Monday, July 31, 2006

Nauvoo and Carthage, Illinois

We had the best time visiting church history sites in Carthage and Nauvoo. My biggest piece of advice for anyone who hasn't been there: one day isn't enough! There were SO many things that we wanted to see and do. But, I'm very grateful for the experiences that we had.

This is the end of Parley Street, where the early members of the church had to cross the Mississippi River on their way to the West. It was very humbling to picture families leaving everything behind and facing this huge river to take their families across. What a challenge.

We watched the Nauvoo Pageant in the evening. It was awesome. In fact, it was my favorite part of the whole road trip. For an hour and a half before the pageant began, they had "preshow activities." They were perfect for my kids. Brandon got to play stickball and he and I raced in gunny sacks. Whitney's favorite activity was decorating a paper hat.

This is the Nauvoo Temple. Beautiful. It's amazing to think that it's a replica of the one built in the 1830's. I read that it was the biggest building east of Chicago at that time. That's probably because it was mostly frontierland east of Chicago at that time.

The first thing we did in the morning was visit Carthage Jail, the site where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. I'm so glad we decided to go here first. It was a very reverent spot. My kids are NOT very reverent. They did pretty well, but I can't imagine taking them there at the end of the day. The most suprising part for me was that the bullet hole from the bullet that killed Hyrum is still in the door. The grounds all around the jail are beautiful--very well kept. Many of the windows still have that cool old wavy glass that I love. They played a short audio clip of the events of the evening of June 27, 1944 while we were in the 2nd floor bedroom where Joseph and Hyrum were killed. There was a really neat spirit there that I could even feel while trying to contain my two crazy kids.

Here Brandon is posing with a few of the cast members from the Pageant. The cast is made of up of 20 professionals and 150 volunteer families. It was amazing to walk around all the historic buildings around Nauvoo and be guided by volunteer missionaries everywhere we went. I can't imagine how many volunteer hours are given to help that place run. And what a blessing that I can benefit from all of their service!

This was the kids' favorite spot, the Pioneer Pastimes pavillion. They had all kinds of toys and games from pioneer times. We probably stayed here for over an hour and I still had to drag my kids away when it was time to go. Whitney was content just to play with the wooden blocks. She would've been a good pioneer child. They also had two little play cabins--one was like a kitchen inside and the other like a schoolhouse. After spending so much time in the car, I'm glad the kids could just play for a while.

Throughout the trip it was obvious that Whitney missed her Daddy. She seemed to gravitate to whatever male we were visiting--Patrick, Uncle Bill, both of her Grandpa's, Uncle Paul. This was the funniest attraction--to a statue daddy outside of the visitor's center. She kept walking up to him and giving him hugs. I tried to warn Andrew he was being replaced. Luckily, she was even happier to see her real daddy when we got home.

We went to a children's musical production called "Just Plain Anna Amanda." It was very entertaining and the kids loved it. Towards the end, they pulled one child out of the audience to go on stage for a couple of minutes and it just happened to be Brandon! It was so cute. He enjoyed the attention.

As we were leaving the pageant at the end of a long, very full day, Brandon said, "Thank you, Mom. I loved coming here. It was even funner than going to BYU." (which is one of his favorite things to do when we visit Utah, so that's saying a lot.)

Side notes: I didn't know how muggy it was in Illinois. Holy cow! It felt even more humid than NC. We were so gross and sweaty by the end of the day.

Also, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was there the same night we were. He actually sat on the row right in front of us. That was pretty cool. Last time I spoke with a general authority face to face, I made a fool out of myself, so I kept my distance from Elder Oaks.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Trip Summary: by the numbers

5442 Total number of miles travelled, including the three times we got lost and all our little detours.

48 Different state license plates we saw along the way--people from New Hampshire and Rhode Island must not travel enough. We even saw Hawaii and Alaska!

30 Friends and relatives that we stayed with and visited along the way. That REALLY made it worth it.

5 pounds I gained on the trip.

0 times I went running. (Most likely reason for the 5 pounds, huh? Oh, not to mention all the junk I ate.)

2 new tires. Doesn't that tire look TERRIBLE???
I even had them checked before we left.

20 states we drove through.

430 pictures taken.

4 times we saw what Whitney described as WHOLE CHICKENS!

2 times Whitney threw up. Gross.

3 times we left things behind after we'd stayed with family. Darn. Whitney was pretty upset when we didn't have her night-night last night because we'd left it in Louisville!!

