Monday, June 30, 2014

Guest Post: Tiger

My Notes June 26th

day one, Virginia -Tennessee; the landscaping is quite similar to home in Williamsburg and not much happened but i did get to see the college of Virginia Tech which was fascinating in both architecture and in the college activities and history.

day two, Tennessee - Arkansas; not much happened 

day three, Arkansas-Texas; the landscape is flat and open with fewer large trees and a lot more farmland. we arrived at our cousin's house in Texas around 1 in the afternoon and i enjoyed a long afternoon playing soccer and other games with my cousins.

day four, cousin's house; after a nice breakfast of pancakes we went outside to play tag and soccer etc. and then we went to visit my uncle's office. He controls the entire wizards squadron that is in charge of training fighter pilots, and the weather guys and the people in the rapcon where they control the radar and all the planes in the area. although my uncle is in charge of the whole thing  (he was interrupted here. so he'll pick up for me again soon!)   

Arizona to California

93 N

overlook on 93N

We took 93 into Nevada and then crossed over the Hoover Dam. Went through security which is much like airport security these days, they were not thrilled with my 15 passenger van filled to the rim with bags and ski equipment, and then drove to see the actual dam area. As we had the dogs and it was 100 degrees out we did not park and walk around and we did not take a tour, I hope one day my kids can go back for a tour. Dragon wanted to see if the angels toes were indeed shiny from being rubbed for luck- per Percy Jackson books. They were. K took a photo of them for him. I'm still waiting to get a peek at all of K's photos from the trip.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Guest Post by MLyons

On the Grand Canyon:

"We're going to the grand canon! I'm very excited. We stopped at a little store and I got post cards. One has a big mountainish thing being struck by lightening, one is pink with flowering trees (probably animated) and one is two mountains. 

river (also probably animated) We got back in the car and kept driving. Arizona is a very desert like long flat lands with bushes everywhere there aren't many trees here. Mom says we're almost to the grand canyon! Well there is a sign so we're there!

 The grand canyon is an amazing sight. You can see for miles! When you throw a rock down the canyon you can't hear anything, but sometimes you do and its slight and you have to wait a few minutes! You won't want to fall off

The canyon! You would be falling for a minute and then... BOOM! Your dead. That's gotta hurt! They give you tours on a bus or a helicopter. There is a little trail that is on the top of the grand canyon that has little rocks that have signs next to them. Some are really old."

MLyons is 9. She has completed the 3rd grade. She took these notes on her own and gave me permission to share them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Afternoon at the Grand Canyon

We spent Tuesday afternoon in the Grand Canyon. My kids had not visited before.

The "bus" overheated as we drove into the park. Right there at the gate. So we pulled off at our first opportunity which happened to be an "authorized vehicles only" spot. But come on, scary red lights in the car. Opened the doors and windows and got the dogs out a few minutes. Tried to call the kennel, it was 11:45 and they hold day reservations until noon. No cell service. A ranger came out of whatever building that was and let me know that I was in an area designated for government vehicles only. I said I understood but my vehicle over heated. She said there was a place I could pull over up the road and should a law enforcement officer come by I might get ticketed. I said I understood the risk and I'd move the car once it cooled off. Seriously? Thanks for your concern. 

It took us 20 minutes from the entrance gate to the part of the park the dog kennel is in. Aswe were arriving in the afternoon and the dog kennel closes at 5 PM, we had only a small window of time and after the over heated car the driving around looking for the kennel made me anxious! 

But we found the kennel, checked the dogs in, parked near a cafeteria and went in for lunch. (for the record, there are a few areas in the park in which dogs are allowed, but I decided for my sanity's sake it would be easier to just kennel them.)

Lunch made things much, much better. Due to having the two younger ones with us I decided to stick to the rim trail. And I discovered Tiger has a heights thing -I didn't know that. But you can see plenty of amazing views from the rim. I want to come back and stay for a few days and hike in. Maybe visit the north rim, maybe find a waterfall I've heard about with pools of aqua water. But the 4 hours we got to spend there were pretty neat. I'm sad my husband didn't get to join us, I am surprised he has never been. I'm anxious to see the photos K took with the good camera.

