Monday, February 28, 2011

Big, Scary German Shepherd?

Jill's Journal: This photo isn’t quite as scary as it looks. Not everyone would be the picture of calm as a powerful German Shepherd bore down on them with mouth wide open and teeth showing. But my kids have complete faith in this big, scary dog named Meisje. Look a little closer…do you see the bubbles?

I gave all three girls a set of bubbles this afternoon and they quickly learned Meisje goes gaga over bubbles! She gobbles them up as quickly as they would a cookie. I’m not sure who was entertained the most…the dog, the girls, or us adults watching the whole thing unfold.

RV Oven: I Finally Win!

Jill's Journal: It’s only taken (nearly) nine months, but I’ve finally made nice with our little RV oven! The thing is moody and temperamental and just plain mean, but I’ve finally made a major breakthrough and figured the darn thing out. I finally know it better than it knows itself and can predict its next move before it makes it!

Tonight, for the first time, it delivered dinner perfectly cooked and I’m confidant I can finally persuade and cajole it to do so again and again. Now, I’m not a food photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I was so excited over this I had to share. The girls helped me make the dough this morning in time for it to rise for one of their favorite meals, calzone (or inside-out pizza, as they like to call it). Isn't it delectable-looking?

I’m just so happy to finally be on speaking terms with this oven; hopefully we have a lot of future years together of happiness and productiveness to make up for all these months of giving each other the evil eye.

The Best-Laid Plans…

Jill's Journal: We were supposed to be gone from Templeton and the Central Coast by now. Long gone. But, one of the great things about this lifestyle is the gift of flexiblity. We can bend our schedule and our traveling because sometimes life throws little curveballs. Or massive curveballs, as in the case of long-time family friends.

Last Wednesday, we were all packed up and ready to leave the next morning, already having stayed much longer in this wonderful San Luis Obispo area than we intended. (But it’s so lovely and there’s so much to enjoy about the area and Rob was so pleased to be getting so many projects done and Kristi and Adam have been such gracious and kind hosts…) But that evening, we got the call that the lives of my parents’ closest friends were changed forever by sudden and unexpected loss. This couple and their three boys have been part of our extended family for about 25 years.

With heavy hearts for their loss, Rob and I decided to stay an extra week so Kristi and I could make the five-hour journey to attend the funeral later this week together. We’ll meet my parents and brother so we can go as a family (Rob will stay at home with the girls). And I really want to hug my Dad, who is especially torn up. This is the very first of my parents’ close friends to pass away and he was only 55. Life is way too short sometimes. Rest in peace, Eddy. I know you’ll be sharing your giant laughs, ready smiles, and big bear hugs with all of us from heaven.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cuesta Canyon

Jill's Journal: Another day, another beautiful little hike. I’ve always preferred open spaces, but the scenery in this area of the country is distinctive and it’s really growing on me.

Another fantastic little park. It might be safe to say we’ve been to more playgrounds and parks (on both coasts and at several points in between) than the average bear, and it’s also pretty safe to say the San Luis Obispo area parks are the nicest we’ve seen. I’ve said it before, but this must be just one of the many reasons Oprah named this area the happiest in America. And residents here do seem happy. As a general rule, we've also found them to be friendly and very physically active, much more so than many other places in California. And they clearly have fun – this little photo may seem like a snapshot of random people just milling around, but it was close to 30 college-age kids playing “Sloshball” (thanks for the official title, Kristi!). It looks like kickball with a keg. Each player has a beer cup in his or her hand. A few minutes of observation showed there were definite rules and definite times when those cups had to be chugged. Wow – Rob and I both agreed we got gypped in our all-work-and-no-play college experiences!

Another moment of sassiness captured. Madelyn saw I had a camera, stuck her booty out and her hands on her hips, and grinned. Kids are so much fun! And they keep us on our toes with nary a dull moment. Speaking of which, I have to share: Erika is feeling very adult lately with her new, big age of seven. Lately, on walks or hikes, she prefers to walk with me (or us) rather than cavort along with her sisters. I’ve caught her telling the younger girls that “we talk about grown-up things and (they) wouldn’t be interested.” Oh my!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Halfway Point!!

Jill's Journal: Five months into homeschooling, we hardly qualify as veterans yet, but we hit a mark today that makes me feel pretty good. We’re exactly halfway through our curriculum for our first year of homeschooling. Balancing three kids between two classes and a normally busy sightseeing schedule makes this feel like a nice accomplishment for all of us.

Even better, the girls are doing great and thriving and working hard and learning a ton. I’m also doing great and thriving and working hard and learning a ton…and I’ve survived as a combined 1st grade and preschool teacher! I’m even, gasp, actually enjoying it. And Rob patiently tolerates us all.

