Here is what I learned today: If you pour ammonia on a live scorpion, it will NOT sting itself to death.

I learned that today because I tried it.  I tried it on a scorpion I discovered on my daughter’s apartment patio…while I was here alone…moving things around…with bare feet.

The ladies who told my daughter, Huh, that a scorpion will sting itself to death if sprayed with ammonia were WRONG!  All that the nasty little critter did was crawl to safety under the wall.  And THEN, a little later, he (she) (it) crawled UP the wall.

Perhaps the trick didn’t work because I poured ammonia on the ugly creature instead of spritzing it nicely with a spray bottle???  But, one would think that if a little spray would make it sting itself to death, having a downpour of ammonia on top of it would make it not only sting itself, but also make it do a dance, perhaps some squirming, maybe even a few flips.  Wouldn’t it?  Nada.  I think all I accomplished was to make it mad…and maybe even vengeful.  I should probably watch my step tonight.

Sooo, an update, sort of.  Mack and I used this memorial weekend to make the 12 hour drive to Huh’s apartment in Phoenix to take her bedroom furniture to her.  She decided not to come home from school for the summer, got herself an apartment, bought a couch, got a full-time job and a DOG.  She’s been sleeping on the couch, which causes her back to hurt, so being the Mommy that I am…I drove her bedroom furniture from our home down to her.  Mack came with me to switch off driving.  Since my ex lives in Phoenix, the girls went to visit their father this afternoon, which is how I came to be all alone at my daughter’s apartment with a monster scorpion.

Since the girls haven’t returned from visiting their father yet, I have decided to spend some time in Blogland.  School put me far behind on posts about our blended family, and there is so much I could have posted about, but it will be too hard to catch it all up.  I will, however, post a few pics here and there from the months I was absent from Blogland.  Here are a few from our family vacation in California in August:

Dance off in the two vehicles on the way to California!

Stuck in traffic

Still stuck in traffic

Trying to keep us as anonymous as possible creates problems when choosing pics for my blog, some of the best pics don’t get posted, but maybe the pics posted will give an idea of the “flavor” of our vacation.

Until next time…

…I’m off to peak at the patio and see if the scorpion has recruited friends in his vengeance…

Life has been too crazy lately for me to blog about our spring break trip that we took a month and a half ago.  I still don’t have time to do the trip justice.  This short post will have to do.  I polled the family members who went on the trip (Juju didn’t go because she had school and work, and Shroom didn’t go because he opted to go with a friend’s family to Las Vegas) on their top three favorites on the trip.  Here are their results (with a few pics from each top choice carefully chosen to preserve our anonymity):

Hub

1.  Scorpion hunting! (We stayed with my sister who happened to be experiencing a scorpion infestation.  We learned that scorpions glow in the dark when you shine a black light on them.  Hub loved going in the backyard after dark and hunting for the little nasties).

2.  Making Japanese food.  (Hub made some of his yummy Japanese food for all of us one night)

3.  Going to Oreganos for pizzookies.  (Oreganos is an Arizona original with the best dessert in the world–the pizzookie is a partially baked cookie topped with ice cream.  Yum!  I want one right now!)

Actual glowing scorpion

Huh (joined us on some of our activities since she just happened to be attending college in Phoenix at the time).

1.  Visiting the Phoenix Zoo.  Especially feeding the random squirrel on the trail, and going into the monkey enclosure.

2.  Taking pictures.

3.  Playing games with the family

Our squirrel friend

 

Mack:

1.  All day Thursday.  (The day consisted of kayaking at Tempe Town Lake, a picnic, renting tandem bikes and riding trails at Tempe Town lake, and then later that evening seeing the movie “Rio.”

2.  The warm weather.

3.  Phoenix Zoo.

 

 

Hoob:

1.  Feeding sting rays at Phoenix Zoo.

2.  Oreganos

3.  Riding the tandem bikes.

 

 

Yawlin:

1.  The Arizona Science Center.  (My scientific little boy loved all of the interactive exhibits here).

2.  The Tandem bikes.

3.  A tie.  Oreganos and spending time with family.

 

Me combined with Mack

 

Me combined with Hoob.