$3.07 the most we had to pay for gas.
Missouri broke our record of never having to pay
over $3.00. This was the only time over the whole three weeks.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The adventure continues

Hi, there. I just have a quick minute on the computer in the lobby of the hotel where we're staying in Keokuk, IA (just outside of Nauvoo) so I thought I'd post a little update.

We're having a great time. Things are going well.

We had a fairly uneventful drive to North Platte, NE on Monday. We did get lost once on our way to Flaming Gorge, UT. That turnoff was very poorly marked if you ask me! We went about 50 miles out of the way all together by the time we got on the right path. We didn't make any fun stops today. BUT, when we stopped for dinner in Sidney, NE at a Taco Bell/KFC, we ran into someone from Winslow that we know. How crazy is that? She is my high school track coach's wife and works in the school district, so knows my mom. Small world!

On Tuesday we drove through the rest of Nebraska. We stopped at the cutest little science center called the Edgerton Explorit Center. It's in Aurora, NE. The inventor of the strobe light grew up there. Very random. They had several cute exhibits. my kids didn't want to leave! We also stopped at an amazing lewis and Clark visitor's center outside of Nebraska City. Wow! Very impressive. And free. What a bonus!

We were outside the SMALL town of Fillmore, MO when the car started sounding funny and driving rough. I took the next exit and got out to look at the tires. There was a HUGE bald spot(maybe 2 inches wide and 8 inches long) where the rubber had totally come off. It looked like it had been ripped away. It caused a little bit of stress and quite a delay while we found a place that would replace the tires at 6:30 pm. Things could've been so much worse--a blowout, that happening at 11 pm instead of 6 pm, so I was grateful to be safe and to get back on the road. This delayed the trip by about an hour and we had already gotten a late start. To make it worse, we missed another turn off and ended up in Quincy, IL, when we were supposed to be in Iowa. It was wild, but we finally arrived just before 1 in the morning.

We had a wonderful day in Carthage and Nauvoo, IL today, but I will have to post more about that later.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bad luck?

Overall, I would say we are a very blessed family. But over the past few weeks, we've had bad luck when it comes to two things: broken bones and fireworks.

On the 4th of July, each of the kids got to light one sparkler before the torrential downpour ruined our fireworks display. In Utah, they celebrate Pioneer Day on July 24th, so we decided to light some fireworks last night. It went a lot better than the 4th, but it was windy and started raining at the end. I couldn't believe the timing. We've had beautiful evenings the whole time we've been here!

Carson, Brandon, me and a scared Whitney
watching the fireworks.

The night before we went to Salt Lake to spend some time with Andrew's family, our cousin Jane broke her arm. She fell off a slide. Poor little thing! Then on Saturday night, we had a little birthday party for Brandon and Carson who both have July birthdays. Carson got a little plastic sword and was walking around the backyard using it. He tripped and caught himself with only his left arm(not willing to let go of the new sword in his right!) and somehow managed to break both bones in his left arm. I felt SOOOO bad for him. I felt like maybe a little black broken-bone cloud was following us around. I was also grateful that Brandon was standing at the table with us or I know we would've blamed him somehow.

Brandon, broken bone Carson, and Whitney

Let's hope the bad luck stays here as we start our road trip home today!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

More adventures in Utah

We've been having a great time with my parents here in Eastern Utah. Here are a few of the things we've been up to this week:

Brandon and Grandpa (my dad) fishing
My dad is so adventurous. He took us to this lake called Paradise Reservoir. It is at an elevation of almost 10,000 ft and we had to drive on a dirt road for a long time to get there. It was so cool. We drove through aspen groves where there were several deer along the sides--two fawns that were especially cute and then watched as the trees changed to pine and at the very top was this pretty lake. My dad brought his fishing pole and Brandon was pumped to try fishing with him. It started raining like 5 minutes after we got there. It wasn't too heavy, so we stayed there a little while longer, but not as long as we would've liked.
(And not long enough for them to catch anything!)

Before we took our off-roading adventure to the lake, my dad took us to a bird refuge and fish hatchery. This is a picture of Brandon and his cousin, Carson looking at the fish. (Carson has been staying with us this whole week which has been really fun!) They raise a species of fish that is native to the Colorado River, but is endangered. I believe it was called a Razorback Sucker. (I remember Whitney making the comment, "I like suckers." I think she was picturing lollipops, not fish!) Anyway, it was neat to see their facilities and how they raise the fish. The boys, in particular, loved it.

