Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, this is the view of New Year's Eve for the family this year. Everyone tucked in their beds with closed eyes (except me because I can't physically seem to get anymore sleep). Since this is a journal of our travels, and this round of illness we've run into is really quite a significant point for us right now, I figured I'd post a bit about it - just to put it on record.

So far, this is about the worse bout of anything we've been through as a family, and even Jill was down for the count for a day-and-a-half. I fared better, but still need sleep, with Erika bouncing in and out of perfect sunshine and barely comprehensible sentences. Madelyn is on dehydration watch and Victoria has been throwing herself down on the ground and bawling - until tonight before dinner when she heard the mention of a snack and perked right up like nothing was wrong... THAT was a fantastic sight, and a strong memory for me, which is why I post it.

Looks like New Year's Day will be a quiet one for us as we prepare for another round of snow and visits, and my getting back from vacation (of which it really hasn't been one, aside from the sleep :) ). I'll be much happier if 2011 starts out better than 2010 ended.

Hope your New Year's Eve was a good one, and that 2011 brings you everything you need to make your life better. We are looking forward to more travel, more stories, and more fun. That's something I think we can definitely be resolved to accomplish!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Jill's Journal: Word is that Great Grandpa in Iowa may venture into the world of computers and start reading our blog, so I want to give him a special incentive by mentioning him here again. This photo of him and Madelyn was taken during our visit in November.

He’s brought up frequently in the girls’ conversations. One of my favorites was Madelyn’s sudden musing a few days ago, “I really miss Great Grandpa because he’s so sweet. And he has really good ice cream.”

‘Tis the Season

Jill's Journal: My “holiday hiatus” from blogging means I have a massive collection of pictures from the last 10 days or so that haven't even been sorted through. So, here’s a few of the highlights (or at least some of my favorite moments) to share.

Little girls have to bundle up here in “cold California,” as Victoria calls it. I just saw a report that this is the wettest, coldest December on record in Southern/Central California. I can hear the freezing rain and driving snow outside our windows as I type…maybe one day soon we’ll see that sun we came to California for! And truly we have nothing to complain about as we keep hearing how dreadful the winter has been in Kentucky this year, so a little rain and snow here isn’t too bad, just funny. :)

Three little girls, all competing for Grandpa’s attention. Poor guy doesn’t stand a chance!!

Erika and her new Easy-Bake oven, which she had asked Santa for and was supremely confidant would be under the tree Christmas morning. She proudly made her first two miniature cakes, which were actually very tasty…wouldn’t it be lovely if making dinner for the whole family was next on her agenda?

I’m told I’m never shown on here (but it’s because I’m always taking the pictures!), so here’s a photo of my sweet girls and me engrossed in a story. Oh, how I love these little girls.

A pre-Christmas dress-up playdate with the adorable Athena, Zoe, and Jack (and their too-fun parents, Chris and Julie). We knew Chris and Julie pre-kids (for all of us!) in Kentucky and somehow they ended up in nearby Bakersfield via New York. They’re a super-adorable couple and their kids and ours didn’t even need an introduction before they dove in playing together.

Rob, my brother, and my Dad enjoyed an afternoon of clay pigeon shooting. They even let me wield a shotgun, albeit briefly. I don’t think those flying orange discs will be in danger from my “skills” anytime soon, but boy oh boy, it was fun!

And a post-Christmas piƱata…it was hard to tell who had more fun. Was it Beppy or the girls?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas #2

Jill's Journal: Christmas morning dawned with a visit from Santa, who somehow found us even on our travels and brought Victoria the bike she’d been dreaming of!

We took a break from all the gifts for a wonderful Christmas breakfast, only one of the amazing meals Beppy loves to stuff her family with. The woman singlehandedly packed five pounds on each of us over the Christmas weekend. Funny, but I don’t remember any of us putting up much resistance…

And speaking of Beppy, here she is with her little granddaughters!

The girls’ Aunt Kristi is well known for her amazing powers of figuring out every gift under the tree while it’s still wrapped. (That “power” has nothing to do with the fact that she has “secretly” unwrapped and carefully rewrapped each present ahead of time for her entire life, usually overnight while our parents slept.) To make sure there was at least one present she couldn’t figure out this year, Rob wrapped one very special gift in a foolproof way. Just in case she’s looking for revenge, I want her to know I had nothing to do with it. :)

Madelyn and her two favorite Uncle Adams!

Kristi with a special horse art project for the girls. She clearly knows the way to their hearts.