 

Me combined with Yawlin

 

Yawlin

 

Hoob

 

Mack

 

Me

 

Kweenmama:

1.  Seeing family.  Namely my daughter who had been living away from home at college and seeing my sister and her family.

2.  The tandem bikes.

3.  Relaxing….

My nieces' pet baby turtles

 

Huh showing her siblings around her campus

 

It was a great trip!  I wish I had time to write more about it, but life keeps getting in the way…

…at least we have the memories!

 

 

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?

Breathtaking!

*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.

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!

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.

One of the best pats of vacationing, for me, is the enthusiasm our kids show.  They can get excited about the simplest things–seeing a flower that doesn’t grow in our home state, trying a new activity, laughing about spilled cough syrup in a suitcase or almost getting a speeding ticket–for the kids, it is all part of being “in the moment” and enjoying the vacation to the fullest.  The best thing a parent can do is to join in on the fun.  I have written about our recent trip to Oregon in two previous posts.  In both (Road Trip Must Haves and Vacation on the Cheap) there are examples of ways our kids showed enthusiasm.  Here are a few more ideas on letting go and simply enjoying your vacation with your kids:

*Tap into the excitement the kids feel upon arrival at your destination.  Our trip to Oregon required a long 14 hour drive, the last hour of which seemed the longest.  We were all tired and a little cranky as we finally pulled up to our little beach house at around 10:15 p.m.   The crankiness quickly dissipated as one of the kids said, “I can hear the ocean!”  Like electricity, the excitement spread through the rest of the kids.  They begged to go to the beach.  How could we deny that?  We told them that as soon as both vehicles were unloaded we would all walk down to the beach together.  The kids have never worked so quickly to unload luggage!  All tiredness was forgotten.  It didn’t matter that it was chilly and dark.  A beach was nearby and they were going to experience it as soon as possible.  Once we reached the beach the kids had their shoes off and were running in the sand, getting their feet wet, and picking up the corpses of tiny crabs.  All thoughts of bed were completely forgotten.  We stayed at the beach for about an hour and then walked back to the beach house with some very happy kids. 

Happy family on the beach.

Happy family on the beach.

 

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

*Pay attention to what your kids are most excited about.  For our kids, the beach was the big draw, which is why we rented a house near the beach.  We did do some activities away from the beach, but whenever there was some spare time, the kids wanted to go to the beach and we allowed it.  There were sand castles that needed to be built, seashells that were begging to be gathered, seagulls available for chasing, and some serious swimming that needed to take place.  We flew kites, built a bonfire, and played glow-in-the-dark tag on the beach.  We don’t live near the ocean, so the kids naturally find it fascinating.  We built on that fascination and created some great memories.

Chasing seagulls.

Chasing seagulls.

 

The moat is bigger than the castle!

The moat is bigger than the castle!

 

Lovin' the beach, not matter what time of day!
Lovin’ the beach, no matter what time of day!

 

*Take the pictures they want taken.  So many times on our vacation I heard the words, “Mom, take a picture of me over here,” or “Get a picture of me doing this!”  With digital cameras, you can take as many pictures as you want and then delete those that aren’t perfect.  Mack and Hoob each grabbed my camera a few times on our vacation to get some shots they thought were interesting.  I brought my laptop computer so that each night I could download pictures and clear my memory card for the next day’s activities.  Kids love to see themselves in pictures and when the vacation is over, it is fun to print out some of their favorites and give them to them to display in their room or locker at school.
Mom, he's posing for the camera!  Take the picture!

Mom, he's posing for the camera! Take the picture!

Stepson, Shroom, posing for the camera.

Stepson, Shroom, posing for the camera.

*Find learning opportunities.  Since we don’t live near an ocean, and the kids find it so fascinating, we made sure to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium so that the kids could learn about marine life.  They enjoyed the tide pool tables where could they could touch various marine animals and ask questions.  They went nuts with their cameras taking pictures of some of the weird creatures we saw.  It was fun to hear some of the older teenagers share knowledge they had learned in their science classes at school with their younger siblings.  One of the favorite displays was the “Deep Water” display that had an underwater glass walkway that we could walk through and see sharks and sting rays swimming all around us.  Every one of us came away having learned something new.
"What in the world IS that?"

