Sunday, July 30, 2017

Leaving California and Going Back to Utah

Fans of Maroon 5 and The Osmonds: Enjoy the song title name drop! Anyway, this week we spent mired in final preparations for the move. There was a different mix of emotions this time out, and we each have responded in unique ways. Moving can be hard. Notwithstanding the difficulties, we soldiered on, packed our bags, hit the road, bid farewell, and turned our faces north and east to our new home near Powerhouse Mountain. We’re a week behind with this post, so details may be fuzzy or left out. Bear with us.

On Monday, Hallie had a spa appointment at Rustic Retreat followed by some therapy. Mike met with one of his doctoral students. In the afternoon, he got to packing in earnest some areas we had left unpacked while Hallie took the kids to the gym. Eliza got her hair done in a neat never-ending braid that lasted all of 12 hours, because for her that’s an eternity.

Tuesday found the grown-ups alone at home thanks to our friend Marilyn’s the generous offer to have the kids over to her house to play and have some pool time with her kids. Alone time meant Mike and Hallie had the enticing opportunity to . . . pack some more! Well, Hallie did get her nails done, and Mike caught up on some work. Then we packed. All too soon, it was time yet again to get Landon, who wanted to keep playing, to go back to gymnastics. Eliza got some more play time in before we finally had to pick her up too.  

A couple of Mike’s recently-graduated doctoral students and their SO’s took us two grown-ups out to dinner at CafĂ© Firenze in Moorpark. We farmed off Landon to his TO relatives and Eliza to Granny and Grandpa O., and enjoyed an evening of adult conversation and reminiscing. Mike has really enjoyed working with his students from this cohort in particular. They came in to Cal Lutheran together and have now left together as coincidence would have it.

Mike went up to Cal Lutheran on Wednesday morning to have an exit interview with his dean and take care of other work-related items. He has enjoyed his time there and has learned so much about himself, about working with students and colleagues, and about his field. This has been a valuable experience that he hopes he can use moving forward.

The kids had a pizza party after gymnastics with their Victory friends. We sure will miss all these amazing and fun people we have come to regard as our extended family.

On Thursday, Hallie went out to her last Lunch Bunch with ladies from church and then got her hair done. The latter came from a friend from church in exchange for us bringing a crib up to Utah with us. Great exchange!

Friday the sister missionaries came by to do service hours by moving boxes into the garage and wrapping pictures. So many details remained to be done. Yikes!

By the afternoon, the garage and downstairs were looking pretty full. We had some much needed help to remove our washer and dryer and get the house cleaned up.

Our friend Rhoda came by to bid farewell and brought some amazing Filipino food and treats from the Bread Basket for dinner. 

Grandma and Grandma O. and Alie came over in the afternoon to help with some more packing. We had shelving units and even more pictures to wrap, so we appreciated everyone’s efforts.

Grandma and Grandpa took Fergus with them to stay until we come back in September. Poor kitty! He had no idea what was going on and did not seem too happy. He’ll be missed, but we’ll make sure he gets a great welcome once we get settled in.   

All too soon came Saturday: Moving Day! Hallie took the kids up to Victory for one last gymnastics practice in the morning, which was good for them and for us, because the Allied truck also came in the morning.

Mike greeted the movers, and then the movers set to work cataloging and stacking containers into the van while Mike took care of last minute odds and ends.

At Victory, Hallie and the kids bid more farewells to friends. See you in September!

Hallie came back a little later and set to work on other last minute items. Before we knew it, the movers finished loading the van and were gone, leaving us to figure out what to do with what remained.

Hello . . . ello . . . (lo) . . . . 

The movers ended up packing the rooftop storage bin for the Kia (and the queen air mattress, and a couple of other things that should have stayed. Oops.), so Hallie got us a new one. They also ended up not taking some items they should have, such as our vacuum cleaner. Anyway, with Grandma and Papa M.’s help, we loaded the car with what we could.

We did a final walk through with the landlords’ son (had to make sure every last little LEGO brick was safely accounted for. Those things get everywhere!), said good byes to neighbors, and then hit the road.  

