National No TV Week begins on Sunday.  There are some who call for people to “unplug” completely during that week, which means not only unplugging from the tv, but from the computer and computer games as well.  I’ve had my family participate in unplugging in years past and have posted about our results on my blog. 

This year the unplugging happens to fall during our spring break–a spring break that we have actually decided to take a trip during.  So, unplugging for us will be much easier this year. 

 We leave tomorrow.

I will post about our unplugging…

…and our trip…

…when we get back.

Gotta love spring break!

For a Christmas/birthday present this year Hub gave me tickets to see Wicked in New York City!  We went last month, had a total blast, and I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Sorry, but when you have a blended family with seven very busy kids, blogging often times gets put on the back burner.

Here, in a totally random order, are some ways we’ve found over the years to enjoy a trip together without the kids (and not feel guilty about it!):

*Be flexible! In order to save money (and SkyMiles) Hub booked us on a red-eye flight to NYC.  A representative at the hotel had told him that if the hotel wasn’t completely booked we would be able to get into a room as soon as we arrived in the early morning hours, even thought check-in wasn’t until noon.  We hoped it would work out for us so that we could sleep for a few hours in a bed after arriving, but as luck would have it, the hotel was booked and we had six hours to kill before we could check-in.  We didn’t have a rental car, we were pretty tired after the over-night flight, and we had luggage, but no room.  So what did we do?

The hotel staff, being used to such situations, let us leave our luggage in a secure room near the lobby.  We relaxed in the hotel dining area and watched the morning news programs while eating the free breakfast provided by the hotel.  Once we were full, we decided to kill some time by visiting the Empire State Building.  Apparently the morning hours in February are a good time to do so because we didn’t wait in line at all to go to the top.

And the view?


*Pictures! Take pictures for memories.  Send pictures to your kids.  Camera phones are perfect for this!  We sent a couple of the pictures from the Empire State Building to our kids with the message, “Good-morning from the Empire State Building!”  It was the first text message of the day for all of them.  And yes, they responded enthusiastically once they woke up for the day and saw the picture texts.

All during our trip we sent occasional pictures to let the kids know what we were doing in real time.  Some of the photos that got the most response:

And after returning home and posting the pictures on our family website and on Facebook the kids had even more comments.  Our kids seem to get a kick out of odd-ball photo ops such as the signs in this previous post and these pictures:

King Kong cookie sold in the gift shop at the top of the Empire State Building

Street scene--count the taxis!

Window display with balloons

McDonald's in China Town

New York City cops standing on the corner

And there was the artwork:

*Be a tourist! Since neither of us had ever been to New York City before, and since we have no idea when, or if, we will ever return, we made sure to see the common tourist sites:

The museum of Natural History

Times Square

A broadway Musical--the reason we were there!

Memorial in Central Park for John Lennon

New Tower being built at Ground Zero

*Get off the beaten path! Although we made sure to hit all the tourist spots–and they were exciting–we also enjoyed looking for experiences that had personal meaning to us.  For instance, the fire station that has a tribute painted on its door to the firefighters from that location that lost their lives on 9/11 has meaning to me as the daughter of a retired fire chief.

Finding the Manhattan Temple of our church had special meaning to us.

I loved taking pictures of street scenes.

And one of my favorite “off the beaten path” moments was when Hub and I found a lower level Italian restaurant on a side street that had food to die for at a great price (a much better price than the Brazilian Barbecue that we went to the next evening).  I wish I had thought to take a picture of the quaint entrance and the decor inside.  We enjoyed that meal and the walk back to our hotel afterward.

*Be a couple! Hold hands.  Have others take your pictures together in front of favorite sites.  Shop together for souvenirs.  Celebrate your relationship.  One of my favorite memories from our trip is the night we returned to our hotel after exploring the main streets of Manhattan.  We were chilly and ready to relax in our room.  Before getting on the elevator we each grabbed a cup of free cocoa offered in our hotel lobby.  We sipped the cocoa while cuddling and watching a movie in our room.  It was simple, yet nice to just be us.