Carson, Brandon, and Whitney. These three have been playing together really well this week. Since we live so far away from our family, our treasure times like these that we can spend together. Carson and Whitney loved throwing rocks into a little pond next to the lake. They could've stayed there forever. Carson also got a turn fishing with Grandpa, which he was excited about.

Me, my mom, and Destiny. Tonight we all went out to dinner at a yummy restaurant. The kids were pretty well behaved, and that can make or break a dinner these days! Afterward we went to the drive-in theater to watch CARS. Even though we'd seen it before, we'd never been to a drive-in movie and I thought the kids would like it. It didn't start until 9:45! Hello--my kids are usually sound asleep by then. Whitney didn't make it through the whole movie. She fell asleep on Grandpa's lap. Brandon somehow managed to stay awake, but then crashed on our way home. I hope they sleep in tomorrow!!!

Earlier this week, we went to an awesome Dinosaur Museum in Vernal, Utah. It is very interactive and perfect for kids. Ok, maybe not all kids. Carson was terrified of some of the life-like models. But Brandon loved earning his "Pee-Wee Paleo" badge and Whitney had a great time digging for fossils. They all enjoyed looking at the fish in a pond outside.

As you can tell, we're staying busy and having a blast. Paul and Daneen are in town to pick up Carson, so we're excited to have one more day to spend with them. On Monday morning we'll begin our trek towards home.

I just have to include this random question that Brandon asked me this week. We were in the bathroom at Wendy's and he was washing his hands and he asked, "Mom, does Jesus have germs?" I thought that was a great question. I don't know the answer. Can you tell his mom is a bit of a germ-freak?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pros and Cons

There are good and bad sides to going on long vacations. Here are some of them for me on this trip:

*I get to see so many of my family members and some friends I hadn't seen in a long time.
*I get to see almost the whole country--how fun is that?
*I don't have to cook. Yippee! Although I should probably volunteer to make dinner at least one of these nights while I'm here with my parents, huh?
*My kids(and I) get spoiled by relatives who only see us a couple of times a year.
*My kids get to play with their cousins--and they're finally old enough to communicate with each other.
*Long talks with my mom in the car while the kids sleep or watch a movie.

*I miss Andrew! Usually when we go on a long trip like this, he flies out during part of it to be with us, but not this time.
*My kids get out of their daily routine, which is usually fine, but sometimes leads to excessive grumpiness and/or whining.
*I hate not having a partner to help me discipline the kids. They were both so good in the car, but Brandon has really been pushing the limits since we got to Utah. It's nice to take turns on giving time-outs with Andrew. And although my family members help me out with the kids in so many other ways, disciplining pretty much falls on me. Which makes sense, but can be tiring.

I know there are a ton of others, but it's getting late so I'll stop. What do you love/hate when you go on vacation?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Adventures in Utah

Well, the fun has not stopped since we've arrived here in Utah. We are having a blast! We drove 2 1/2 hours to Salt Lake on Thursday to spend a few days with Andrew's side of the family. Today we drove back to Roosevelt to be with my parents and will spend the next week here before starting the trek back to the east coast.

Here are some of the highlights of what we've been up to.

Andrew's older sister Angie and her family just moved back to Salt Lake about 6 months ago. They built a beautiful home and the community pool is right across the street--how convenient. So, on Saturday we slathered all the kids with sunscreen and went swimming. It has been SO hot out here. I think it was like 103 on this day. And you know what everyone says about it being a "dry heat"? Well, it's true. I would take 103 in Utah over 93 in NC anytime! Brandon is still a little nervous about swimming, even with his life jacket on. I've decided it's a healthy fear to have, so haven't pushed him. He finally got comfortable enough at the end to jump in. Yippee!

On Saturday morning, Grandma Sweat and I took Brandon and Whitney to a place called Jungle Jim's. It's kind of like Chuck E. Cheese's, but they have more amusement-park-type rides. Brandon's favorite was the bumper cars. (Again, training to be a NASCAR driver!) Whitney liked the carousel and this cute little safari jeep ride. Grandma and I liked skeeball the best. We had a contest, but due to a scoring error, the winner was undecided. (I still think I won!)

Almost every time we go out to Utah, we take our kids to BYU. It started as a one-time visit. Andrew and I were just curious to see how things had changed since we moved away. We took Brandon to the bookstore and bought him candy from the candy counter. Then we went downstairs and took him bowling. He had such a great time that he always asks to go back. Now I'm kind of hoping that these annual visits will endear my kids to the college and they'll want to go there! :) If you look really close on the mountain in the background of this pic, you can see the big Y.

