Sunday, November 25, 2007

Home again, home again, fiddle-dee-dee

Don't the statistics really tell the story best?

10 days.
3 bags, 1 cooler, 1 suitcase, 1 very large tub, 2 fun-filled travel boxes, 1 day-trip bag, 1 over-stuffed purse, 1 shoe trash bag, 1 air bed (plus pump).
11 states.
2 hotels, 2 houses.
1 holiday.
27 family and friends visited in 4 cities.
1 birthday.
30 to 85 degrees F.
1 vomiting incident.
14-3 (OSU v. M)
Untold carbohydrates consumed.
3,075 miles!!!
....and 7 people who are very glad to be home.

Quote of the day:
"You mean, our real, real home? The black and white one?" -- Leah, upon hearing from Daddy that we were getting in the van one last time to go home today.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am the mother of an eight-year-old!

On this day, eight years ago, it was the day before Thanksgiving and we were already in love with our first child, our first son, whom we named Levi Matthew, after the Levi who drops everything to follow Jesus and becomes the disciple Matthew. Today he is an outgoing, compassionate boy who loves his charts and lists, helping his dad, anything football, and to be surrounded by people. He is a joy. Happy Birthday Levi!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanks Giving

We give thanks to the Lord God for every blessing:
  • Resting and relaxing at our vacation home here in southern Indiana (i.e. Eric's mom's house). We left our Alabama rental house at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day and arrived here at 12:15 a.m. We're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow with Eric's family.

  • Safe travels and a much-better-than-our-Suburban-in-gas-mileage van that is doing great.

  • Family and friends all over the country who have blessed our trip in innumerable ways. In Ft. Worth:

In Houston (please note that the sign cut off in the picture first reads, "Do not feed the seagulls.."):

And in Alabama! When one of my email friends from an Internet group made up of mothers of larger families saw on the blog that we were going to be passing close to their home, she graciously invited us to their home -- even though it was Thanksgiving Day! The timing worked out great and we arrived at their home to find a Thanksgiving feast before us -- turkey, dressing (the best she's ever made, right?;), rolls, green beans, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, pecan pie. Needless to say, this topped by far the cheese sticks and peanuts we got at the gas station for lunch. Did I mention that they have five children under six, including boy-girl twins? Their spacing is almost identical to ours, but theirs are about 3 years younger. Our hosts had kid-friendly projects ready to make:

And here's a pic of all 10 children. How can we not be thankful for them?

Thank you to the Smith family for your generosity and hospitality. You are a blessing.

I also have to say on here how thankful I am for my husband. If anyone wonders how we can take a thousands-of-miles road trip with five young children, the answer is him. He works so hard to provide for our family and then loves nothing more than spending free time enjoying his children and showing them wonderful new things. He is so patient with his motion-sickness wife and her ever-changing rotation of CD's. He is a certified master mini-van loader. And when his children see the ocean for the very first time, he sees it all over again through their eyes and asks for the camera to catch the perfect shot. Thank you Eric.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Quotes of the day:

"Are y'all on a suicide death march or something? Y'all're crazy." -- Friendly southern Alabama gas station attendant, upon asking where we were headed and where we had been.

"I don't even know what Ohio looks like anymore." -- Sara, who also was worried this morning about how many messages on our phone we might be missing.

Signal-less recap, Part two

I have to say, eating breakfast on your deck as the waves break against your shore is nice. We got in a beautiful day of weather and fun before the storms came tonight, too. Exactly what we needed after yesterday's driving. We were all quite tired and snappy last night, especially me.

-- Finding an awesome little Mexican restaurant that had great food and exceptional service for lunch. Irony alert: we ate seafood in Houston, TX and Mexican in Gulf Shores, AL.
-- Putt-putt golf -- that's a first for all seven of us. I wish I had a video of Leah doing this broom sweep move each time. Delaney would do the same thing if her ball was in danger of rolling backward, then hit it in with about 14 strokes, then yell back "write down 4 for me, mom!" However, she did legitametly win the hole-in-one contest by getting two of them in an 18-hole course.
-- Exploring the full beach experience on the Gulf. We loved to watch how each of their personalities came out on the beach: Levi (who said he wouldn't like the beach) waded and waded waiting for "an even bigger wave!" to hit, then would suddenly take off running trying get closer to a seagull; Delaney immediately started collecting seashells and cried when too much sand got inside her capris; Jesse found a stick and wrote his name in the sand, then would grin from ear to ear when the waves would wash it away, then would write it again; Sara ploppled right down and started burying herself in the sand; Leah flitted from activity to activity and magically appeared to not be wet or sandy when it was time to clean off. She is a mystery.

Quote of the day: "Drink all of your milk, kids. Came from premium cows." -- Eric, commenting on the $4.09 we paid for the gallon of milk at Winn-Dixie grocery.