We really can do this…we ARE doing it! Yay!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cambria and Harmony

Jill's Journal: We took a beautiful afternoon drive up the coast to see Cambria, where Adam lived for five years and where Kristi and Adam first moved when they came back to California. It’s a darling, touristy, windswept town right on the coast.

There’s a boardwalk on Moonstone Beach Drive that overlooks the little ocean cliffs, complete with the fattest and friendliest squirrels we’ve ever seen.

One thing I love about being on the coast -- either one -- is that I always have a sense of direction. When there's an ocean, I never lose which way is north, south, east, or west. Take away the ocean and I have no clue.

The girls were absolutely enthralled by the rocky beach and loved searching for the most beautiful rocks they could find, all polished smooth by the buffeting waves.

On the way back we stopped in Harmony, one of California’s smallest towns with a population of a whooping 18 residents. Cute, cute, cute, but don’t blink! It would be easy to miss.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meet and Greet

Jill's Journal: Why, hello there.

If there’s one thing our girls never, ever, ever get tired of, it’s animals. And every kind too – mammals, reptiles, feathered friends, fish, you name it. If it breaths, eats, and poops, chances are they’re going to love it.

A cute little farm in Templeton named Happy Acres offers personalized tours to meet all their animals along with lessons on goat milking and cheese making. It sounded perfect and right up our alley, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about traveling year-round, it’s that there’s a season for everything. And one of the disadvantages of traveling during the off-season (even in California), is that many things are closed. We’ll have to come back another time to get one of Happy Acres’ tours, but we still got to pet some of the animals on this visit.

There were more goats and chickens and llamas than you could shake a stick at, but is it any shock the miniature horses and miniature donkey were the biggest hits? Victoria was particularly thrilled to find a little paint that was just her size.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waning Days

Jill's Journal: As our days on the Central Coast grow short and we gear up to do some serious traveling again, we find ourselves repeating some of our favorite local activities over and over. The Atascadero Lake Park ranks highly up there in the girls’ books (especially Madelyn's) and twice now we’ve seen people we’ve met there in the grocery store. Does that qualify us as almost locals?

And one of the adults’ favorite activities after the kids are sleeping is laughing and carrying on together. This is a goofy and unflattering picture, but it shows how much fun we have. Or at least how much fun us girls have, apparently...!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Horseback Riding on Pismo Beach

Jill's Journal: Does life get much better than this? If it does, let me know, because I happen to think this is just about as good as it gets. Horseback riding on the beach…really, that’s just about the ultimate in my book.

See the hottie in the sunglasses? That’s the bestest sister ever. Thank you so much, Kristi, for making such a special day happen (and to Rob for encouraging it). I’ll remember it forever!

That’s me and Sarah, a friend of Kristi’s. I don’t know how many miles the three of us rode, but cantering through the waves and ocean spray was HEAVEN. Sadly, I’m not the rider I used to be – getting the opportunity to ride only once every few years now will do that to a person – but I felt like I was really getting my seat back toward the end. And no matter, because it was a wonderful day and there will be a big smile plastered on my face for a very long time.

These girls crack me up. Here they’re teaching me the all-important margarita toss!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Warrior

Jill's Journal: While we’ve been in one spot much longer than we intended, Rob has been on an absolute tear getting projects around the “house on wheels” done. Even the girls get put to work…here’s Victoria with her cleaning gloves on!

All kidding aside, it’s amazing what Rob has accomplished while we’ve been here. Many of the major projects he had been hoping to finish before we set out on the road in June can now be crossed off his list and that feels so good. He’s gotten some really huge things done, but my personal favorite is one that he probably counts as minor: the little storage system he built in one of our few kitchen cabinets. No longer will dishes and appliances be jostled around during moves! Isn’t this just the coolest thing? I open the cabinet and stare at it with glee multiple times a day.

And Adam, who has so kindly let us take over his garage and driveway these past weeks, is good at cheering Rob on.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

Jill's Journal:
Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day.

It’s been raining in copious amounts here on the Central Coast the last few days. It’s wet, muddy, and brrrrrr…but I suppose a week or so of this weather is tolerable compared to what East Coasters and Midwesterners have put up with all winter long, so I’ll try not to complain.

As Erika said tonight at bedtime, the weather is giving us lots of “lovely inside days.” I love that kind of positive attitude! What a beautiful trait. We hope our girls never lose their optimism.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Children’s Museum at the Paso Robles Volunteer Firehouse

Jill's Journal: Victoria is getting into the wine country spirit and “stomping grapes.”