Things to remember: entering the National Park there is a $25 fee per car. But it is good for 7 days. Also, bring a water bottle, there are water refill stations in many places throughout the Village so you can fill up for free.

 updated from the hotel on Wednesday, photos from my camera:

my car getting fussy about the incline, the heat, and sitting in line.
me too big bus, me too.

a grand trio along the Rim Trail.

If you haven't been, the Rim Trail is paved, wide, and pretty easy to do with children. There are areas where I would freak out if my child were the type to wish to walk along the edge (none of mine are) but for the most part it is kid friendly. 

one of many spectacular views along the Rim Trail

and about then my phone ran out of battery. So the rest of my photos are on K's phone. so... there will be a second update, later.

Soccer Party

I have the cutest pictures, and I can't load them, so I'm holding this space chronologically.
My sister in law set up the projector in the garage, hooked it up to the t.v. And we watched Korea vs Iran and then the US vs Portugal. Oh we were so bummed to see Korea loose their match, they had such a brilliant second half! And I can't even think about the US match. I'm going to need to arrange my day around the game on Thursday.
Anyway- hold this space!

Updated from the hotel in Bakersfield, Ca. Yay for good wifi:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hanging out in Texas

My brother is something else. He got up bright and early this morning and hung out with my 4 year old, made the kids pancakes, and then took K, Tiger, Dragon and my nephew out for a run, not sure how far they went. Maybe 2-3 miles? And then played soccer till it got too hot and the kids quit. We watched a a World Cup game, my sister in law provided tons of blankets and the kids built forts, and then mid afternoon we drove to Shepherd AFB.

Shepherd is a training base. My brother commands a squadron there. So he took us in to see the weather control group (I don't know any official military terms) but as you might imagine weather is pretty important when flying. He also took us into the radar room where the air traffic controllers keep an eye on all the planes in the air. That was really interesting. And then up to the tower where those controllers monitor take off and landing. And then out to see some planes. As one of the planes was going through their check; checking flaps, brakes, and so on; my brother said to me, don't you love that smell? Meaning the fuel. A light bulb went off in my head. I did! And further, it is similar to the smell from the machine shop floor that used to follow my husband when we were dating. I never really noticed it and one day his mom said something about his clothes smelling like the machines, and how when she came to visit she washed and washed them to get the smell out and I'd said that I kind of liked it. He was a mechanical engineer in an automotive plant when we met. Being out there in summer heat with planes making all that noise and taxing out to the runway always makes me feel like I am home. At the end of the day I'm not really from anywhere, but I am such an Air Force Brat.

Made it to Texas

We arrived in Texas yesterday. (I am pecking on an iPad at my brother's right now and watching Italy (boo) vs Costa Rica (go Navas)
So I've got the dogs at a kennel I found online. I got a little nervous when I called from the road and received a message : the kennel is closed due to an emergency, reservations will be honored. But I called the number any way. Nobody insisted that I kennel the dogs, but showing up at my brother's with 2 large dogs and all these kids just seemed like too much. Anyway, I got to the kennel and two young men were waiting on my dogs. They cracked me up. My arrival interrupted their conversation about a black truck that they seemed to be considering for purchase. But, they were good with the dogs, my shepherd did not get defensive when they approached her which is big, she gets defensive a lot. Her tail did go down a bit when they took her into the dog run, all the other dogs (and there were a lot) we're barking excitedly, but she is with her big brother so it should be okay.

Along the way we stayed in Red Roof Inns, one in Knoxville and one in North Little Rock. They are pet friendly. I haven't stayed at a Red Roof Inn but was pleasantly surprised, very clean and comfortable.

In Knoxville TN, on Wednesday morning, we visited my high school friend, Beka, and her little daughter Ava Grace. We came by for coffee and we brought in some bagels, and then Beka offered to make the kids eggs. She received a very enthusiastic response so she made them eggs with cheese, and then pulled out the chocolate almond milk and then the yogurt. My children's enthusiasm at this wonderful breakfast was fun to watch and Beka clearly enjoyed it.