Our last evening there we took a walk to Rockefeller Center and went to the ” Top of the Rock” for some final pictures.  Some nice couple time!

The trip was fantastic!  We talk of taking our kids to New York some day.  We know they would enjoy it.  But, we also talk of our next trip together…just the two of us.

What do you do when you have a flight to New York  in a few hours because, for Christmas, your sweet husband gave you the trip and tickets to see Wicked?

Well, the answer for sure doesn’t include blogging! 

I will visit Blogland again after I return…

While on our recent extended family trip to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho I took the opportunity to wander outside our inn and poll various family members as I encountered them.  There were 44 of us in all.  I only polled those I happened to run into on that particular night so, no, this poll will not have 44 entries.  I give you their answers in the order that I encountered them.

The question?

What has been the weirdest, quirkiest, oddest thing you have seen on this trip:

*Hoob – “Guymon’s” face.  “Guymon” is my sister’s (sis #3) husband.  He and Hoob teased each other the entire trip.  And the lady with the purple hair and the manly armpits.  Yes, that lady was something to behold.

*Juju – That offspring of the bug that mated with a zebra!  Juju apparently saw a black and white striped bug that freaked her out.

*Hub – Sis #3’s ex-husband saying hi to me.  Yes, sis #3’s ex-husband was in Lava Hot Springs for a family reunion the same time we were!

*Shroom – Hoob swimming.  He claims this is an inside joke between Hoob and himself.  And I’m sure everyone can say that the best thing they saw was my backflip!  Shroom attempted a double back flip off of the highest tower at the swimming pool.  He only made it around 1 1/2 times and landed on his back in the water.  Most people who witnessed it groaned.  And, yes, Shroom says that it hurt when he hit the water.  Teenagers!  Sometimes you wonder if there is a brain in their head!

*Bro #1 – That boxer going down the river!  There was a boy tubing the river who had his dog on the tube with him.  The dog did NOT look happy to be having the experience!

*Plumber (Huh’s boyfriend) – I saw a dog riding on the back of a motorcycle.  He was loving it!

*Huh – A group of four people floating down the river on an air mattress!

*Yawlin – The stores.  Yawlin thought that some of the items in the gift shops were a little strange.  Afterall, who WOULD come all the way to Idaho to purchase Chinese Stars and other Asian weaponry?

*Mack – The drunk man on the horse.  Our second night there the entire family had gathered in  front of the inn to visit and adorn ourselves with glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets (the plan was to play glow-in-the-dark tag, which never happened).  Some guy who had obviously had too much too drink came riding his horse down the street singing at the top of his lungs.  He had another horse in tow.  When he saw our glowing group he stopped and asked if he could have some “glow sticks” for his horses.  Some family members gave him some necklaces which he promptly draped over his horses ears.  The horse he was riding didn’t mind the necklaces, but the horse in tow didn’t like them too much.  She kept trying to flick them off.

*“Marty” (Bro # 1 fiancée) – The not-so-skinny woman at the pool who purposely bent down in front of me so that I had a full view of her behind.  Ick!

*”NA” (Bro #4 girlfriend) – Some guy that offered to buy my kids.  Apparently he offered her $12,000 for her three girls.  What a creeper!

*”Guymon” (Sis #3 husband) – Hoob violently pulling up her pants.  A long inside joke story that would take too long to type up.  It is not as perverted as it sounds.

*Sis #3 – Seeing “Collector” (Sis #2 husband) kiss Guymon at the pool.  It was done in the spirit of goofing off.  Um.  Ya.  Let’s move on to the next answer…

*”JJ” (a nephew–son of sis #1) – The cat that fell out of the tree and landed on Barbara’s (the aunt who owns the inn) car.  The cat clearly had not meant to do it.

*Bro #4 – The people who live here.