Signal-less recap, Part one

Hello to everyone! We are now in a small bay-side house near Mobile, Alabama, and I haven't been able to get a wireless signal since arriving Tuesday night. I'm writing these posts now to catch up and hopefully will posting them from some wi-fi parking lot tomorrow (Thursday). (Added: it's Thursday, we're in a Hardee's parking lot)

Tuesday: First, Happy Birthday to my dad! You'll have to get Mom to come down to the Gulf every year for your birthday -- you would love it.

Today was a long, long day, but a good one. We left Houston fairly early after cleaning out the hotel's breakfast bar. As Karyn referenced in her comment, hotels don't know what hits them when our children get a "free" breakfast buffet. I think they believe they are buffet critics, and they must sample everything offered. All five of them. First, they load up on all the protein -- eggs, sausage, bacon (except for Levi, who has a strict diet of muffins and sausage going). Then they hit the serious carbs -- bagels, muffins, croissants, maybe a banana. After the second morning they figured out that hotels carry handy individual packages of pure sugar cereal, which before this they did not know existed. We make sure they don't waste food but let them eat until they're full. Our children are picky in some food areas and not all of them are big eaters generally, but spread out a breakfast buffet before them and you're in trouble.

Anyway, with full stomachs we headed east across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It was a very nice drive, even though we had a detour for a while and a little traffic jam. In Mississippi, we jogged down to the scenic highway right on the Gulf of Mexico -- their first glimpse!! What a contrast -- to the right was the beautiful water and white beaches. To the left, block after block of Hurricane Katrina reminders. There were a lot of empty blocks where the building had been demolished and cleaned up, there was a lot of new construction (some done, most in progress), and quite a bit still just damaged and abandoned. We stopped along the beach so the kids could stretch and get their toes in the sand, and had a nice conversation with a local couple. They said nearly everything about 1200 feet or so back was destroyed.

We didn't make it to the bay house until 9 p.m. or so, and we were very glad to be there. It's a quiet area on the east shore of Mobile Bay, and are so thankful for the chance to spread out for a few nights and for the small beach area to play on.

Best quote of the day: "Umm, mom, I think we might have to pull off and get weighed, too. Have you looked in the back?" -- Levi, after seeing a weigh scale for semis and asking why they had to pull off. I said it was because they had to have their trailers checked to make sure they weren't over their weight limit.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wherever you're at, there you are

It's Monday night, I'm in a hotel room in Baytown, Texas where the only light is the one from this laptop screen. Six sleeping people (OK, Sara's just pretending, so when I try to eat a few goldfish crackers here in a minute, she'll pipe up and ask "what are you eating, mom?"), and one wide-awake Heather.

We're nearly mid-road trip now, and so the real-time analysis has already begun between Eric and I. You know: "How do you think things are going?"; "Are we rushing them too much?"; "What do you think they'll remember about this trip?"; and "Do they pee this much at home?" We do this to stay sane and keep the big picture in mind -- usually after we find ourselves snapping at them for snapping at each other too much.

Tonight we are thinking about how great it has been to see family and friends. I am so energized right now because I got to spend this wonderful, relaxing evening with my dear college roommate who lives in Houston with her husband and adorable daughter. We went to this great restaurant in a boardwalk on a bay. There were rides and games and fish feeding, and inside the restaurant we chose was an actual 50,000 gal aquarium with eels, sharks and many fish. It was delicious, and it was a blessing to share the time with good friends.

A big THANK YOU, also, to my sister and brother-in-law for a wonderful visit in Ft. Worth. Sure, there were a few unexpected "surprises", but those are what make the memories stick. : ) Our highlight yesterday was enjoying great play time in the park nearby, while Eric got a personal tour of Lockheed. I'm not that great at understanding the intricacies of tooling philosophy, but I could tell he was inspired. And, by the way, we hope your cat recovers quickly from the visit.

When we were on the drive from Ft. Worth to Houston today, Eric and I were talking about what overall impression the kids might have of the trip so far, and even later when they look back on it. I mentioned that when I was younger and took a big road trip with family, there are a lot of things that -- at the time -- were pretty miserable in my eyes: motion sickness, never enough pool time, motion sickness, taking long detours off the interstate to look at wagon wheel ruts in a deserted prairie, and, of course, Pike's Peak thin air sickness (don't I sound like a fun child to take a trip with?). But back then, and even more so now, my overall memories of the trip are wonderful and I know that the experience was so worthwhile. The bad things are always in there, I told Eric, and we knew that they were going to happen, but we did it anyway, with a positive outlook and the ever-present ability to laugh and enjoy the adventure. And that, Eric replied, is life.