We’re still getting use out of that children’s museum membership. This afternoon we went to the very cute but very small one at the Paso Robles Volunteer Firehouse. As always, the girls loved it. And since Victoria melts my heart by still sticking close to Mom while in public, she gets featured in today’s pictures.

Here she is doing her best Michael Jordan impression.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dissipating Doubts

Jill's Journal: I love this journey we’re on. We love this journey we’re on. And although we get asked frequently when and where we’ll settle down, we honestly don’t know those answers yet. Maybe it’ll be in three years like we originally thought. Or maybe it’ll be five years or 10 years. And where it will be, we have not even an inkling of an idea.

We’re enjoying this journey a whole heck of a lot and our kids are learning and seeing so much. Add that to our regular homeschooling curriculum and they’re certainly not short on education.


Every now and then, I feel a bitter twang of regret and guilt. Are we doing the right thing for our children? Our kids no longer have the Valentine’s parties with their classes or the school plays or the church choirs. Are they missing out? Are those rights of passage through childhood? Will they look back and feel they missed out?

It turns out I’m not alone.

A homeschooling blog I enjoy just addressed pretty much my very same worries, even though it’s focused of course on homeschooling and doesn’t take into account the traveling we’re throwing on top of that. But, still, isn’t it funny how the timing of some things could not be more perfect?

One of my favorite lines is: “Whatever doubts I have now and then dissipate when I take but one minute to reflect on what really matters.”

For us, what really matters includes being together as a family and raising our kids with a good balance of love, fun, and discipline. We've got those covered. So, maybe I shouldn’t worry so much. I think we’ll be just fine after all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Montana de Oro State Park

Jill's Journal: Doesn't this just make you want to say, "Wow."?

On a day when the weather was less than ideal – quite windy and chilly – the girls and I spent the afternoon on a hike at the most magnificent place.

We hiked along the Bluff Trail, going in and amongst the coves at Montana de Oro State Park in Los Osos. Nestled inside this beautiful state park are more than 8,000 acres and seven miles of shoreline. There also are miles of equestrian trails (and overnight horse camping) throughout the property. Even with our lack of four-legged friends at the moment, I can’t imagine too many better ways to spend a day.

If it looks this good on a dreary afternoon, can you imagine how spectacular it must be on a brilliant, sunshine-drenched day?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Slumber Party!

Jill's Journal: The girls were blessed with their very first slumber party last night. Oh, the excitement of it all! They camped out with Kristi and Adam on their living room floor after looking forward to the sleepover for days. They went to a park, got their fingernails painted, watched movies, and got to “cuddle” with Meisje. And that’s about all I know, because three very sleep-deprived little girls were a wee bit crabby today and in no mood to share.

Apparently what happens at a slumber party stays at a slumber party. And that’s okay, because I’m just so glad they had fun.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grapevine/Winery Tour

Jill's Journal: Erika looks awfully petite next to 1200-gallon barrels of fermenting wine.

After they learned in school recently that ancient Egyptians made wine by stomping the grapes, we thought it would be fun for the girls to see a behind-the-scenes tour of a modern-day winery. Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles has tours and does not discourage children, so we set off with high hopes.

Unfortunately, the very long tour was more about grape varieties than winemaking and held very little interest for the girls. Oh well; you win some and you lose some! We did get to see a demonstration of how one vine is grafted onto another and that held everyone’s interest. Soon we’ll be leaving this area and I think we’ll miss the sublime sight of thousands of acres of vineyards covering the countryside.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rios-Caledonia Adobe

Jill's Journal: Growing up in California, I never thought it had much history – compared, that is, to Europe or the ancient civilizations or even the East Coast – so it’s fun to discover a little on this journey. Today, the girls and I made the little trip to San Miguel, where “The Adobe” was built in 1835 using Indian labor. A two-story hacienda was pretty impressive for those days.

The Rios-Caledonia Adobe was originally part of the San Miguel Mission. In 1868, it was converted into a stagecoach stop, inn, and saloon. The Dalton Brothers and Frank and Jesse James were said to have stayed here (we’ve visited so many places who claim to have housed these outlaws -- boy, they sure got around!). That road barely visible in the left of the photo was the original dirt stagecoach road. When cars arrived, it was paved (in 1915) and became the original Highway 101 until the freeway was rerouted to the other side of the structure in 1931.

When the railroad and automobiles officially signaled an end to the days of the stagecoach, the Adobe was used as an upholstery shop, post office, and elementary school. Finally it became a private residence for a ranch and later a dairy farm. Today, the rooms in this grand old structure are filled with furnishings to recreate life in the home, plus its tavern and Wells Fargo banking days.