*My parents – The chickie poo at the pool who had obviously had breast enhancement surgery and was quite proud of her new look.  She kept swinging them from side-to-side and looking at them. 

*Kweenmama – The lady running down the street wearing a cow apron.

So, there is the Weird, quirky, and odd from our trip.  The next time you travel look for the oddities, it can make the trip that much more interesting!

I must admit, I had concerns.  Not just concerns…full-blown worries.  It’s that “mom” part of me.   But, I am happy to report that the kids all did fine while Hub and I went to St. Maarten for our 5th wedding anniversary.

*The house was still standing.  Nothing had been burned.  Nothing was broken.  I DID learn that Huh decided to take care of an ant problem on the patio by pouring gasoline on them and lighting them on fire.  WHAT THE ???!?!  She has resigned herself to the fact that I am tattling on her to her retired fire chief grandfather this weekend and she will get to hear his lecture about fire safety and NOT using gasoline to burn ANYTHING…EVER!  And Huh has learned that younger siblings will tattle. 

*The kids all did their chores–with the exception of Juju who chose to stay at her mother’s house so she wouldn’t have to do chores.  Such a teenage thing to do!

*Everybody got to where they needed to be (Webelos camps, work, birthday party, church).

*The kids didn’t starve, like they were sure they were going to do.  In fact, some of the food I got for them hadn’t even been touched when we got home:

“Hey, why didn’t you guys eat any of the bananas?”

“Oh sorry mom, we forgot they were here.”

“How can you forget they are here when they are sitting right there on the table?”

Silence.  And a sigh from me.

“We forgot about the limes for Brazilian Limeade too.  Oh, and the Cups O’ Noodles.”

Double sigh.

*My ex was in town for the weekend and took three of the kids swimming one afternoon.  Yawlin ended up getting sunburned and was quite miserable by the evening.  When I called home to check on the kids Mack was applying cold wash cloths to the burn while she waited for Huh to get back from the store with Aloe to put on the burn.  I was proud of my girls for taking care of their little brother.

*We had put the word out to neighbors that we were leaving the kids home under Huh’s care and boy did our neighbors step up and “keep watch.”  Some checked on the kids and made sure things were okay.  One even used Facebook to ask how things were going.  One couple brought the kids cookie dough to bake up and some other neighbors invited the kids to Sunday dinner.  And one “cool” neighbor took Hoob driving since she has recently received her Learner’s Permit.

*The dog got fed.  The garden got watered.  The laundry got done.

*No one died!

Yup, I guess our kids have shown us that they can survive while we are gone.  They appreciated the souvenirs we brought back for them.  And then this is what we heard:

“We missed you, but…we want you to go on another trip.  We had so much fun while you were gone!”

So there you have it folks, we have permission from our kids to take another trip! 

Here are a few lingering images from St. Maarten:

A mini story from St. Maarten:

On my first morning in St. Maarten I enjoyed the view from my window…

View from our bedroom

It was a lazy morning of breakfast on the deck and lounging on the deck…

Looking out at the deck

One view from the deck

Another view from the deck

Lounging on the deck

It was wonderful to be lazy and not worry about grocery shopping, leaking appliances (we have three appliances back home that decided to start leaking all at the same time just days before we left), phone calls about shirt orders with melted zippers and holes in hoodies, and the dog barking at all the wrong times.

I read on the deck.  I snoozed on the deck.  I took pictures from the deck (all the while hoping the sun will come out at least one of the days we are here so that I can get pictures of how blue the water looks when the sun is out). 

After awhile, though, I got a little restless on the deck.  I wandered inside and saw that Hub and his parents were still trying to fix something on one of the computers. 

See…we are staying in St. Maarten with Hub’s parents who are serving a mission for our church here.  Hey, the lodging is FREE.  Who wouldn’t take advantage of such a situation??!?

Since the computer was still the main focus of attention of the other three occupants of the house I decided to explore the yard.