I was trying to explain to my oldest my connection with my friend. We were friends in high school but we are very different people. I am pretty conservative, though I've moved closer to center over the years. My friend is much more liberal. But we've always been able to repect our differences, have actual conversations about points of few, and we are both very real. People have been telling me I'm "real" sine 8th grade. Not everybody appreciates this about me. And Beka is real too. I'm grateful for our friendship.

On Tuesday we set out around 7:30 AM, little later than I'd hoped. We missed the 11:30 tour at VA Tech, but K and Tiger listened to the info session at 1:30 and took a 2:something tour. We left around 4:30. While those two learned about the school the other 4 kids and I and the dogs hung out. There is ample grass & shade providing trees near the visitor's center. We had a picnic lunch, played tag, Thalia and I practiced the fus pattern for her BH. All good stuff. There are pictures on my phone, and K has been using the big camera from the car. Hopefully I'll add some pictures to all this rambling.

Random notes: the Oklahoma Welcome center on I40 rocks. Tons of info. Clean bathrooms. Water pump and large pet area and... Free coffee. There are lots of info signs along I40, see such and such town and a list of sights. I would love to road trip around OK someday.
Arkansas is really pretty right now.
Oh and K found me a fabulous coffee shop via FourSquare.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

the summer trip

It will look something like this:

I will be driving the kids (and the dogs!) out to Texas to see my brother and then onward to Oregon. We are adding in a glimpse of the Grand Canyon. After a few days at my brothers I was supposed to drive to NM and meet my husband who was supposed to fly into Albuquerque NM. From there we'd visit the Grand Canyon and finish up the trip together. BUT one of the guys at work has put in for time off that week and since they are the only two on a particular project... my husband is needed at work. One of these days I will take a vacation and my husband will actually be there the entire time, without getting any last minute phone calls or having to work while I drive. So yay me, I'm driving 3,675 miles this summer. And then I get to drive back.

Whining aside, I am looking forward to it.

I enjoy a good road trip. My kids are remarkably good sports about traveling. And I'm headed back on the side of the Mississippi I am most comfortable on. Maybe I won't drive back...


I've modified this trip. I think we are going to drive across Hoover Dam. And then instead of driving up North through Nevada I'm going to try to hit Bakersfield California and drive up from there. Should be good.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mt. Hood, Ski Equipment, Demos, etc

As anyone who has been in a large family will agree, there are pros and cons to hand me downs. And then there comes the day when the younger child is actually larger than the older child and the order of hand me downs can become a bit muddled.

My 3rd child is something of a giant. And he has large feet. We have a summer trip to Mt. Hood planned and so my husband had the children trying on ski boots one weekend in May. The third child's feet have grown again.  Luckily my husband thinks he has a pair of boots that might work. And then the husband asked the oldest to try on the third child's old boots.

excuse me?

She answered that her boots from this season are fine. Just humor me he said. He's is trying to feel how much room there is around her heel/ankle.

sizing boots: head boots and lange

A couple things to notice: the white Head boots are her current (all time favorite) boots. Notice that she's got Cat Tracks on her boots. She's completely OCD about them. Notice that her boots just look "tighter" she's obsessive about buckling them back up immediately after she takes them off her feet.

Pointing out that the bottoms of her boots are in excellent condition. The entire boot is in excellent condition.

her brother's boot, not so much.

Her dad insists you can purchase bottom pieces for $20.00 and replace them.I know nothing about this. She continues to point out; her brother's feet are wider than hers (and stinkier) and so the fit will not be right. And finally but Dad I love my Head boots. Hard. At least Lange is also an excellent boot. And she really isn't being a brat, she really does love her boots and is trying desperately to argue to stay in them even though space might be a bit cramped.

At Mt. Hood there will be reps from all the different vendors and we will have the opportunity to check out all the latest equipment and demo some of it. Perhaps she'll be lucky and there will be a perfect fit, at a perfect price, waiting for her.