On Friday, we went boating with the family. Here Lauren, Elise, and Reagan(three of our cute girl cousins!) are getting ready to go out on the tube. They are crazy and brave and shout "FASTER! FASTER!" the whole time they are in it. Forrest(the boat captain) decided to give them what they asked for during one of their rides and I think they all ended up with whiplash. But I have a feeling they'll still shout for more next time. Most of the cousins also like to try kneeboarding. They are good at it! Brandon's healthy fear has kept him from trying the tube in the past, but today he decided to try it out with his big cousin, Ethan. (Of course it was the one time my camera was on the shore! But Uncle Tony got a picture that he'll hopefully e-mail to me so I'll have proof.) Whitney had fun playing on the beach and pointing out all of the WHOLE CHICKENS on the beach. (Ok, they were seagulls. But at least they were in the bird family.)

On the drive between Provo and Roosevelt, we passed a sign for Bridal Veil Falls. I LOVE waterfalls and decided it was a detour we just had to make. So, I pulled over and parked and we started on a little hike to find them. My kids were not as excited about the adventure as I was. Brandon was convinced that we were going to get lost. He wanted to turn around and walk back to the car. Whitney was exhausted and insisted that I carry her. As soon as the waterfalls were in sight, Brandon said, "Ok, there they are. Now let's go back." He didn't want to pose for a picture in front of them. Neither did Whitney. And Brandon even refused to take a picture of me in front of them. So, this is my attempt at a self-photograph. I thought I did pretty good. If you look closely again, you can see the waterfalls above and slightly to the left of my big ol' noggin. They were beautiful. Well worth the 25 minute delay, if you ask me. My kids might tell you differently.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Road Trip: Day Four

July 11, 2006

10:10 am Departed Colorado. Yes, we actually took a little time this morning and just relaxed with Amy and Jack. I think we deserved that after our LONG day the day before. It was SO fun to hold a little baby again. None of my friends have little babies, so it has been a long time. And Jack is SO cute and so small. Fun, fun.

11:30 am Stopped for lunch at a cute McDonalds in Idaho Springs, CO. It seemed so funny to be stopping for lunch an hour and a half after we left, but that's how it worked out, so we did it. Colorado is so beautiful. I absolutely loved this part of the drive. I told my mom, "If we see a scenic view sign, we are pulling over."

12:00 pm I saw a sign that said, "Wildlife Viewing Area." Close enough. We pulled over in Georgetown Co. It is gorgeous. There was this pristine little lake right up against a mountain. It was unreal. They had a little building with telescopes where you can put in a quarter and look for big horn sheep on the mountain. The kids loved that. We didn't see any sheep, but had fun playing "Where's Waldo?" with them on the mountain.

2:00 pm Uh oh. My mom and I saw a sign for an outlet mall in Silverthorne, CO. You know what that means? We HAVE to stop and shop! This was the most amazing outlet mall I've ever seen. There was a beautiful wooden bridge with hanging flower pots and a river running right through the middle of it! And, silly me, I didn't bring my camera with me to go shopping, so I can't even share it with you. If you ever get a chance to stop there, you should. Plus, I found some great deals at the Old Navy outlet that I couldn't pass up.

I've decided that if Mapquest says the route should take you about 7 hours to drive, that is the perfect distance to cover in a day. You can take plenty of breaks and stop when you want to and not to have to worry about getting to your destination too late.

7:00 pm Stopped in Dinosaur, UT. This part of the state is known for all of the fossils that have been found. I think every little town tries to captilize on this. We passed two "Dinosaur National Monuments", one in CO and one in UT. There's this city named Dinosaur and we also found out (later) that there is a Dinosaur Rodeo in Vernal every year. I guess if that's what you're known for, why not work it?

Brandon and Whit by one of SEVERAL dinosaur
statues we saw along the way.

8:00 pm Stopped in Vernal, UT to visit some good family friends who used to live in AZ when we did. They had a trampoline and video games. Brandon was thrilled.

9:30 pm Reached our final destination(for this half of the trip, at least): Roosevelt, UT. Got to see my Dad and little sister and take a tour of their new house.

Distance travelled: 376 miles
States passed through: CO, UT
Total time: 11 hours, 10 min

Random thoughts:
I never had to pay $3 or more for gas on this entire road trip. Yippee! I usually paid 2.79-2.89/gallon.