Me and Beppy – a tribute to our weeks of afternoon glasses of wine together.
“What time is it?”
I never imagined I’d be drinking with my mother, especially in the middle of the day (!), but gosh, we’ve had fun. Living next door to my parents this past month has been a wonderful, wonderful gift. I'm trying to talk them into buying an RV of their own and caravanning with us. Hint, hint. :)

Christmas #1

Jill's Journal: As anyone with two sides of the family can attest, sometimes Christmas happens twice! This was actually only our second time to experience this phenomenon as our families have always been plane rides apart. But with the magic of modern travel, the girls were blessed with TWO Christmas celebrations this year. They could hardly believe their luck.

Our first Christmas took place in the Los Angeles-area, in Rob’s mother’s hometown of Northridge. The girls’ Great Grandma Lili has been in the same home for 45 years. Erika is nearly as tall as this petite little lady!

Here’s a benefit to Los Angeles – an orange tree in Great Grandma’s front yard with fruit that will be ready soon. You don’t see that in Kentucky in December!

Our two older girls love regaling folks who lend a willing ear. Their Grandma, Rob’s Mom Andee, got an earful! On their laps are “pillow pets,” half toys/half pillows that the girls had been eyeing in stores for days. Only 20 minutes before, we had made a last minute stop at an office store that happened to carry them and had said no yet again when the girls spied them. But what can we do when Great Grandma walks through the door with one for each? Surrender, that’s what.

Why is it that packing material still makes the funnest toy even at 6, 5, and 3?

A major highlight of the trip south was time spent with Rob’s uncle, the girls’ Great Uncle Punior. Eight months ago, this vivacious outdoorsman and avid boater was stricken by an abscess in his sinuses that left him in a coma for a month. It’s been a long road of recovery from the complications and ensuing brain surgery, so we feel blessed to have gotten some special time with him.

A Henry family collage, clockwise from top left…the girls’ Great Aunt Patti, Grandma, Great Grandma, Aunt Wendi, Great Uncle Brian, and Great Uncle Punior.

It was a lovely two days and on the way home, we were vividly reminded of one of the reasons we left Southern California in 1993…!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bear Valley Springs, California

Jill's Journal: I’ve been so enjoying my three weeks of blog-posting hiatus and plan to enjoy some more after today! For us, the month of December has been filled with marvelous, fun-filled days of family, Madelyn’s birthday, loads of schooling for the girls, and lots and lots of grandparent time. And there’s more to come! The upcoming weeks promise more family, old friends, and of course, the holidays.

We’re staying on my parents’ little acreage in a mountain village of sorts called Bear Valley Springs. It’s quiet and just perfect for us after six months on the road. About 10 miles away is the small town of Tehachapi in Central California. This is not the sunny Southern California I grew up in, but definitely a place with four seasons and an elevation of 4,200 feet. In fact, on our first weekend here, we were “blessed” with more snow than we’d seen anywhere else on this journey! We did find it pretty humorous that we came all the way west for a warm winter only to find snow.

Our plan at the moment is to spend the rest of December here, January on the Central Coast, and then who knows? California has so much to offer. We’ll spend the next month or so “settled down” a little bit, but I’m sure we’ll soon be chomping at the bit as the road beckons again.

Grandpa and Beppy (Grandma in a dialect of Dutch) with their adoring granddaughters. These little girls love, love, LOVE their grandparents. The feeling seems to be pretty mutual. :)

The girls hadn’t seen their Uncle Adam, my darling baby brother, in two years and took right to him like it was yesterday they'd last seen him. As my Mom says, “He’s such a good boy!” Ha ha! Sorry, Adam. :)

We were so fortunate to have my awesome sister and her fun husband, the girls’ Aunt Kristi and other Uncle Adam, living in Kentucky near us for the first 1 1/2 years of their marriage. They officially returned to California about a month before we left Kentucky also and the girls have missed them something fierce. I have too!

Our December birthday girl! Madelyn turned five and picked out a very fancy birthday dress for her special day. We spent the day at a local farm in their corn mazes, petting zoo, and corn pits. She didn’t care one iota she may have been slightly overdressed! The crumbs from the s’mores we made over the farm's bonfire blended in nicely with the bright pink of her dress. :)

We visited a local ostrich farm and got a fantastic tour. Who knew there was so much to learn about these prehistoric-looking birds? Most interesting facts: they can tear apart a lion, can run as fast as a Thoroughbred, and do not really stick their heads in the sand. This particular farm has been featured on both Dirty Jobs and Fear Factor.

Each girl got to feed some ostriches, much to everyone’s great laughter. Those birds are voracious and messy eaters, much in the same vein as Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.

Beppy with her trimmed Christmas tree, compliments of Rob!

A very kind neighbor, Warren, who learned we are Thoroughbred people and invited us over to see his racing Emmy (one of two he’s won!). He was the cameraman behind the iconic 1990 Kentucky Derby scene which captured trainer Carl Nafzger acting as eyes and ears for his 92-year-old Derby-winning client. It’s a moving and unforgettable scene, which has probably received more airplay than just about any other Derby moment and is firmly planted in racing lore. At nearly 80-years-old himself, Warren cracked me and Rob up as he regaled us with his Derby tales and then reenacted Nafzger and Mrs. Genter’s poignant moments. And by the way, those Emmys are heavier than they look.