"What in the world IS that?"

Jellyfish.

Jellyfish.

Don't eat me!

Don't eat me!

*Taste the local flavor.  Since we were near the ocean, the kids naturally wanted to eat some seafood.  We went with local recommendations and ate lunch at “Mo’s” (locations only in Oregon) one day.  I can honestly say that “Mo’s” has the best clam chowder I have ever eaten.  And my crab sandwich was to die for.  The kids swapped bites of their food so that they could taste as many different things as possible.  Hoob was so impressed with her clam chowder in a bread bowl that she took a picture of it.  When eating on vacation it is fun to skip the big chain restaurants and eat at places found only locally.  My sisters and I have made it a tradition to visit “Oregano’s” (locations only in Arizona) for a Pizzookie whenever we visit our sister that lives in Phoenix.  That is a dessert everyone should try at least once in their life!  Ask around, the locals will let you know the best places to eat.  You won’t be disappointed.
Hoob's clam chowder in a bread bowl.

Hoob's clam chowder in a bread bowl.

*Foster the natural love for animals.  Soon after arriving at our beach house a “resident” made himself known (we are only guessing it was a “he.”).  A raccoon was living under the deck of the house and it was apparent that vacationers before us had fed him.  He came right up to us without fear.  The kids named him “Kunz” and hand fed him cereal and crackers.  (Before anyone lectures me:  I know the dangers of getting too close to wild animals, and I was cautioning the kids constantly as well as keeping an eye on all the happenings.  It was clear that this little guy HAD been fed by others before us and was used to people.)  A few nights into our vacation another raccoon showed up that was mean and chased Kunz away.  The hand-feeding stopped and the kids named the new raccoon “Cujo.”  Luckily, we got some great pictures before Kunz was chased away.  The kids loved being able to tell my parents about Kunz.  They’ve experienced all sorts of wildlife at my parents’ cabin over the years.  There was “Squirrely,” the gray squirrel who would come up to my mom on the deck of her cabin and tap her feet until Mom fed her peanuts and there was the sage hen that followed my dad everywhere, including into the cabin.  The kids have thrown cracker crumbs to chipmunks and watched colorful birds fight over the seeds in the birdfeeders.  Deer and moose pass buy regularly.  Their excitement over seeing wildlife is contagious.  Foster it wisely and with caution, and they will love the memories.

Kunz getting a treat.

Kunz getting a treat.

*Trust your spouse’s recommendations.  Hub was familiar with the area we were vacationing in because he’d lived there for many years.  He insisted we visit some lava tubes and the “Ape Cave” in Washington State.  It was a three hour drive from our beach house, which didn’t thrill the kids, but Hub kept promising us that we would enjoy the excursion.  We broke the drive up by stopping half way and eating a picnic lunch before continuing on.  We visited the lava tubes first.  They are underground tubes that were created when molten lava covered giant fallen trees.  The ends of the trees were sticking out of the lava which allowed them to deteriorate, thus leaving  hardened tubes in their place.  Of course teens are going to dare each other to crawl through the tubes!  The entire family, except me (claustrophobia, ya know!), crawled through the tubes.  They egged each other on and went back through the way they’d come.

Exiting a lava tube.

Exiting a lava tube.

Next, it was on to Ape Cave. 

At Ape cave we passed out flashlights to everyone because, once inside, it is pitch black.  It is about an hour and a half hike through the cave from the entrance to the exit.  It is not guided.  You find your way through on your own, but it is impossible to get lost, as you use your flashlight to look around you can quickly tell the only way to go.  There is quite a bit of climbing in Ape Cave and a few places that were tight squeezes.  In one spot Hub had to go before me and talk me through it so that I could make it through in spite of my claustrophobia.  The best thing about the cave was that the family had to work together to get through it.  Some took on the role of leading and finding the way to go.  Some took on the role of reaching down and lifting others up the rocks.  We all encouraged each other along the way.  Of course there was the usual laughing when someone hit their head, or screaming when Squid and Shroom managed to hide and scare the girls.  When we all made it out of the cave alive we were very proud of our accomplishment.  And Hub had been right, it was worth it.

