Thursday, July 16, 2015

New Mexico, Arizona

Our campground in Guadalupe Mountain National Park near Carlsbad Caverns may be the most beautiful campground I've ever stayed at.

Carlsbad CavernsCarlsbad CavernsCarlsbad Caverns

It was also terrifying. I have lived nearly 30 years on the eastern side of the Mississippi, and I have been camping there many, many times. I know which types of plants to avoid, which types of snakes and spiders I need to worry about, and how likely it is that I will encounter a dangerous wild animal - on the eastern side of the Mississippi. Put me in the desert, and I am completely useless.

Are there rattlesnakes here? Scorpions? Other poisonous small creatures? Poisonous plants?....Coyotes?

As we crawled into our sleeping bags for the night, I said, "I think we should bring our shoes inside the tent tonight. In case there are coyotes."

Which freaked out Cole, who spent the next hour insisting, "There's something out there, Mom. I hear footsteps. Something is bumping into my head. What's out there, Mom?"

But he also said, looking up through the tent at the night sky, "I have never seen so many constellations in my life."

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Cavern was just another cave (I grew up in Kentucky; I have seen a lot of caves), but one cool thing is their Bat Flight program. According to Ranger Jeff, approximately 350,000 bats live in the cave, and they all fly out of the cave like a swarm of giant mosquitoes around sunset every night.

Cloudcroft

We spent a second night in New Mexico in a tiny town called Cloudcroft, the highest point in Lincoln National Forest. First of all, it's weird that there is a beautiful, pine-covered forest in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Second of all, I chose that campground because I was worried we would be too hot camping in New Mexico in July, and the Internets promised that Cloudcroft would be cool. But the plan backfired as the nighttime temps dropped to the low 60s, and Eli, who doesn't have a sleeping bag, froze.

White SandsWhite SandsWhite SandsWhite SandsWhite SandsWhite Sands

By the time we left our next destination, White Sands National Monument, we were exhausted and covered in sand. None of the campgrounds we'd been staying at had showers, so to avoid one more dirty, sleepless night, we decided to get a hotel room in Tucson. Our last night before reaching Josh's house in San Diego, ending our coast to coast drive.

Saguaro National Park

Arkansas, Texas

We left my parents house on Thursday morning, expecting a long 8-hour day in the car but ending up with an extra long, miserable, 10-hour day in the car including two hours of stand-still traffic. My phone kept giving me friendly updates like, "This route has a four-hour delay" and "Give up now. You are never going to reach your destination, and even if you do, you will want to kill yourself and the small people in the car with you." Thanks, Galaxy!

Despite the long drive, Hot Springs, Arkansas was wonderful. I would love to go back and camp there longer. Heading in to Arkansas from Kentucky, the terrain was reminiscent of Kansas but gradually turned into low, wooded mountains and lakes. Who knew Arkansas could be so beautiful!

From our campground at Gulpha Gorge, it was a 1.5 mile hike to the bathhouses in Hot Springs. We toured the visitor's center, earned Junior Ranger badges (all three boys), and plunged hands into the 110 degree water (Eli).

From Arkansas, we drove to Dallas/Fort Worth to spend a couple days at my cousin's house. Originally, I'd planned to go to the Dallas zoo, but since the forecast was 98 degrees, we opted to spend the day in their neighborhood pool instead.

Dallas


As the lone driver on this epic journey, I have spent a lot of time thinking about plants and landscapes and hills and horizons, and one definite conclusion that I came to was that I would go crazy living in Texas (or at least the parts of the state I drove through). The land is too flat and the trees are too short (when there are trees at all). The horizon is so far away and the sky is too huge. It's creepy. But I do like the windmills.

Also, Texas, let's talk about your gas station situation. Before we left, my dad told me about a time when he drove through west Texas and nearly ran out of gas because the distance between gas stations is so long. I thought, "Well, I have a hybrid. I can go 550 miles on a tank of gas. I'll be fine." Mid-afternoon on the day we drove through Texas, we stopped at a gas station to take a potty break and get a snack, and since my tank was still half full, I thought, "I'll wait to the next station to refill."

Big mistake! When we pulled into our campground in New Mexico, my odometer estimated that I could only drive 65 miles before I'd run out of gas, and Google maps said the nearest gas station was still 35 more miles away. In all, we drove 135 miles without seeing a gas station. I have never been quite so stressed out in my entire life!


U.S. Domination TourU.S. Domination TourU.S. Domination Tour

Monday, July 6, 2015

First Stop on the U.S. Domination Tour!

The boys and I are on an epic journey to dominate the contiguous United States. Wahahaha!!!!