One of my favorite things about this trip was watching the landscapes change as we made our way across the country. I found beauty in each one--from the lush tree-lined highways in the south, to the towering mountains in Colorado, and, yes, I even loved the desert in Texas and NM. It gave me a renewed gratitude for the beauty that God has given us all around.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Road trip: day three on the road

Me and baby Jack

Whit and B at a rest stop in CO
July 10, 2006

8:20 am Departed TX. Sad to say goodbye. Wish we could've stayed longer.

This was our longest day of driving. It took FOREVER and we didn't even make any fun stops. We hit some rain, which wasn't fun and we hit a couple of construction zones where the speed limit went down to 45 mph and for a while even 35 mph. I told my mom I felt like I could get out of the car and run faster than we were driving. Of course I haven't gone running once since the road trip started, so it wouldn't have lasted long.

We started to see the mountains toward the end of our drive. Mountains are beautiful! I kind of forget about that when I'm on the east coast.

10:30 pm Arrived in Colorado to stay with Amy(Andrew's sister) and Dave and meet their new baby Jack who is 4 months old. He was, of course, asleep by the time we got there, so we had to wait until the morning to meet him.

Distance travelled: 733 miles
States passed through: TX, NM, CO
Total time: 15 hours 10 minutes--now that's a long day!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Road trip: Two days of rest

July 8-9, 2006

We got a well deserved break from the all-day driving. If only my kids would sleep in, it would've been even better.

We stayed with my Aunt Irene(mom's sister) and Uncle Bill. My Grandma Cuca was there with us, as well. We had a great visit with them. They have a cute little white dog, Asti, that my kids fell in love with. Irene is convinced we need a dog. Andrew's not.

We packed a picnic lunch and went to a park with a big playground. They had merry-go-rounds. I don't think I've seen one of those at a playground since I was a kid! I was so excited and Brandon got on. I warned him, "Hold on!" And started spinning You can guess what happened next. He went flying off the merry-go-round and tumbled to the ground. He wasn't hurt much, but refused to get back on the rest of the time. (Smart boy!)

Then we went to the Ft Worth Zoo. It is a great sized zoo. The one in Tucson, AZ is really tiny and the one in NC is almost TOO big. We had a great time walking around. We got quite a workout and I think we more than made up for the two days of sitting all day. They had a special dinosaur exhibit spread throughout the zoo and little passports that you could stamp with each species. Brandon loved that. The coolest part of the zoo was that we got to hear the lion roar. Have you ever heard that in real life? I hadn't. It was amazing. It is such a deep sound. You could almost FEEL it. Kind of like when a car drives by you with loud music and a lot of bass. It was humbling and exciting. (Brandon and I liked that the best.) Whitney told me her favorite was the alligator.

After the zoo, we went on a little train ride through part of Ft. Worth. It was near a little canal thingy and we got to see turtles, ducks, pigeons, and egrets. Very cool.

On Sunday we went to church. I always enjoy attending church out of town and seeing how other wards run. And it reminds me what a small world it is. The family in front of us had just moved to TX from NC. And the ward clerk talked to me out in the hall and he had served his mission in Greensboro. Crazy.

We had a nice dinner to celebrate Grandma Cuca's 75th birthday(a few days late). I was glad we could be with her for that.

After dinner we went for a little sail on the lake near their home. It was great. The kids did really well. Whitney got a chance to steer the boat--what a big girl! Brandon got restless about half way through and decided to play down in the cabin. Irene and Bill tried to warn him it would be hot down there, but he didn't care. He would yell things to us from the cabin like, "Ready to turn, mateys?" or "Do you see land, mateys?" all said in a bad British accent. Pretty funny kid.

Happy birthday, Grandma!

Me and the kids are ready for the train.

Whitney and Uncle Bill by the T-rex
It growled at them right as I took the picture
and Whitney wanted out of his way!

Whitney taking her turn steering the ship.
We didn't even get off course.
Hopefully teaching her to drive a car
in 13 years will be just as easy. :)

Road trip: Day Two

Our second day on the road was less exciting than the first.

July 7, 2006

9:15 am Left Mississippi.

Lunch time We decided to stop at a state park in Arkansas for lunch. We happened to choose the lamest state park ever. We got pizza and followed the signs to this so-called park. The road turned to gravel and we still didn't see anything. We drove on the gravel for a while until we came to a camping site. We just pulled over there and laid out our blanket for a picnic in the woods. The kids were just happy to be out of the car for a little while. They hardly even ate the pizza!

Yeah! We get to stretch our legs!

