, which ended up being (one of) my best decisions of the day!  (the other one comes up soon).

THAT's more like it!!  (I LOVE sand between my toes when they're not inside my shoes!!)

I decided to give the sand sled a try and Caleb came with me:

Desperately hoping I don't regret this!

Even with a push from Philip we didn't go very far or fast.   There.  I tried it, I didn't get sand anywhere that sand shouldn't be.  I stopped while I was ahead. =)

Philip's intent was to reach the top and I had no intention of doing that, but kept climbing as far as I felt okay to do so (definitely wasn't up to my full potential, being sick).  We finally reached a point (about 3/4 of the way up) where I felt done and so while they went on ahead I found a relatively flat spot out of the wind, sat down, made myself comfortable and watched them climb the rest of the way.  Shortly after they left me, I had a brief pang of regret and stood up and grabbed my water bottle and almost followed but.... then thought "No way, I don't want to keep climbing in the sand!  What am I thinking?? I'm perfectly happy right here, having a quiet break by myself!"  So I sat back down, set Keenan's hiking boots to put my head on, laid back and enjoyed a Glorious rest in the warm sun, watching proudly as my family climbed to the highest peak we could see.  (It ended up being the second highest, but they had no desire to climb further once they got there!)  Interestingly I could hear their voices quite clearly all the way to the top, though they couldn't hear me.

Philip took these next few as they climbed:
Ha!   I think Caleb looks like an old man here!

Keenan and Moriah at the top, ready to slide

Caleb felt that it was too steep and opted to slide down on his bottom =)
(Look at those beautiful mountains in the distance!)

There they go!

Starting to get a sand wake going!
(I'm the speck by the arrow!)

Look how far they went!

So beautiful!

I really like this one that Philip took, and those two people silhouetted on the right

Sand, sand, sand...

Caleb being hilarious...

Okay, now to the real sand sledding... (the fun part for them was that on the way back, they could get down the dunes a lot faster and with a lot less walking, by sledding down almost every slope!)  I was quite happy to run down and catch up.

Look at Keenan's tongue! =)

Notice Moriah's eyes clenched shut


Caleb taking a break from the sun

Philip after his first sledding experience (this right here, folks, that's why I don't sand sled!) since it involved turning around and sledding backwards for a bit before being thrown off and rolling head over heels for a bit trying to keep the sled from hitting him in the head

I asked him not to get too close in this one - ha!

I Love this shot of them getting ready to set off down a steep slope

There he goes again (after admitting that "This is so stupid!!")

He was carrying three pairs of shoes/boots, which definitely caused drag

These pictures make me so happy because they were having SO much fun!!

Keenan got Really good at steering!

That was a Long run!

Caleb and Daddy!

Look at that smile!!

I left this one un-cropped of Keenan and Moriah at the top because I just love how it shoes how far away they were and how steep these dunes could be!

Here they come!
(I told them to aim for me)

At this point, Keenan shouted, "Mama, get out of the way!"

They were Moving!!

I took two of these and Caleb was calmly standing there with his eyes closed in both (what a stinker)

He took this one!  Didn't he do a great job??

It was getting chilly and there were rain clouds moving in as we finished walking back to the RV, so it was a good time to be done.  It actually started raining as Philip and the kids were cleaning off, but I (and my non-sandy self) was warm and dry inside the RV!  ;-P

When we got to the campground, the first order of business was showers for Everyone!  After Moriah showered (and left a Ton of sand in the RV shower)... I was combing her hair and saw that there was still So much sand on her scalp, so I made her get back in and washed and washed and scrubbed...and got a Lot more sand out, but it was still going to take the next several showers to get it all out... Yeesh!  (Have I mentioned why I didn't sand sled more than once?)  =)  I told her next time we do that, she needs to wear a swim cap ;)

Next we had dinner, played Dutch Blitz and then Ticket to Ride, Europe edition (my first time!)   Moriah and I played as a team and had a blast!

Caleb took this picture for us from his perch in the top bunk

...where he was drawing this masterpiece =)

By this time we were getting ready to be Home!