We didn’t get too far though. We had dinner at the outlet mall with Carly and the Hopkins cousins before finally moving out of Camarillo for well and good.

Long day equals tired boy. 

After a couple of hours on the road, we stopped off in Barstow to bed down for the night. Good to get out of the cramped vehicle for a bit before taking to the road again on Sunday.

Sunday morning dawned bright and warm, and we hit the road pretty early (for us). We made good time getting to Springville, and we all felt relieved to finally get out of the car and decompress both physically and emotionally from the time on the road. With only the sleeping bags, blankets, and ground pads to our name for sleeping, we made our beds, such as they were, to await the arrival of our moving truck. 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homecomings and See-You-Soons

The first few days of the week were spent on the road from Sweetwater to Deming on Monday, from Deming to Chandler on Tuesday, and from Chandler back to home-sweet-home on Wednesday. Then we packed and packed some more in preparation for the next big (and more permanent) journey.

On Monday, we traveled from Sweetwater through Midland and El Paso to Deming, New Mexico. During the day we observed the changing climate from semi-humid great plains as it transformed into semi-arid flats and finally into hilly desert. After several days on the road, these troopers were in need of a little extra shut-eye before we set out. 

A, um, healthy Texas-sized breakfast starts the day off right, right?

While in Midland, we stopped by Susie’s South Forty Confections, home of Texas Trash and Pecan Freezer Toffee. The latter is best enjoyed frozen and must be kept at least refrigerated. Fortunately we had a cooler holding several bottles of ice cold water (at least in the morning it was ice cold). We kept the toffee as cold as possible, put it in the fridges at our hotels and in the freezer at home, and (once we were sure it was totally frozen again) tried it out. Just perfect!

While at the store, we also got a view of the giant toffee mold used to win a Guinness World Record and the factory floor where the candy magic happens, much as we have seen at the Sanders (Morley) and Kencraft Candy Factories. So much yummy!

We were all excited to see that there were samples of all of the items they make set out all around the store. Hallie’s small banana sized stomach filled up quickly, and she wanted to buy it all but put a break on this since it was so hot outside and we only had the cooler.

This handsome young man will always have a place on somebody's dance card.

From here for now, but not much longer!

Feeling a bit hot? 
A photo does not do justice to the simply massive scale of the thunderheads we passed under along the road. 

We got through rush hour traffic in El Paso and observed the colorful neighborhoods of Juarez, Mexico from I-10 before crossing into New Mexico and ending our night in Deming.

The following morning, we headed out fairly early because we wanted to get into the Phoenix area before the weather got too warm. We did take enough time to stop by the rest stop housing The Thing (cue the trumpets: dun Dun DUUUNNN!) along Route 10 in Arizona between Deming and Tuscon. While we did not indulge in a view of The Thing, we did get a couple of souvenirs: a coveted sling shot for Landon, and a skull and bony hand back scratcher for Eliza.
The sombrero was too big to fit in the car. . . .

We got into Tuscon in time for lunch. We stopped at Blake’s Lotaburger near the university and then followed that up with a trip outside the Tuscon Arizona Temple before heading on to our hotel.
Chili with green chili peppers: If you are what you eat, you are HOT!

We returned to the road to go up to Sweet Republic in Scottsdale. While we enjoyed the ice cream and the brief bit of summer rain, we were not fans of the rush hour traffic on the return to the hotel. Landon’s Real Mint ice cream tasted just like the mint that grew in our backyard in Michigan. One taste of it was good for Mom; she was happy with her Peaches and Cream scoop.
Eliza enjoyed drinking rainwater. 

We were hoping to get the kids to gymnastics on time on Wednesday so we left our hotel that morning earlier than any of the other days on the trip.

We needed gas by the time we got to Chiriaco Summit next to Patton Museum, so we stopped at the gas station and Foster’s Freeze there. As our kids have not had chocolate dipped cones, and as we grown-ups have not had Foster’s in a long time, we opted to get some. With the combination of cold ice cream and desert heat, what resulted for Hallie was an exploding chocolate dip cone when she bit into the hard shell that left a puddle in her lap when the ice cream started to melt before the first lick was had. Yikes! Fortunately, things got cleaned up pretty easily, and we were back on the road in no time.

