Friday, June 28, 2013

Getting Our Feet Back Under Us...

This past week since we got home it's been so great to see all the neighbors we've been missing, get the house re-stocked with food, finish blog posts about our trip, catch up on emails and bills and mail, get the house somewhat clean, and even have a little time to just plain relax a bit here and there. I think I'm finally mostly caught up on sleep after so many short nights on our road trip.

We've got this year's Loosli Learning Adventures Camp well underway. (details here - this post went viral - hundreds of thousands of reads - nice to see that some things that have worked for us are resonating with lots of other families.) The kids are going full-force on their daily "must-do's" and their summer goals. I have to say it's pretty wonderful to have the kids busily reading, writing, doing little jobs around the house, etc while I do my Power of Moms work for a little while each day.

Here are the kids' goals for what they'll be working on at home at at Bear Lake the rest of this summer (part of the Learning Adventures Camp). They'll get $45 each if they complete all their goals and they're super excited about that. Every year we do this, they get quicker and better at setting measurable, tangible, time-bound goals. They've been really good about working towards these goals every day (and it helps that they need to check off their "practice" point on their "must-do" chart every day). I love seeing the kids moving towards things that are important to them (and to me).

Jared's Father's Day present was season passes for the whole family to a water park. We went with some cousins and had a wonderful day:

Our dear friends and neighbors got back from South Africa and the kids had a great time dressing up as the stars in some Disney Teen Beach movie that's coming out soon and then they put on a few crazy shows for their moms. I sure get to watch a lot of shows around here.

Ashton got to buy this new Nook he's been saving up for forever. He was SO excited when the package came. But then we unearthed his report card that had come in the mail while we were travelling and found some pretty scary grades that didn't go along with what he'd told us we could expect from his grades. So that lovely new Nook has to be put away for a bit while Ashton does takes care of a check list of things he's agreed to do to make up for those grades (write some history reports, meet the presidential fitness requirements for situps, mile-run, etc that he didn't try hard for in PE, etc.). We're all pretty sad about it but he's working hard and hopefully he'll be able to enjoy his Nook soon!

We had a bunch of the kids' favorite little people over for an afternoon of playing/babysitting so their mom could have a break:

Oh, how I love summer!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A glimpse into our car time

We made it back home!

Final view of the trip counter when we got home (and yep, we were out of windshield wiper fluid by the end!)

Here’s a little glimpse into a pretty typical afternoon in the car during our recent 3-week, nearly 5800-mile road trip (I had Ashton type most of it up as it was happening.)

The twins are giggling and doing an amazing amount wrestling, considering they have their seat belts on and Eliza and Isaac declare that it should be quiet time so everyone can read but then Isaac starts tickling the twins.

Eliza: “Isaac, stop, I thought you wanted to have a quiet time!”

Isaac (to the twins): “QUIET TIME!”

– lots more giggling from the twins

Isaac: starts singing a song then Eliza does the same (a different song - serious cacaphony).

Isaac: Eliza, stop singing! I thought you wanted to have quiet time!

Eliza: YOU are the one who started singing!

Ashton: You guys, mom is having me type everything you're doing - just so you know. And you're being SO ANNOYING!

More giggling and wrestling from twins in back seat.

Eliza: No one will be quiet so I have to keep reading the same sentence again and again in my book. You guys, BE QUIET!

Isaac starts singing another fairly tuneless (and somewhat annoying) song.

Oliver: OUCH!!!! (crying)

Me: See, whenever you guys wrestle, someone always gets hurt. It's quiet reading time everyone, get out your books. NOW!

Eliza: Oliver isn't reading - he's trying to sneak time on the Kindle and he doesn't have enough points for any Kindle time.

Oliver: I can't read because Silas is reading the book I want to read and he won't give it back.

Me: Silas, you get to read until the clock says 3:30 then it's Oliver's turn with that book, OK?

Silas: But I only have 20 pages left in this book!

Me: OK, Oliver will you be OK with Silas reading the last 20 pages then you can have the book all to yourself from then on?

Oliver: 20 pages is FOREVER!

Me: Oliver, work on your workbook for a while and you can get some more points while Silas finishes reading, OK?

(While I'm trying to work out the book issue Isaac starts tickling Silas and Eliza complains that she can't concentrate on reading - the noise is getting worse, the kids are really bugging me, it's been 2 hours of these little squabbles....)

You get the picture. Only usually, Ashton's in the mix, throwing in his own issues to make things a bit more chaotic from time to time. Having him type up blog posts for me while driving seemed to help on many fronts...

And we had quite a few times when one of the twins suddenly and urgently needed a bathroom while we were in the middle of nowhere which wasn't all that ideal.