First stop, Kentucky to see my parents, Kellie, Alex, and Robbie. We got here on Friday afternoon and immediately kicked off the festivities on Saturday by heading to Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. It was my boys' first time on a roller coaster - my first time in at least 10 years. I remembered that I am not a big fan of roller coasters, especially the rickety wooden kind when you're seated near the back. Rylan swore off roller coasters for life. Cole and Eli rode one more before deciding they'd had enough. So not a big roller coaster family.

On the other hand, I have always really loved the scrambler and was excited to share that love with Cole and Eli. We laughed harder than at any other point of the day.

Rylan's favorite ride was probably the old timey cars because he got to drive. The rest of us wish we had not spent an hour in that line for such a pathetic two-minute loop.

Holiday World

We spent the morning at the amusement park, had lunch courtesy of Alex's employer Harmon, and then spent a few hours at the waterpark. If we go back, I would definitely spend more time at the waterpark. 

Today, we went to Bowling Green to check out the splash fountain because Robbie looooooves the splash fountain. This is Cole giving me the "I'm too old for this, Mom" look:

splash pads

And this is a few minutes later.

splash pads

And now a photo dump...

splash padssplash padssplash padssplash padssplash pads

Psych

At my dad's suggestion, Michael and I recently watched all 8 seasons of the show Psych. In one of the last episodes, the two main characters open up a food truck where they serve mash-up foods - things that don't seem to go together but that they serve together anyway. Like Fruit Loop quesadillas.

As we watched, I was like, "Fruit Loop quesadillas? Intriguing?"

So the next day, the boys and I tried them out. Except that we had to use Fruity Pebbles instead of Fruit Loops because we couldn't find generic Fruit Loops at Food Lion, and I won't pay more than $2 for a box of cereal.

So Fruity Pebble Quesadillas.

Fruity QuesadillasFruity Quesadillas

The verdict was...neutral. They weren't nasty-I-can't-eat-this, but they also weren't this-is-the-greatest!!! They were just okay. We all ate them; we wouldn't make them again.

I know you were all going to try this tonight. Sorry to disappoint...

Pool Boys

Rylan started begging to go to the pool in April. I promised him we'd go on the first day of my summer vacation, so that is what we did. Back to our favorite pool in Raleigh: Chavis Park Pool.

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Ashton's Graduation

In June, we drove up to Philly to celebrate Ashton's graduation from high school. We got to Miriam's in the middle of the night on Friday. On Saturday, Miriam and Shane threw a huge party for Ashton (including the best cornbread I have ever eaten in my life). On Sunday, Kellie and Alex threw a little party for Robbie, who was turning one. We left in the early evening for the return trip to Raleigh. A whirlwind trip, but wonderful to see my family!

On Saturday morning, Shane mowed the lawn with their riding mower, and the two motor-loving kids in the family got to go for a drive. First Robbie...

Ashton's graduation

Then Rylan. Here's Rylan's reaction when he found out Shane would let him drive:

Ashton's graduation

Rylan is a madman behind the wheel, whipping around the yard so fast, I was afraid they might flip. Shane was a patient teacher, though, and let him drive to his heart's content.

Ashton's graduationAshton's graduation

You can really see the joy on his face. Best day of his life!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

On Father's Day

Massanutten 2015Massanutten 2015


You've been a father for 11 years. What do you think about that? 

I feel old. And I'm still not very good at it.

What do you mean that you're still not very good at it? 

I still lose my patience too easily. I have a hard time making myself be interested in things my kids are interested in. 

Think back to when Cole was born. What did you think about becoming a father? 

To be honest, I remember it, but I don't think I had any deep thoughts about it. I was just initially like, "Okay, we've got a kid now. Let's see how it goes." And then it was just a lot of work, taking care of a baby.

Have you ever had that big "I'm a father!" moment? 

I don't think I ever had a big "I'm a father" moment. Just little moments. Like the first time he fell asleep on my chest or the first time he ate solid food and then all the little moments where he started to become a real person with a real personality. But they were all just little moments building on top of each other rather than one big grand reveal.

What is the most difficult part of fatherhood? 

Patience.

What is the most gratifying part of fatherhood?

When they choose to want to spend time with me and give up their own time.

Which is harder - being a husband or a father?

Being a father. Erin is an adult who behaves mostly rationally. Kids do not, and it doesn't matter how rational you are, they won't suddenly become more rational.

How do you feel being a father of only boys and how does that affect your parenting? 

In some ways it makes it easier because similar approaches work for all three of the boys. I don't have to differentiate as much. They have similar interests and similar activities and similar gross behavior. Sometimes I wonder if I had a girl how I would treat her differently or the same as the boys, but it's mostly just theoretical because I don't know.

What advice would you give to an expecting father?

I had a hard time connecting to the kids as babies, so my advice to a new father if they have that same problem would be to just be patient and keep trying because for me they became more real as they got older.

Massanutten 2015
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