We arrived at gymnastics an hour late due to California traffic (fast moving, but cars a-plenty) from Indio all the way. Eliza decided she didn’t want to go, so after dropping Landon off, the three others went home to empty the car. Soon after emptying everything out, Hallie headed back to Victory to watch Landon and visit with friends.

There is not time to rest from vacation, and Thursday started early when Hallie headed out to get the tires rotated at Sam’s Club followed by her last appointment with her plastic surgeon, Dr. Kane. Where do we start? Dr. Kane is a great surgeon! Hallie is happy with the outcome of her surgery and it is taking a bit of time to get used to the new her, but one day at a time it will all come together. Hallie met up with friend Marilyn for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant here in Camarillo. They had a great time chatting, and Hallie reported the food was pretty good too.

Gymnastics once again for Landon was the order of the afternoon, and the days are getting harder for our young boy. Saying good-bye to our friends will be really tough, especially when we spend as much time there as we do.

On Friday, we got a lot of packing done and sent the kids’ school desks off to new owners in the morning. In the early afternoon, Grandma M., Carly, and her girls came over to enjoy some pool time with Hallie and the kids. Once again Hallie got a bit crispy; someday she will learn her lesson. Playing with Sawyer and Finnley is so much fun, and it is great watching them grow up and change.

Mike had work in the evening, so he spent the afternoon getting ready instead of lounging poolside. It was his night to pick a movie, but since he had to teach Landon switched him nights and chose to pick the Lego Batman Movie. It was the third time the kids had seen it in two days but the first full time Hallie had seen it (since she had fallen asleep during her first viewing back in the theatre in February). Landon and Anthony still find it quite funny that they had to wake her up at the end of the show.

Saturday Mike worked all day, so Hallie did all the “fun” stuff with the kids. She dropped Mike off and then ran by the Maygren/Hopkins house to give them stuff. Landon asked to stay, and everyone said yes, so Landon stayed and played for a couple of hours. Hallie then took Eliza to gymnastics where Hallie watched for a while and chatted with some new friends.

After pick-up, the trio headed home to eat lunch and hang out for a bit.

At about 3:00 the trio headed out to run errands and then to pick up Mike about 5:00 p.m. Now all four of them made one more stop on their way home before they had dinner. After dinner and a bit of packing everyone headed to Yogurtland for a yummy treat. It was fun to see Brother and Sister Harrison eating at Pizza Rev. Sister Harrison has taught both of the kids in Primary since we have moved to Camarillo.

Today was the last Sunday for our family to attend the Pleasant Valley Ward. Hallie had all kinds of great thoughts about going to Sunday School and Relief Society, but no such luck. One last Sunday in Primary! Her little six-year-olds are so cute, but such a handful; however, they were the best behaved in Singing and Sharing Time that they have ever have been. The donuts she brought them were well-deserved. 

Eliza got her spotlight in Sharing Time. She is proud of her adoption story and now wants to be a dentist, apparently. You go, Girly-O!

Later in the day our friends Debbie and Jade Morris hosted a “See You Soon” party for our family. Hallie coined it this so she wouldn’t have sad tears but happy tears until we “see you soon.” Thank you to all who came. We love you!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Route 66 Wedding Road Trip

We spent most of the week following the Mother Road back to Oklahoma for Diamond’s sealing to Caleb in the Oklahoma City Temple. Along the way, we revisited some sites we saw on our December 2010 trip (what?! That long ago?) and found some new ones to add to our treasure trove of memories.

Monday would be the most “normal” of all the days this week. Hallie had her usual therapy, and everyone took time to do some more packing for our trip and for moving. We did get a sunshower from the monsoon moisture off to our east. That was kind of fun.
Rain is falling, such as it is.

The kids had gymnastics in the afternoon. Grandpa and Grandma O. and Alie came to watch the kids for a while, and it was nice to have them visit and watch the kids.

Tuesday morning started with Eliza and Hallie getting their nails done in wedding colors while Landon and Mike packed the car in preparation for the trip.

After picking up the girls and getting a few last-minute details settled, we headed on the road a bit after noon, bound for Kingman, AZ.