Best quote of the day: (Set-up: because most of our hotels accommodate 6 people, we have brought an air bed for the 7th person each night. The kids actually enjoy sleeping on the air bed, I think because they get it to themselves. Tonight, this hotel room is one large room with two queens and a pull out double sofa. The queen at the far end of the room is near the air conditioning unit. Eric turned it on when we came in and it started blowing out the cold air and blowing the curtains near the bed. Leah climbed onto the bed and noticed the cold air.)
"Hey! I don't want to sleep on the air bed!" -- Leah, who hates being cold. (If this doesn't strike you as funny, you clearly have not been on a road trip for 4 days with five children.:)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

An Easy Quiz

Can you guess where Eric, Levi and Delaney went last night?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Go Bucks!!

Highlights of the day:

  • Sitting down to a fully-made hot, hotel breakfast
  • Seeing my sister and brother-in-law's house, and watching Ohio State beat Michigan (14-3) with them!
  • Watching their cat experience the full-force of five "friendly" children
  • Enjoying the beautiful 80-degree weather
  • Unexpected 20 minute fireworks right outside our hotel room window (does this happen every Saturday night, or is Texas just excited about us being here?)
  • Experiencing, again and again, the wonderful delight of an elevator, through the eyes of our children
  • Best quote of the day: "Karyn, I don't really like this Texas dip." -- Sara, informing her aunt that the ranch dip (available at nearly every grocery in the country) was not her preference.

An Extra Hotel Guest

No roll-a-way bed needed...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mission (#1) accomplished

A little obligatory sightseeing (Oklahoma)...

Their first-ever Lonestar State picnic:
And 19 hours after leaving home, we're thankful to be at the hotel, stretched out flat on our beds (no pictures provided).

Good news, bad news

Good news: it is no longer a mystery which child will reveal they take after their mother on trips.

Bad news: Sara revealed her motion sickness inheritance in the middle of downtown Oklahoma City. But hey, that's what makes it a road trip!

You can see the warning signs if you look closely in this early a.m. picture.

The Van, as a bedroom

Written: Friday, 9:54 a.m. (Eastern Time)

We're currently plugging along on 44 in between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Yes, we made it through the night and had a relatively pleasant night. The kids did great, sleeping most of the way. They all woke up about 1/2 hour before Tulsa, where we stopped to eat breakfast. (Note to self: Denny's has much larger kid meals than Big Boy).

Eric drove from home to the west side of St. Louis, and then I took most of Missouri. Bad plan on my part. I didn't realize that the civil engineers who designed 44 in Missouri forgot to use any dynamite to blast through any hills or mountains. They carefully and consistently went where the hills went. I guess they would call this "organic engineering", 'ya think? Not suited well for a motion-sickness-prone driver wearing her four-prescription-old glasses at 3:30 a.m.

Best quote of the trip so far: "Hey! I went to sleep in Indiana and I woke up in Missouri 5 minutes later!" -- Levi, at 3 a.m.

The stats, for those of you who are wondering when I was going to get to them:
Gas: 2 fill-ups, (not counting the full tank upon leaving home) 31 gallons, 705 miles
Temperature: 51 degrees, bright and sunny
Condition of fields in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri: ummmm, dark

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Look Back

The van is packed. Forced bathroom visits have been made. We're just waiting for Eric to get home from teaching his class, and then we're hitting the road. I don't know about you, but there is very, very little that could make us back out of a road trip at this point -- even all these "encouraging" words from you seasoned travelers. I've had many offers of portable DVD players. Don't you know you're supposed to tell us that the miles will go quickly and the kids will do great?

I hope to post throughout the trip, good memories and bad memories. In our experience, those usually happen at the same time. If you don't see another post until we get home, know that technical troubles waylaid my best intentions.

Our hope for this trip is to have great visits with family and friends, to enjoy being together as a family in new settings, and to teach our children that living our life for God happens anywhere, all the time. Your prayers that those things could happen are greatly appreciated.

The Perfect Storm

Morning to all. Please take part in my little poll in the sidebar, which is completely random and has nothing to do with my day today. At all. Don't believe me? Just ask my childr-- oh, wait, they're busy right now cleaning under their beds.

So yes, today is the big day -- we are heading toward warmers parts of the country. In what is a perfect coincidence, the first snow of the season just started coming down! For some, this reprieve might mean excitement about leaving behind snow-covered roads or extra blankets. For us, it means we get another week's break from hours spent forcing 50 fingers into the correct finger-holes in winter gloves. This is no small thing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Plan

Well, I've attempted to put the planned route on the map. If you click on each point, you should be able to see our destinations. While doing this, I was informed by Google maps that our estimated miles are around 2200. I can't wait to see how differently that number feels after the trip.

View Larger Map

The Driver, in an unrelated photo

This is posted from the laptop. Success! Now, I need to quit, and start seeing how few clothes my children have that are trip-worthy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the travelers. AKA No. 5.

As Expected, This is Just a Test

We're four days out from leaving on our first really big road trip, and I am now about to check off item #26 (or so) on my to-do list: create a blog to document the trip. None of this will matter if the laptop doesn't work on the road, or if the kids drop my camera somewhere in the Gulf, but at least we can all experience the anticipation together.