4-ish pm We stopped for a treat at a Dairy Queen near New Boston, TX. This was the best DQ ever. They had a playland with a ball pit--which is one of Whitney's greatest pleasures in life. She giggles uncontrollably when she jumps in. It was another great break.

8:00 pm We hit traffic for the first time on the entire trip in Dallas. I figured we'd be late enough to miss the heavy traffic, but there were a couple of accidents causing back-ups.

8:30 pm We got lost for the first time on the trip. I swear Mapquest led us astray. Both my mom and I were looking for an exit number to get on a different highway and we never saw it. We had to call my Uncle Bill and have him get us to his house a different way. I don't think we lost that much time from our detour.

9:15 pm We arrived in Weatherford, TX, our next destination.

Total travel time: 12 hours
Distance travelled today: 592 miles
States passed through: TN, AR, TX

One of the other fun things I've been doing for the kids on the trip is giving them a couple dollars every day to spend on whatever junk they want. We don't drink pop at home, so Brandon has spent a lot of his money on that. Whitney has spent most of hers on candy. I wish they had some healthy choices for snacks at convenience stores.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Road trip: Day one

July 6, 2006

8:02 am We left the house. My goal was to leave by 8. Not bad. It was raining. Yuck.

8:37 am My car started acting funny. It had been raining for a while and the roads were really wet and it almost felt like the car was hydroplaning a little bit every time we hit a puddle. It was kind of freaky. My mom thought we should pull over and look at the tires. I asked her, "What are we going to look for?" She said we should check the tires. So we did. We didn't see anything obviously wrong with them, so we kept on going. It acted funny a few more times that day, but once we hit dry roads it was fine.

10 am First of many, many potty breaks on the trip. Brandon had a knack for asking to use the potty right after we had passed by a town. Thank goodness he's a boy so we could just pull over on the side of the road when we needed to.

Sometime mid-morning We passed a semi truck carrying "WHOLE CHICKENS!" Whitney was ecstatic and asked if we could drive by it again. We tried to explain in 2-year-old language that you usually only pass a car once on a road trip.

Lunch time I had gone to and mapped out all of their restaurants that had playlands that were within half a mile of our route. I thought that would be a great way to let the kids run around and play regardless of the weather. We somehow missed the exit of the one I had written down on the close side of Atlanta, so we kept driving, but the kids (and me and my mom) were getting hungry, so we didn't wait until the far side of Atlanta, we just picked a random McDonalds and stopped there for lunch. Of course it didn't have a playland and it turned out to be on a BAD side of town in Atlanta. We tried to eat quickly. Whitney didn't eat much of her food, but drank her entire chocolate milk and then was just walking around inside the restaurant. I had just finished eating (one of those new Asian chicken salads. It was really yummy!) and Whitney walked up to me and threw up all over. Oh, sick! Just what we needed. One of my friends from home had just told me that her whole family was just getting over a stomach flu and even though we hadn't been hanging around with them, my first thought was, "Oh great! Whitney has a stomach bug. I'm going to have to cancel this trip to nurse her back to health." My mom said she was probably just carsick. I think she was right, because we didn't have a problem after that.

Mid-afternoon We couldn't believe it, but we drove by that semi with the WHOLE CHICKENS again! Sorry for those of you who don't know the whole chicken story. It's too long to record right now. We also drove by the Talladega Speedway. Holy cow that thing is huge! Brandon thought it was pretty awesome and wanted to stop. The dreams of becoming a NASCAR driver continue.

Evening We stopped at Tupelo, Miss, birthplace of Elvis Presley. They have a cute little park built around the house where he grew up. We were too late to go in the visitors center, but we enjoyed the fountains and all of the plaques where you could read about him. Ok, my mom was the only one who got to read any of them. I was racing Brandon around on the sidewalks and keeping Whitney from falling into any of the fountains.

Dinner Hardees was the closest place we could find to eat. It was pretty gross. Now I know why I never eat there.

9:15 pm Central time We arrived at Marianne and Patrick's house, our first destination. Marianne has been my best friend since 4th grade. It was so fun to see her apartment and the new town house where they'll be moving this month. Now I'll be able to picture where she is when we talk on the phone for hours! :) The kids had a blast with Patrick. They played hide and seek and drove remote control cars around the house. It was hard to convince them that it was time to go to bed.

Total travel time: 14 hrs 13 min
Miles travelled: 667
States passed through: NC, SC, GA, AL, MS

One of the great thing about road trips is that
you get to see random things like huge pieces
of fruit on the side of the road!