If not, welcome to the reality of siblings and expensive sports.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


My oldest related this story to me:

Little Hawk asked me how to spell "fall."
I answered him 'f' 'a' 'l' 'l'
and he thought about it for a minute and said: I thought the 'a' said "aah."
I said: it does sometimes. But in fall it doesn't.
What is this getting schooled in letter sounds by my 4 year old brother?

spunky little guy is getting so big so fast!

He has had quite a developmental explosion lately. His interest in words, spelling, reading came out of no where, sort of like having a switch flipped on. And his ability to remember words and spellings is quite remarkable. While he doesn't seem to fully be able to figure out an unfamiliar word, he has memorized a shockingly long list of sight words.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

it is all about ballet this weekend

June Show! June Show! Our ballet school's recital is Sunday June 8th, that means that I'll spend most of Saturday at rehearsal. My ballerinas have been working hard and are looking forward to being a part of the show.

As a community outreach our ballet school, Virginia Regional Ballet, offers mini recitals around town at various elder living facilities. Here are some photos of Bitsy and her fellow cowgirls:

ballerinas ready to dance!

Monday, June 2, 2014

reaction to 12 Years a Slave

I have been trying to make myself watch "12 Years A Slave" for 2 or 3 weeks. (I bought it on itunes.) I decided I needed to see it after I read a short article about it in which I think the director was quoted as saying there have been hundreds of movies made about the Holocaust and only a handful have been made about slavery. That caught my attention. Because both are black marks on our collective history as human beings but why would we allow one horror to be kept silent while demanding the remembrance of another?

I don't know.

To watch this movie has taken me weeks because I did not want to watch it with young children about and at the end of the day I am so tired and I wanted to watch it when I was able to truly immerse in it. And then once I began it I had to keep pausing the thing because my reactions were so strong. To watch it in the theater must have been like getting the wind knocked out of you.

I found this description by a journalist, Dan P Lee in Where it Hurts: Steve McQueen on Why 12 Years a Slave Isn't About Slavery:

I’d seen 12 Years the night before, at the huge cineplex in downtown L.A. My friend sobbed quietly through a good portion of it. At least one black couple left midway. As we walked out of the ­theater, no one seemed to be speaking; breaking the ice, one stranger next to me said, “Well, that was intense,” which made us all laugh anxiously.

I think it is interesting that the actress Lupita Nyong'o is said to have watched "The Color Purple" and realized that people who looked like her could be actors. I think Whoopi Goldberg is said to have stated something not too different, that her father would only let her watch Star Trek on T.V. because it was the only T.V. show with black people. I have my own experience with T.V. and color: I remember when I moved to southern Spain for a few years circa 1980 and was told by Spanish Schoolmates that I couldn't be American because I wasn't blond. My sister was blond with blue eyes, the other kids totally believed her to be American but not me. I was in 3rd grade and I remember wondering where they got their information from? America, the great melting pot, and I was supposed to be blond? We did not have a T.V. growing up. I didn't know who Christy Brinkley was either. I had no context for this misinformation.

If you haven't seen 12 Years a Slave yet, you ought to. For the same reasons people need to visit the Holocaust museum. Because we all need to be reminded that it happened. And it was horrible and brutal and about greed. And we also need to be reminded that slavery continues to exist. And we need to be reminded that we can make small changes in our lives not to be part of that slavery. If you don't know what I mean: "Modern slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually"
via the Washington Post: A map to show where the world's 30 Million Slaves exist.
CNN Money: Modern Slavery in the U.S.

In my house the small changes we've made: We stopped eating most chocolates. The chocolate industry continues to utilize children smuggled across boarders. We buy "Fair Trade" sugar and coffee and whatever other items we can find "Fair Trade." We buy local as much as possible. No I have not gone and inspected the local farmers to be sure they are paying any laborers a fair price but I'm hoping they are. (perhaps that is naive) The clothing industry is harder for me to track and figure out. You don't know when you are purchasing clothes if they were made ethically or not. On the occasion I get to have my nails done I ask the people providing the manicure little questions to find out if they are free to move about the country. I don't want to be supporting a business operating on indentured servitude.