The GPS had us take a route that added a few miles but bypassed traffic en route, so we drove through the heart of the Mojave on rolling two-lane roads that reminded Mike and Hallie of the way the Pearblossom Highway used to be.

After grabbing a bite to eat at In-N-Out and enjoying a monsoon sunset, we stayed the night in Kingman at the Ramada Kingman, which is covered with murals inspired by the heyday and lore of Route 66.

Mike and the kids took a late evening dip in the big outdoor pool before we finally settled down for the night. 

Here's a strange and cool little part of the trip: Both kids decided they wanted to take their parents' teddy bears along for the trip, so Landon has slept with Dad's Teddy, and Eliza has slept with Mom's "Beary." Go figure. 

After breakfast in the morning Wednesday, we spent most of the day on the road driving to our next stop in Albuquerque, NM.

Not too long after we started, we stopped in Seligman, where we shopped at the Route 66 General Store.

Landon had a splinter in his finger that he hadn’t let us know about until it got sore and red. We had tried working on it a little Tuesday night without success. In Seligman, he decided he had enough, so we had to pull over. Dad helped get the splinter out (yay!), and while he was doing so, a cowboy/panhandler/horse rescuer came up to Eliza and Hallie and gave Eliza and then Landon a ride on his horses. The kids were sure impressed! The cowboy was super nice, the horses were really well behaved, and Hallie wishes she had a bit more cash to give him for the ride and time he spent with the kids. This ride definitely took Landon’s mind off of the splinter that was just taken out.

Later, we made a quick stop at the Jack Rabbit Trading Post in Winslow near where some of Mike’s ancestors used to live in the 19th century. We have decided on our next trip Eliza doesn’t get to drink anything! Her bladder is not doing us any favors, but it is doing the small business owners on Route 66 a favor when the restrooms are for paying customers only.

From the Jack Rabbit, we crossed the border into New Mexico and continued on to Albuquerque.

Thursday morning after breakfast, we made a stop at the temple and distribution center so Hallie could get a few needed items. There was a Sister who was quite interested in Hallie’s weight loss, and the two had quite a good chat. The kids took in the grounds, and Mike was even (kind of) able to help a Spanish-speaking member with his transaction at the distribution center.

At around lunch time, we got into Tucumcari, so we made a stop at Tee Pee Curios where Landon bought a switch blade comb that he can’t seem to stop playing with and Eliza bought a soapstone skull.

We then dined at Watson’s BBQ, a charming restaurant inside a hardware store. The proprietors fawned over us, inviting us to scribble messages on the walls, take a picture with a stuffed brown bear, and pet a mongoose. Our sliced brisket was delicious! Hallie was so excited her small stomach could not eat it all as that meant she could have more for dinner. The kids loved looking all over the store, and the owners could not have been nicer to the kids.


From Tucumcari we continued on into Texas, stopping outside Amarillo at the Cadillac Ranch, which is much more entertaining by day. We all got to make our temporary marks on the sculpture with spray paint, and the kids even climbed on the buried cars. Thanks to some folks leaving who gave us their leftover spray paint. If you ever go make sure you take at least one can of spray paint with you so you can leave your mark.

We continued on to the famous Conoco gas station in Shamrock before continuing on to Oklahoma. 

We stayed overnight in Elk City, home of the National Route 66 Museum. Like the last time we came through, we got there too late to actually see inside.

On Friday, we finally made it to Yukon and got to meet up with Diamond and Caleb! We hung out with them for a little bit, then Mike took the kids to the pool while Hallie ran some errands and the newlyweds-to-be canoodled in the hotel lobby. After everyone got back together, we had dinner at the local Olive Garden. We had a fair amount left over that sadly did not end up getting eaten.

Later, after we said our goodbyes to Caleb, Hallie and Mike went to Braum’s (a regional favorite that is three stores in one: a grill, a soda fountain, and a grocery) for some ice cream. Yummers! Thanks Diamond for babysitting! The ice cream was yummy and one scoop was super big and well-priced. Hallie needs to remember that a junior size would have been better than a single scoop for her stomach. It was nice hanging out with Diamond while we ironed our clothes and just lay in our beds talking before the big day.