I took a picture of the street…

…and some pictures of the house…

The view behind the house

Coconut tree in the yard

Since lounging seemed to be my lot for the day I decided to do some lounging in the chair I found in the yard…

Chair in the yard (redundant, yes?)

I took a couple of pics of the view from the chair…

As I lounged in the chair down below in the yard and took pictures I saw a coconut on the ground.  Now, finding a coconut on the ground is not something one can do in Utah so, naturally, I thought it was pretty cool.  In fact, I said out loud, “Cool!”

I scooped up the coconut and carried it into the house where I found Hub and his parents still staring at the computer in rapt attention.  I plopped my finding in Hub’s lap.  Hub made a sound that sounded like, “huhooomph!”  And then he laughed when he saw what I had plopped in his lap.

That caught the attention of the others and my father-in-law jumped up and said, “Come with me.  I’ll show you where you can find more of those.”  He took me back out to the yard and proceeded to show me how to get coconuts from the tree in the yard.

A few minutes later Hub came out and decided to give it a try.

I took cover because I needed to! 

We went from this…

To this…

Hub and Father-in-law broke a couple of them open and poured for a drink!

We poured it over ice and added sugar and banana flavoring for a yummy drink we sipped on…the deck. 

I had come full circle! 

But, the coconut adventure seemed to break the spell of the computer and after enjoying our refreshing coconut-banana drinks on the deck we all decided to take a walk.

We got barked at by two dogs who could have jumped the stone wall and chased after us, but thankfully, they didn’t.

We ended up walking along the beach, which was now too dark to take pictures.  We wandered past diners at seaside restaurants, and couples in lounge chairs, we cut through a hotel area and ended up at a French restaurant (on the Dutch side of the island)  where I got to try a three-cheese quiche and some ratatouille.  It was delicious and our server, Patrick, got the best tip from Hub that he has ever given, because he felt he was that good!

The breeze was pleasant as we walked back “home” and we settled in for the night.

And so, my dear friends, here is the moral of the story…

If you are ever on vacation with your husband for your 5th wedding anniversary and he gets stuck doing what he does every normal day of his life (i.e. computer stuff), then go on the hunt for a coconut and drop it on his…coconuts…and see if you can scare up an adventure!

Hub and I leave for St. Maarten tomorrow to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.  We are leaving Huh in charge here at home.  My checklist for today as we prepare for our trip (in random order as I think of items to be done):

*Costco run – to pick up supplies of frozen foods, milk, snacks, and other requested items so that we can be sure our kids won’t “starve” while we are gone.  They have it in their minds that somehow every bit of food in the house is going to be gone before we return home.  Of course, with teenagers…that just might happen!  🙂 

 *Regular grocery store run to pick up smaller items for Yawlin’s sack lunches that he needs for two Webelos day camps he will be attending while we are gone.  We have also been given a request to pick up more doggy treats for the dog.  Heaven forbid the mutt go without treats while we play in St. Maarten!

*Birthday present shopping for a birthday party Yawlin has been invited to attend on Saturday (yes, while we are still gone).

*Leave the health insurance cards for all kids with Huh…just in case. 

*Vacuum Hub’s office and the stairs, finish laundry, dust the living room, clean the main bathroom sink…in other words, do last minute housework.

*Figure out a schedule that includes Huh and Mack’s work schedules along with Yawlin’s camp schedule and any other places the kids need to be.  It is still up in the  air as to whether Juju and Shroom will be at our house or their mother’s while we are gone.  Work schedules so far make it so that Mack has to take Hub and I to the airport, and Huh will pick us up when we return.

*Assign the dreaded chore lists for while we are gone.  If the kids thought they were going to get out of doing chores for a while, they are sorely mistaken.  I hate coming home to a messy house. 

*Notify neighbors that we are leaving so that they can “keep an eye on things” while we are gone.

*Make sure I grab my passport.


*Finish some last minute Young Women items for my calling at church.

*Get some emergency cash for the kids to use, if needed.