The girls especially loved the cacti garden. Here they are fascinated by one that has yet to grow its prickles!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Beppy!

Jill's Journal: It has really struck us lately how important family is and how fleeting time can be, so we felt strongly that it would be silly to miss visiting with Beppy on her birthday when we’re just a few hours drive away. Beppy is always incredibly considerate and hated the thought of us driving so much, so we ended up splitting the driving difference and found a park to meet in that was as close to the middle of both of our drives as possible. The girls, Kristi, Meisje, and I met Beppy and Grandpa there for an all-afternoon picnic.

And what a wonderful time it was – we had the absolute best day. The kids played until they were sick of playing, the adults drank wine and talked to our hearts’ content, and we all filled up on picnic food and birthday cake. And we got sunburns! There’s not too many places in the U.S. you can get a sunburn in February. It was a fantastic time together and I’m so glad we all did it.

Happy Birthday, Beppy! You’re the best. The absolute best. I hope we get to celebrate many, many more birthdays just like that – together. And I’m so glad my darling Dad made it too. You never know what the future holds, but there’s a pretty good chance we won’t be in the area anymore when his birthday rolls around in the summer. So, yes, this was a really special day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Madonna Mountain Death March

Jill's Journal: Somehow I must have forgotten what a hard-core hiker Kristi is…and, more importantly, I forgot that former hiking companions have labeled her the “hiking Nazi.” (That alone should have tipped me off to something. How conveniently we forget.) So, when Kristi told me Madonna Mountain made a nice hike and that her quickest time for this particular hike was around 45 minutes to go up and back, I naively thought it would be a good outing for the girls. Even more naively, I thought it would be gentle terrain since she used to run it.

Yesterday morning we arrived at Madonna (named for the big ranching family from this area and not the pop icon) with the mountain looming boldly in front of us. I vaguely remember thinking it seemed awfully big for such a quick hike. Still, I blindly (and still naively) followed my sister and Meisje with three little girls in tow.

The Madonna’s official name is Cerro San Luis and it’s one of the “seven sisters,” seven peaks all in a row of extinct volcanoes that end with Morro Rock at the ocean. We had a ball going up …and up …and up some more. Somewhere along the line I learned, to my astonishment, the hike to the top and back down was 5.2 miles, more than two miles farther than the girls had ever done before, and we’re not talking a gentle, flat walk. But by that time we were committed and soldiered on. All three girls did utterly fantastic all the way to the top and I was so proud! We thought we were home free. If the kids did so great on the way up, the way down should be a piece of cake, right? Oh, how wrong we were. Somewhere on the way down, the girls decided we had them on a death march. We slipped and slid and all three girls (plus me!) fell at least once. That took all the fun away and they were D-O-N-E.

Erika was christened “Kid Hiker of the Day” because she kept going and going with no complaints. Yay, Erika! About halfway down the mountain, Madelyn decided she was furious with both me and Kristi for “picking this hike,” but thankfully kept going. It was all Kristi and I could do to stifle our laughter at her enraged little face and body language. And poor little Victoria’s legs just quit, causing me to surrender my usual policy of not carrying her on hikes.

Despite the two little girls fizzling out on the way back down, it was an awesome way to spend a morning, complete with beautiful views stretching all the way to the ocean. I believe it took us around three hours total, which actually, isn’t bad with little ones. How Kristi has managed to run up and down that mountain in less than 45 minutes boggles my mind. She is so hard core, clearly a fitness guru, and most definitely not someone to be trifled with! I want to be her when I grow up. :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Mission

Jill's Journal: By the 1700s, Spain had claimed a big part of California and established missions along the coast to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism. The “mission trail” going up the coast had 21 missions, all about a hard day’s journey apart. The original trail, called El Camino Real, or The Royal Road, is now loosely Highway 101. El Camino Real was named to honor the Spanish monarchy, who were financiers of California expeditions in a quest to expand their empire. The historic trail is still marked by bells. Even better, several of the original missions still exist. One of them is Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, founded in 1772 and the fifth of the 21 missions to be built.

After Mexico revolted against Spain and won her independence in 1821, all the missions were taken away from the Franciscan friars and secularized by the Mexican government. The San Luis mission was then used as a school, jail, and county courthouse. After California became part of the United States in 1850, the government returned some of the lands back to the church. The town of San Luis Obispo eventually grew up around the mission, which is still recognized as the center of town.

Today the girls and I headed to downtown SLO and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful mission and accompanying museum. It’s sparse but large and still in service today as a church. It’s also unique as the only one of the California missions with an L-shaped nave.

The grounds are absolutely lovely as well.