Mike had the sweet privilege of giving Diamond a father’s blessing this evening. It was great to see the priesthood being used in such a special way for this special occasion.

Saturday was Diamond and Caleb’s big day! We got to the temple a little late, as we got a bit of a late start on the morning and had to rush around to get dressed up and our stuff all collected up so we could head out the door, but we did make it!

Mike transferred Diamond’s luggage to Caleb’s car, but in the process he locked Caleb’s keys in Caleb’s car. Hijinks might have proceeded from there, but fortunately Caleb carried a spare. Phew! Good job, Son-in-Law!

Before and after the sealing at the Oklahoma City Temple in Yukon, we became acquainted with some powerful local heat and humidity. We’ve felt similar in St. Louis and at Mount Vernon, but that one-two punch threw us (especially Mike and Landon) for a loop! Somehow while the boys poured out sweat, the ladies just glowed.

Hallie and Mike went into the temple with the other adults while the kids and the Cragun’s youngest son Zane stayed in the foyer with a kind sister from the Cragun’s ward. Mike and Caleb’s dad were witnesses, and Caleb’s grandfather acted as sealer.

After the wedding, we all ventured back out into the heat for pictures. Several months ago we found our photographer Stephanie Crandall when Diamond called the temple asking for suggestions for a photographer. Stephanie was so very nice, and we can’t wait to see the photos.

Hallie, the hottie MIL

A luncheon was had at Hideaway Pizza, and the food was amazing! The Craguns had set up a private room for our group where there was salad, many different types of pizzas, and even deep fried mushrooms. Landon thought they were chicken, and he liked them. We haven’t broke the news to him yet.

We then drove out toward Bartlesville, where Caleb’s family lives, for the wedding reception. Along the way, we stopped at Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in Pawhuska. Hallie was in love with all the cute items for the home, the kids loved the toys, and Mike enjoyed the baked goods. If you happen to ever be in the area, avoid the meal line and just go upstairs to the bakery. Everything we tried was so yummy! As we were dressed up in matching colors, we got a couple of questions and comments about how cute we looked. 

We high-tailed it over to the church in Bartlesville for the reception. The newlyweds chose a geek/nerd theme in black, white, yellow, and orange. Turned out pretty cute overall!

At the father-daughter dance, Diamond and Mike danced to a song from the movie Meet the Robinsons called Little Wonders. Little did Diamond know when picking it that both the movie and the song are a couple of Dad’s favorites, as they touch on themes relating to adoption, hope, and moving forward. It all brought a tear to Dad’s eye. Aww! Landon and Hallie tried to have their own dance which was cute when Landon told Hallie the only kind of dancing he knew how to do was break dancing.

After sending the happy couple off, we helped clean up and then stayed overnight at the home of a couple from the ward. Many thanks for the comfy bed and hospitality! Hallie said it felt good to sleep in a home after so many hotel nights.

We had breakfast Sunday morning at the Cragun’s and said so long to Diamond, Caleb, and his family before heading out on the road for home. We made one last stop outside of Arcadia, passing the Round Barn before stopping at Pops 66, which (like Rocket Fizz) sells a variety of unique and craft pops (among other things). Mike even found a yerba mate-flavored soda from Germany called Club Mate, which of course he had to buy. He also got some Leninade, a soda for the PEOPLE. Landon got Australian Bundaberg root beer (he liked the shape of the bottle. Mike had Bundaberg ginger beer in New Zealand), and Eliza got Cool Mountain Blue Razzberry (she liked the color). We also got a couple of local drinks: Round Barn root beer and Catoosa cream soda (named after the famous blue whale outside of Tulsa).

Leaving Route 66, we wended our way south along increasingly smaller (but fast!) roads from Oklahoma down into Texas, stopping in Sweetwater for the night. As today is National Ice Cream Day, we celebrated with some of Texas’ own Blue Bell mint chocolate chip.

We ended the day with the kids taking a dip in the pool and finding a lot of other kids in the pool to play with. Now it is time to hit the bed as tomorrow we head our way just a bit more west so we can get home and get ready for our next adventure: Our move to Utah.