Entering Ape Cave.

Entering Ape Cave.

 

One of the easier spots in the cave.

One of the easier spots in the cave.

 

Helping each other through a tight squeeze.

Helping each other through a tight squeeze.

*Enjoy plan B.  There was one day that our plans had to be changed because of rain.  Not wanting to just sit around the beach house we decided to drive to Newport (30 minutes away) and visit one of the museums there.  We had a choice of a wax museum or Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  We took a vote and Ripley’s won.  The kids enjoyed the exhibits and came up with some fun ways to take pictures.  We decided upon new boyfriends and girlfriends for our teens based upon some of the exhibits.  It only took us a couple of hours to see everything in the museum, but it was fun to be out doing something.

Squid's new girlfriend.

Squid's new girlfriend.

 

Mack's new boyfriend.

Mack's new boyfriend.

 

Trying to get pictures in the mirrors that go on forever.

Trying to get pictures in the mirrors that go on forever.

*Try something new.  Kayaking, horseback riding, a new hike, a new food, on vacation try to do at least one thing that is new to your family, something you’ve never done before.  Our family booked a fishing excursion because none of us had ever fished on the ocean before.  The kids’ enthusiasm for this activity even got the captain of our boat excited!  We came home with 51 fish and six crabs.  The kids cheered for each other any time a fish was caught.  The deck hand and the captain told us it was tradition to kiss the first fish you caught and that if you taste the still beating heart of a fish it brings you good luck.  Whether these are real fish lore, or they took us for suckers, the kids bought into it and did as they were dared.  Ick.  We paid to have the fish fileted and the crab cleaned and cooked.  We had a very tasty meal the next night, and came home with enough fish to feed us for quite a few more meals.  It was a great time!  And now the kids can notch another activity up on “stuff I’ve done.”

The "Mother-in-law" fish that Hoob caught.

The "Mother-in-law" fish that Hoob caught.

 

Shroom kissing one of the fish he caught.

Shroom kissing one of the fish he caught.

 

Tasting a beating fish heart.

Tasting a beating fish heart.

 

Hauling in some of our crabs.

Hauling in some of our crabs.

 

The captain having second thoughts about letting Hoob steer the boat.

The captain having second thoughts about letting Hoob steer the boat.

*Let go.  I once heard a morning radio talk show host tell about seeing stressed out parents at Disneyland trying to rush their kids around so that they could see every single attraction.  The kids were crying and the parents were clearly not happy.  He said, “If your four-year-old wants to stay in the spray area and get sprayed, let him!  If that is what he is enjoying then relax and let him have fun.  The point of a family vacation is to build memories, not to see how many attractions you can get under your belt.”  I agree.  If you come home from your vacation more stressed out and angry than when you left, what was the point of going?  Let go and let the kids experience what they want to experience.  It is okay if you don’t see or do everything you planned.  Remember that the relationship with your family is the most important thing.  Slow down.  Build those memories.  Go with the flow.

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Enjoy the enthusiasm of your kids and you can’t go wrong!

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Update on my health:  We still don’t know what is going on.  I saw a cardiologist who thought for sure, based on my symptoms, that I had a hole in my heart.  But when testing was completed my heart looked healthy.  He did say that it is possible that there is a very tiny hole that the test wouldn’t show but that I don’t need to worry about it.  Huh?  Not worry?  Okay.  I’ve been told I can do whatever physical activities I desire.  My symptoms are subsiding a bit, and I told Hub that maybe we’ll never know what it is.  Meanwhile, I’m glad to be feeling better than what I was.  Since I was down in bed for most of June, whenever I do feel better I choose to spend the time with my family rather than at the computer, so blogging will not be as often as in the past.  Perhaps I can pick up my old schedule once the kids are back in school.