I had high hopes that the kids would sleep a lot more than they did in the car. With so many late nights, car time seemed like an ideal time for getting some extra sleep. But while Isaac and the twins took some pretty good cat naps in the car, Eliza and Ashton just don't sleep in the car much at all and times like this weren't as common as I'd hoped (note that he's keeping his candy close, even in his sleep!):

They must have been really tired to sleep like this!

But for the most part, the kids really were amazingly good in the car and we had some really great times talking, playing games, pointing out interesting things as we drove, singing along with the Road Trip Mix Ashton made of everyone's favorite songs, and reading. The points system Ashton wrote about here worked wonders most of the time.

Here's a stack of the books they read - some excellent children's literature (Charlotte Doyle, Phantom Tollbooth, Mysterious Benedict Society) and some just random books they begged for at the school book sale. Ashton read two books I love on the Kindle - Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle - he loved them both and is now reading another book by the same author. We had some good talks about the books as we drove - fun having a kid old enough to read and discuss my favorite books with me.

Oliver, Silas and Isaac spent one entire afternoon in the car building a fort in the back seat out of sleeping bags - here it is:

When we stopped in Ohio to visit my friend Sarah and her family, they showed the kids how to make these awesome rubber band bracelets and gave us a little loom so the kids could make more in the car. They spent lots of hours making bracelets for themselves and all the cousins and friends they'd be seeing during the trip. GREAT car activity. Thanks Sarah!

Here's what the loom looks like (you can get it here if you want)

And in Kansas City, my friend Kristine and her kids gave us this great set of car games that made the last few days of the trip really fun. We especially loved playing "Two Truths and a Lie," "I have never..." and "Buzz" where you trade off saying numbers and have to remember that you have to say "buzz" in place of one particular number. So nice to have fresh car games by that point in the trip! (you can get this game set here if you want)

A big part of our long days of driving in the car was our stops at Subway for meals. I love love love that there's pretty much ALWAYS a Subway we can stop at when we're on the road and everyone can find something relatively healthy to eat. Everyone would buddy up with someone else and choose a 5-dollar footlong to share. The boys usually got egg and cheese omlet sandwiches with tomatoes and cucumbers and Eliza and I got a veggie delight on toasted flat bread with provolone cheese and lots of spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes on it with a bit of ranch and mustard (sounds weird but it's actually a great combination). You can't beat $15 for a nice healthy meal for 6! And thankfully, Subway gave us a $100 gift card so we were able to eat tons of meals for free. But we would have eaten there just as much even w/o the gift card. Honestly love love love Subway for road trips.


Here's the most interesting Subway we stopped at - in the almost-ghost-town of Unionville, MO. It was on the first floor of a building that needed some serious TLC and the building right across the street had just fallen down recently. At this Subway, three cute little old ladies called me over to their table to ask me if all those kids were mine and tell me that they were the cutest and most well-behaved children they had seen in a very long time. That made me feel pretty darn good (and I was glad they hadn't seen us at breakfast at the hotel that morning!)

As well as Subway, we visited a LOT of gas stations for restroom breaks and fill-ups (and let me just say gas prices vary WIDELY across the country - everything from $3.49 in Missouri to $4.79 near Chicago!). At most gas stations, the kids gleefully picked out the candy or other treats they'd earned through reading and writing and doing their workbooks in the car. And at one gas station, the twins found these signs that they really really really wanted (Oliver's obsessed with pugs and Silas absolutely adores chiuauas) but luckily they didn't have enough points to buy these (I just couldn't quite see them in our house...). They were happy with just getting a picture with the signs.

Although I cleaned the windshield at pretty much every gas station , our windshield was pretty darn covered with bugs:

And the front of the van sported an ever-increasing bug graveyard:

I loved the scenery we saw as we drove along. With no working DVD player in the car and just the one Kindle for everyone to share, we all looked out the window a lot and pointed out beautiful things to each other. I loved that. And I think we all got a great appreciation for the expanse and varied geography of our country.

A sunset in Nebraska:

Beautiful rolling hills of West Virginia:

Beautiful wildflowers all along the roads in Pennsylvania:

Barns and beautiful farmland in Iowa and Ohio:

green, green, green farmland in rural New York:

Indiana trees and farmland (we kept thinking shadows on the horizon were mountains - weird to not see mountains on the horizon for so long!)