*Meet with the kids and tell them all “rules” for while we are gone (no boyfriends or girlfriends over, the car only goes to places such as work, the store, and birthday party drop off, all chores need to get done daily, lock the doors and windows before bed, no parties–I kill, kill, kill if that happens!)  We have good kids, I’m sure I don’t have anything to worry about.  But, it is still wise to spell out the rules, yes?

*Did I mention packing?  I haven’t even begun to pack.  I think I will be up late tonight.

Time has run out.  I WON’T get to shop for cute new clothes to take on the trip, nor will I get to get a spray tan so that I don’t blind everyone on the beach.  The beach goers in St. Maarten will just have to cover their eyes!

We are taking a laptop with us, so I might get to post something from St. Maarten…maybe.  We will just have to see how things go.

I’m off to Costco…

It is fun to take people to places you love and let them experience it.  It is even more fun if the person you are “playing tour guide” for is enthusiastic and gung-ho about all that you have them see and experience.  It is priceless if they are appreciative and lend a hand whenever needed.  That was our experience with Ryan from Florida this past weekend.  Here are a few highlights from the weekend (allowing for some anonymity on our part–I won’t be posting some of the best pictures because they show our faces):

*We camped!  Because our condo was rented out until Saturday morning we had to camp the first night.  This was extra fun for us because Ryan had never been camping before.  And?  He had never had s’mores before!  True story!  We enjoyed his enthusiasm about the campfire, the s’mores, and sleeping out under the stars.  In the morning we explored the area on foot. 

Moab with Ryan 037

Hiking back down after exploring the rocky bluffs above our campsite.

Hiking back down after exploring the rocky bluffs above our campsite.

*We went jeeping!  Ryan wanted to “experience” Moab, so he rented two jeeps for our group and Hub led us all through the areas called Elephant Hill, Devil’s Kitchen, SOB Hill, Silver stairs, Chessler Park and the Joint Trail.

Moab with Ryan 066

Moab with Ryan 073

Moab with Ryan 081

Huh took this picture and didn't realize the shutter wasn't open all the way.

Huh took this picture and didn't realize the shutter wasn't open all the way.

*We hiked, explored, and (the kids) climbed rocks! 

Moab with Ryan 099

Moab with Ryan 104

*We experienced slot canyons!

Squid climbing the walls of a slot canyon.

Squid climbing the walls of a slot canyon.

Hiking down into a slot canyon.

Hiking down into a slot canyon.

Shroom scaring Mack in a slot canyon.

Shroom scaring Mack in a slot canyon.

*We experienced Cairns!  Because many of the trails for hiking and jeeping are “off-road” you have to follow “cairns” (stacked rocks left by those who have gone before) so that you don’t get lost.  One slot canyon has become the “City of Cairns” because of all the cairns left behind.

City of Cairns

City of Cairns

The arch was one of our favorite cairns.

The arch was one of our favorite cairns.

The cairn Yawlin contributed to City of Cairns.

The cairn Yawlin contributed to City of Cairns.

*We went to church!  No pictures here.  It’s just simply what we do on Sundays.

*We explored Arches National Park!

Moab with Ryan 226

Moab with Ryan 230

Double Arch

Double Arch

Squid and Shroom climbing Double Arch.

Squid and Shroom climbing Double Arch.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch

Slightly different view of Delicate Arch (That's me under it).

Slightly different view of Delicate Arch (That's me under it).

*And of course there was all sorts of other scenery!

Moab with Ryan 187

Moab with Ryan 076

Moab with Ryan 112

Ryan and Squid stayed for one more night in our condo in Moab and booked an ATV tour.  The rest of us had to come home for school and work. 

The best part of the weekend was watching Ryan enjoy every part of the trip.  He was so enthusiastic, so appreciative, so positive about situations and people.  He is truly a joy to be around.  We count ourselves lucky that he chose to befriend us last year.