 

Last year I wrote a post offering ideas to beat the boredom on long road-trips.  This year I add to that by giving suggestions on items to have in the car.  Our trip to Oregon included a 14 hour drive.  Here are some items I found helpful to have along:

*Water bottles.

*Tissues.

*Music.  I allowed the kids to choose the music.  They brought along their own CDs.  Some of their music choices leave me shaking my head, but it is good for parents to occasionally listen to what their kids like.  Ask questions about it.  Who sings this?  What is this song about?  Is this a guy or a girl????  At one point I was able to point out to Huh that a song we were listening to had lyrics that I didn’t like.  She quickly changed the song.

*Baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

*Snacks.  Mack suggested one of our snacks for the road-trip.  She had it at girl’s camp last year and really liked it.  Give each person a lemon and have them roll it in their hands and knead it until it is quite squishy.  Then offer a choice of candy sticks with citrus flavor.  Our choices were orange, lemon, and tangerine.  Stick the candy stick into the lemon and suck on it like a straw.  The acid from the lemon eventually creates holes so that the lemon juice can be sucked up through the candy stick.  The mixture of sour and sweet makes it delicious.  I had our lemons chilled on ice in the cooler, which made for a nice cool treat during one of our stops.  Be aware that you will get sticky.  That is where the baby wipes and hand sanitizer come in handy. 

*DVD players and plenty of movies.  They did make the 14 hour drive a little more bearable.  As the driver, I found that I enjoyed Hoob’s DVDs of “The Andy Griffeth Show” most enjoyable because the dialogue was funny enough that I didn’t need to see the screen to see what was going on.  Why my soon-to-be 14-year-old loves old shows like “The Andy Griffeth Show” and “I Love Lucy” is a mystery to me.  Most of her friends find it strange.  But I don’t mind that she likes themMost of the stuff kids watch today is garbage.

*Games.  I had notepads of the “Dot Game” available as well as various peg games.  The kids could play with a partner or by themselves.

*Camera.  It is a GREAT boredom buster.  Teens especially will find uses for a camera.

Oregon 187

During one of our day trips in Oregon some bikers pulled into the gas station where we were filling our cars.  One of them had a face covering that looked like a skull.  I told Huh to discreetly get a picture of him.  She tried, but couldn’t get the camera at the right angle.  The other kids tried with their cameras, but they weren’t quite as discreet as Huh.  When we pulled away from the gas station the bikers followed us.  The kids reacted with a mixture of fear and excitement.  Huh was sure we were going to die.  Though they were fearful, the kids kept snapping away with their cameras.  I laughed hysterically the entire time.

Oregon 284

Oregon 288

Oregon 287

We never did get a picture of the guy with a skull.  The bikers waved as they eventually passed us. 

We also used the camera to take pictures of stuff that is important to know…

Oregon 030

Yup. Good to know.

*If your teen drivers want to do some of the driving, make sure they have their license with them.  I had Huh drive for part of the drive to Oregon so that I could get some rest.  She was following Hub who was leading in his truck.  As we entered a construction zone a highway patrolman pulled us all over for speeding.  Poor Huh was beside herself because she’d just been trying to stay up with Hub so we didn’t get lost.  She was ready to chew Hub out if she got a ticket and it went on her driving record.  After checking licences and registrations for both vehicles the cop let both driver’s off with a warning.  Maybe he decided a family our size couldn’t afford two speeding tickets?  Whatever the reason, we were very grateful.  Thank you Mister Oregon Highway Patrolman.  We laugh about it now.

*Cell phone.  We made it all the way to Oregon and through the entire week without me having any TIAs (see my previous posts).  And then about two hours into the return trip one hit.  It wasn’t as big as the one two weeks before, but it was enough to scare me.  I told Huh to call Hub, who was again leading in his truck, and tell him that we needed to pull over as quickly as possible.  Huh and Mack each took turns driving my car for the rest of the drive home (Squid gave Hub a few breaks in his truck as well).

More on the trip later.  Today I make an appointment with a neurologist.