The more stark beauty of Wyoming:

And this became our favorite road trip song ("Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson):

 So with all else in motherhood (and in life), I guess I'll go ahead take the hard stuff (the squabbling in the car, the discomfort of driving and sitting so long, the emergency pit stops, the uncomfortably close proximity for hours on end) because it comes hand in hand with the very good stuff (the bonding, the good talks, the scenery, the laughs, the creativity, the singing along to our favorite songs, not to mention the exciting sites we saw and people we visited). It's all part of the package. And it's a package I'm so very grateful for.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Days 18-20: Kansas City, Denver, and HOME

We're home.

Home is a wonderful place to be after three weeks of road tripping adventures!

In the past couple days, I've got stuff mostly unpacked, done a couple loads of laundry, got some of the serious dust cleaned out of this house, and have partially re-stocked food around here. The van needs to be seriously cleaned inside and out. We'll get to that. I've got hundreds of non-urgent emails I put off during the trip to deal with. I'll get to that. The kids have been playing non-stop with their neighborhood friends. I had a great meeting with April who was in town and moved some important and timely Power of Moms projects forward as we enjoyed the rare opportunity to work side by side for several hours. The kids and I celebrated a belated Father's Day with Jared yesterday (we were sadly apart last weekend) by going on a fun family bike ride and today we're serving him a special Father's Day feast and the kids have cute letters and notes for him. And I've had three nights of great sleep in my own bed. Hallelujah!

We had a great Retreat in Kansas City, MO last Tuesday evening (separate post on that coming soon - great group). The kids loved hanging out with the kids of my friend and co-trainer, Kristine, while she and I put on the Retreat. And the kids were OVERJOYED (as in literally jumping up and down and doing cartwheels) when the random hotel we got through Priceline proved to have a mini-water park in it.

After the water park fun, we met up with Kristine and her kids to go to Liberty Jail, our last church history site for the trip. Super interesting.

The kids listened so reverently and really seemed to get a lot out of the excellent presentation a sister missionary did for us while we were there. And they loved being with Kristine's kids for a little bit longer and were very sad to say goodbye.

Joseph Smith and several others were incarcerated in this tiny underground jail cell for nearly 5 months during the coldest part of the year for "crimes" that weren't fully explained while church members endured crazy persecution in the world outside. In the midst of terrible conditions, they were able to fend off despair, hunger, cold and deplorable conditions and Joseph received the powerful revelations that became Doctrine and Covenants sections 121, 122 and 123.

Here's the jail (exact reproduction using the stones from the original building)

 Jones and Loosli kids with the jail replica:

Kristine and I (with sweet Sierra)

After the jail, we checked out Kansas City just a bit before hitting the road.

 The view of the city from the Word War I Memorial was beautiful:

World War I Memorial:

Random cool graffiti:

As we started our trek home, Kansas seemed to go on forever. We wanted to make it to Denver but it was getting late and I was craving one unrushed hotel slumber party with the kids before getting home (every hotel stay had involved getting in late at night and leaving pretty early). So we stopped at Walmart, picked out frozen burritos and everyone picked out some veggies and fruits (we were all - even the kids - begging for fruits and veggies after sort of losing it on the healthy food the last few days), and stopped in Colby Kansas at what proved to be the nicest hotel we stayed at our whole trip (and thankfully our room had a microwave for our frozen burritos!).  We ate while watching a movie and had such a nice, relaxing time together.
MMMMmmmm.... frozen peas!

The next morning, we had our last hotel breakfast buffet with yogurts, eggs, waffles, sugared cereals and pastries galore. The kids at HUGE breakfasts at every hotel (the 2.5 star hotels always have free breakfast buffets which are all pretty similar - ample, lots of choices, plenty of sugar and preservatives going on, all things that appeal greatly to children whose mom usually makes them simple oatmeal or eggs with fruit for breakfast...). A super nice lady, Pricilla, helped make sure we got everything we wanted for breakfast (usually they just set out food and leave you alone but Pricilla went the extra mile). We've met some very kind and helpful people on this trip.

Then we hit the road for our last day of driving.

We stopped in Denver and explored there a bit (I've never been there before). Loved the musicians playing on the streets, the beautiful old Brown Derby hotel where people were having their fancy afternoon tea, the lovely tree-lined pedestrian main street, the familiar site of mountains in the distance, and the dry air (it was 100 degrees but felt much cooler than what we'd experienced with lower temperatures and much higher humidity on the East Coast).

First glimpse of Denver through our seriously bug-covered windshield:

Then we drove and drove and were SO excited to get home at about 10:30pm. The kids jumped all over their dad and gleefully got into their own beds and Jared and I caught up for a bit before my eyes started closing of their own accord and I felt super dizzy and weird. It was definitely time for a long sleep in my own bed in our own home with my wonderful husband beside me!


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