Here is my mom in Tupelo, MS

Marianne and Me

Notice I'm still smiling

The kids did great on the drive. I am SO happy about that. I burned a couple of new CDs for them before we left. One was one that I'd downloaded with songs that they like right now--from the CARS soundtrack, snow white, veggietales, etc. That was a big hit. We played 20 questions with Brandon. We just call it "Animal" in my family. I had taken all of my dollar store purchases and put them in brown paper bags with their initials on the outside for the kids. I calculated out how many I'd bought and how many hours we'd be on the road and they got to open a prize about every three hours. They looked forward to those things so much! Even though they were usually just some cheap little toy, they brought some excitement to the trip for them. And then the DVD player was a huge help! My friend, Kim, let me borrow a bunch of DVD's that my kids have never seen, so they were in heaven. Another fun thing we did today was to eat Pringles prints with jokes on them and tell each other the cheezy jokes. There were a few that really did make us laugh. Here are two of the better ones:

Why did the man go out with the raisin?

Because he could find a date!

Why did the dolphin cross the ocean?

To get to the other TIDE.

Ha ha!

We made it!

The road trip has been awesome! I've LOVED it. The kids have been great. The driving has been fine. We only got lost twice, and even then we weren't lost that bad. I can't wait to write all about our adventures, but it's 11:30 Utah time and I am beat! So, these pics will have to do for now.

I never knew how beautiful Colorado is!
I had a wonderful time driving through it.
This was a bighorn sheep viewing area.
We didn't see any, but I still loved the view.

We ate at McDonalds more than I'd ever wished for.

The kids had fun. (Do you like Whit's eyeball patch?) Thanks, Tony!

During our two-day rest in TX, my aunt and uncle took us sailing.

Too fun!

Another exciting stop--Tupelo, MS

birthplace of Elvis. Who knew?

We finally got to meet our new cousin, baby Jack!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fun Fourth

Happy 4th of July! Our day had some ups and downs, but mostly it was lots of fun.

We started off our morning by going to the parade and street festival in downtown Greensboro. Parking was really easy and we arrived just in time for the parade to start and still got a decent spot on the street. We were very happy with ourselves! The parade started off great. They had a few people dressed in revolutionary war uniforms. Some were playing drums and fifes. Others were carrying rifles with bayonets. It was very patriotic, especially after just having visited the Battleground site last week. The grand marshal of the parade was Joey Cheek, gold medalist in speed skating. That was pretty cool. He was so much smaller than I pictured. I realize he's not a football player, but for some reason I picture all elite athletes as being big and buff. He was very average height and skinny. Huh.

The kids were really enjoying the parade. There were a couple of floats that threw candy. Brandon, of couse, was WAY into that and throwing elbows to beat the other kids to it. He even shared a couple of pieces with Whitney who had no chance of getting any.

Near the end of the parade, there was a whole section of protesters marching in the parade. They were anti-Bush, anti-war, and Andrew says anti-American. They were very in-your-face, doing chants and cheers about Bush and blood for oil, etc. It really put a whole damper on the parade. Andrew was mad about it and says he's going to write a letter to the organizers of the parade and that we're never going there for a 4th of July parade again. At first I told him, "That's one of the great parts about living in a free country, honey. You can express your opinions, whatever they are." But the more I thought about it, the more I decided he was right--that was not the time or place for those type of protests. All of us spectators were there to celebrate patriotism and we had all these veterans riding at the beginning and then it ended on such a negative note. That was too bad.

Anyway, after the parade, we walked around the street festival for a while. They had a little children's section that was really cute. We would've stayed longer if the kids were sweating so much. They had a little maze made out of cut-up cardboard boxes that our kids loved! Not only could you go exploring through it, but they had several buckets of paint placed throughout that the kids could go crazy with. Whitney could've stayed there all morning. It was so fun to see her letting her creative juices flow. They did a few other crafts and then Andrew and I were ready to get out of the sun!

In the afternoon, some friends invited us over to their house for swimming, a barbecue and fireworks. The swimming was so fun. There were a couple of other families over as well. Brandon had so much fun with all the other kids that he stayed in the water until he was as pruny as could be. Whitney had a blast for about an hour and then was ready to get out and dried off.

When it got dark enough to light fireworks, we all took a walk to the end of a cul-de-sac to set them off. On the way there, it started sprinkling ever so lightly. All of the kids got to do one sparkler and by the time they were done it was raining just a little harder. They lit one big sparkler firecracker and by the time it was done, it was pouring rain! We said quick goodbyes and ran to our cars! Brandon was disappointed for the second day in a row. We tried to teach him to look on the bright side--if it would've started raining earlier we wouldn't have been able to swim or have the BBQ and at least we got to light a sparkler!