“Squid, make sure to mention that you just had your eighteenth birthday yesterday.  That might up your odds of being chosen.”  I wanted my stepson to have the best chance possible of being chosen to participate in the live “Fear Factor” show at Universal Studios.  It was something he really wanted to do.

It must have worked because he was one of six contestants chosen for the 5:30 show.  We were all so excited.  We had seats on the second row and I had my camera ready.  The contestants were introduced, we cheered loudly for Squid, and watched a little nervously as he and the other contestants positioned themselves on platforms high above the ground.  Safety harnesses were attached.  In a few moments the platforms would drop and the contestants would have to hang on to yellow handles for as long as they could.  The four contestants who held on the longest before dropping would move on to the second round.

 We were positive Squid could make it to the second round.  Then a worker for the show walked up behind Squid and removed his safety harness.  She conversed with him for a few seconds and they began to leave the platform area.  It was announced that something had gone wrong with the platform Squid was standing on and that he would not be able to finish the show, although he was guaranteed a spot in the 7:00 show if he desired.

We were bummed.  We had wanted to see the 5:30 show and then move on to other attractions in the park.  We finished watching the show (Yawlin got to participate by blasting the remaining contestants with a water cannon as they performed their next stunt) and then we stood in front of the attraction to wait for Squid and to see whether or not he wanted to participate in the 7:00 show. 

A man in a white Universal Studios shirt approached me.  “Are you Squid’s family?”


“I feel bad that he didn’t get to finish the show.  Have you been on the “Men in Black” ride or the “Simpson’s Ride” yet?  I can get you all on one of those rides right now, if you want.”

“You can?”

“Yes, I work here.  If Squid decides to do the next show he is going to have to wait here.  I can get the rest of you on a ride while you wait for the next show to start.  It will help you kill some of the time.  You won’t have to wait in line at all.  You will skip everyone in line.”

Squid did decide to do the next show and Juju and I volunteered to participate in part of the show as well.  The rest of the family voted to ride the “Simpson’s Ride” and went off with our new friend, Ryan.  He really did get them right on the ride without any wait time and then they came back for the 7:00 show.

The 7:00 show was fun.  Squid made it to the second round but was then eliminated because the person he was partnered with couldn’t throw worth a darn.  Juju downed a nasty smoothie of rotten fish parts, sour milk, meal worms, and other disgusting things.  And I got to have five Emporer scorpions placed on my head.     

After the show Ryan approached us again and asked if there were any other rides we wanted to go on.  Since Squid, Juju, and I hadn’t yet experienced the “Simpson’s Ride” we opted for that one and Ryan again walked our family right on to the ride–no waiting.  When the ride was over he took us to the “Mummy’s Revenge” (a family favorite) and walked us on to that ride too.

We visited with Ryan and found out that he only works at Universal Studios as a paramedic part time, the rest of the time he is a firefighter/paramedic for Orlando, which was exciting for me to find out because my dad is a retired fire chief and I have a brother who is a firefighter.  We found out that Ryan likes to visit with park visitors when he is off duty and help them in any way he can.  When we asked him why he chose our family to serve that day he said it was because we have nine people.  “That must be so expensive!” he exclaimed.  “Nine people, wow!”

Ryan continued offering to get us on rides and even offered to get us food at any restaurant in the park at a discounted price.  We didn’t want to take advantage of him so we declined, but he did insist on giving us his phone number and told us to meet him in “Islands of Adventure” today at 2:00 and he will get us on any of those rides without a wait.  The kids are thrilled.  They’ve decided Ryan is their new best friend.

I have challenged each person in our family to find someone to serve in some way while we are on this trip.  That has been happening and is the subject of another post, but we never expected to be the recipients of another’s kindness.  The kids can’t believe someone would be so nice to take time out of their day to walk us around and get us on any rides we desire. 

We asked Ryan several times last night why he was being so nice and he always brought up the size of our family.  Then one time he said, “We should all be nicer people.  The world would be a better place if people were nicer to each other.” 

Yes, indeed.