We spent one afternoon at a local gym watching a 28-member Danish national gymnastics team put on a dazzling show. The girls ooohed and aaahed and were mesmerized (and so were Beppy and I!).

Erika on Grandpa’s horse.

Victoria meeting a goat.

A Tehachapi sunset off my parents’ back porch. Yes, we are having a grand time, indeed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things I figured out in Denver

We feel that we're finally settling in a little and finding a little time here or there, now that we're stationary for a little while. I've had a few posts in my head in a note on the bulletin board since we stopped in Denver, but hadn't really had the time to put it all down in the blog. I had a lot of long, quiet time on the trek West, these thoughts went along with that drive... I'll post bits and pieces of them over the next couple of days.

Go for a little trip before going for the big one.

While we aren't unhappy with how we took off, and as I've written before that each journey is its own, and this journey wouldn't be the same if we'd done it any differently, in hindsight I'd have to recommend that if you're planning on taking off on any long-term, full-time RV trip, it would be a good idea to take a short trip or two first. Originally, that was our plan, but for one reason or another those small trips never materialized. I think what those small trips would have helped was not having to learn everything all at once, all at the same time. There's a lot to know and a lot to adjust to living like this. Doing a small trip or two first would have given us a little less to learn right off the bat. At the very least, camp for a little while in one location that you know - and try to do everything you can and/or think you will on your trip while you are there. That way you'll have a little safety net before you set off. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we did things the way we did. It's just a hindsight recommendation for others.

Buy the right rig up front.

I'm very x10134 happy about our purchase. What we bought seemed to be the right choice at the time, and I can only say that it was the right choice 100%. Sure, I'd love to have a class A with three bedrooms, but I don't particularly want to spend what I would have had to spend to get it. I'd rather put those resources into museum visits, fishing equipment and other niceties on our trip. By saying "buy the right rig", I'm essentially saying - don't buy expecting to trade up - you won't, and even if you do, you'll lose money on the deal. Buy a rig with a good reputation too - quality is one thing you can't fix after the fact. Full-timing is very different from vacationing, so look at a rig with the features/quality you need up front. Having the kids sleep on the couch in the kitchen might be great when you're all running around on the beach for the weekend, but doing that day-in, day-out will cut into your alone time, their sleep time, and everyone's happiness-in-general - even if it saves you $15,000 in rig-cost. We researched and bought the very best I could find, and I'm not only glad I found what I wanted, but spending what I spent (considered pretty expensive for a fiver) has been worth every penny.

Those Class A Guys

I'll admit it. I have ClassA envy. I'd love to have the kids with me when we are driving down the road. I'd love to be able to pull into a spot, press a button and have a sturdy, 100% electronically levelled RV at the push of one button. The kids would really enjoy having Satellite TV that tracks as we're driving down the road, giving them 140 different choices of what they could watch. Really, those rigs are generally built very well and would probably not need some of the fixes, upgrades and detail work that our trailer has needed. Class A people are generally better-regarded at parks, and may sometimes get a better shake about things than us trailer-folk (remember the million-dollar motor home in RI?). Besides, how slick would it be to roll into a place in the rain, never have to get out to get any part of things situated and have everything just how it should be, not to mention packing up to leave goes from 2 hours to about 8 minutes... so yeah - I have class A envy.

That being said, I'm very happy with what we've got. The rig cost about 20% of what we'd have needed to spend to get a comparable class A. There was only one made that I've found that had the kind of setup we'd need. Most of the rest would have put the bunks in the master bedroom, and that's no way to live full-time ;) (for us). It also would have been tough in Elkhart and Iowa where I had to have the rig taken away to be worked on. While we could always go get a hotel room - I just like having my own bed at night.

I guess what I'm saying is that just because someone doesn't have a class A doesn't mean they aren't serious about what they are doing. We could have bought one, and afforded doing so, but there were reasons we went the way we did - and everyone just needs to make that choice for themselves for their own reasons. Next time you see an RVer, ask them why they bought that rig specifically, if you're interested. You might be surprised how much thought was put into that particular one - maybe even more thought than most people put into their house.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My new favorite pasttime...

There's lots to be said by a lot of people about this photo. I couldn't help myself from taking it. I'll probably never live it down, and some might get steamed (ok, only one) - but there wasn't much that could be done about it -- I mean, where was he gonna go?

I'm not sure if my favorite part is the Ford yanking out the Chevy (for the second time in a week), or the way the angels seem to have appeared from the heavens. Yes, there is a lot going on in this photo - take with it what you will. (tongue very firmly in cheek) ;)