Well, I'm off to pack for the big road trip to start tomorrow. I don't think I'll have internet access for a few days, so I might not be able to post until we get to my parents house. Hope the trips goes smoothly!!
Whitney's one sparkler for the year! Yippee!
She wasn't even afraid of it.

"Mom, don't bother me while I'm working."

Brandon enjoying the pool with his mismatched water wings.

Aren't these cool costumes?

Whitney and Andrew are ready for the parade.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy, Happy Birthday Brandon, Dear

Brandon turned five yesterday! Yippee! All of his friends are older than him, so he was really itching to have this birthday. With all the craziness between having Tony and Cindy in town and getting ready to leave on the road trip, I decided it was too much to have a big party. So, we decided to just have a little family party. We told him he could pick a place to eat--anywhere he wanted. He chose Taco Bell. I was shocked, but if that's what the birthday boy wants....

Well, yesterday before starting the festivities, we were driving near the mall and he saw a fun-looking building that said NASCAR on it. He said, "Mom, what's that?" I told him it was the NASCAR cafe, a place to eat that has a bunch of race car stuff inside. He instantly changed his mind about where he wanted to eat. I thought it sounded really fun and had never been there, so that's what we decided to do.

Andrew came home from work a little early and we got all packed up and drove out to the NASCAR cafe. (As a side note, I had tried to get online before we went to check out the menu and couldn't find anything about it on the internet. I thought we must have a lame out-of-date cafe that didn't have a website.) Well, we pulled up and the parking lot looked ominously empty... It turns out that place is closed down!!! AAAGGHHH! How do you explain that to a five year old? I felt terrible. He started getting teary-eyed with disapointment in the backseat. Neither Andrew or I could think of an equivalent here in Greensboro, so we gave him a couple of options: Mexican food, McDonalds, Chick-fil-A or Chuck E Cheese. After changing his mind several times in the car, he decided to go for pizza at Chuck E's. (We were planning on going there after dinner anyway, but we usually eat somewhere else.)

We had brought all of his presents along and just had a little family party there. It was so fun. They have recently added some cool games that he loves. One is the Nicktoons racing game. He's really good at it. I really think he's training himself to be a NASCAR driver when he grows up. Another is one of those rides that makes you feel like you're on a roller coaster. The seats move and everything. That is a fun one for me and Andrew, too. Whitney loves the Bob the Builder ride. Andrew loves pop-a-shot basketball. And my favorite is skeeball. I have a knack for winning the jackpot almost every time we go. I started off in a funk, but managed to win it before we left. Woo hoo!

Brandon at FIVE:
*Loves video games
*Loves to read
*Likes to play on the internet
*Still loves sports (since the day he was born, I think)
*Has imaginary friends. He calls them his
"fake friends" and has lengthy conversations with them.
*Loves to eat fruit. Will ask me to buy peaches
at the store like they're candy bars. "PLEASE, Mom!"
*Is very generous. He'll share everything with us
and with Whitney. He got a coupon for a free
ice cream cone for his birthday. (Out of Baskin Robbin's
31 flavors, he picked Cherries Jubilee. Huh.) The first
thing he said was, "I'll give you some bites, Whitney."
How sweet is that?
*Likes to use "big" words like immediately and archaeologist
*Gives me the cutest smile when I take his picture
*Is starting to look like such a big boy--sometimes
it's weird to think he's my son!
*Loves to laugh

Our big five year old Brandon.
Make a wish!

One of the great things about Brandon is that he is very easily excitable. It is the BEST to watch him opening presents. He reacts like each one is EXACTLY what he wanted. It is so cute and makes us feel good.

Mom, do you have to take my picture, now???

It may not be the NASCAR cafe, but at least
he got to drive a "race car."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Beachy decor

A new look for the mantle--beachy colored candles,
vases with sand and shells, a couple of beach photos.
Some more beachy photos of us
Photos of Kure Beach--one of our favorite spots
This is the print we love.

I decided to change things up a bit in my front room. I never change the decorations. I find something I like and then leave it for years. But a couple of months ago, Andrew and I found a print of a beach painting that we both love. It looks so much like the Carolina coast. So, I decided to change the other pictures in this room as well as the candles to beachy colors. It is so fun. Andrew says it relaxes him just to sit in this room and see the beach all around him. Hey, if we can't live on the beach, we'll bring the it home, I guess.