Friday, June 29, 2012


Jill's Journal: My parents live way, way out in the country. Never was this more apparent than when four elk bucks were spotted in the valley this past week. It may be difficult to see in the photo, but the rack on the buck that’s second from the right is especially huge.

We’re down to our last hours in Tehachapi – and California, actually – and I find myself feeling very melancholy about leaving. It’s not because we want to live here, because we really don’t even though this is a tremendous state with so much to offer. It’s 100% because so many of our loved ones are right here. It’s amazing how much more important family becomes when kids are involved. These last months have been so, so precious. We’ll treasure them always.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grandparents are the Best

Jill's Journal: We’ve had so much fun being with my parents during our time in Tehachapi and have gotten a million things done, including steam cleaning our carpets, defrosting our fridge and freezer, and all those satisfying things that take a ton of time and effort but can be hard to find room in the day to do.

But if Rob and I have enjoyed being here, it doesn’t compare to the happiness it’s given the girls as they’ve pretended to be farm girls and soaked up time with their grandparents.

A ride with Grandpa…

“Farm” chores for Grandpa…

Photo by Beppy
And more work for Grandpa. These girls are trying to earn money for some big purchases they have planned and caught on pretty quickly Grandpa pays more generously than anyone else when it’s his granddaughters. Boy, oh boy, has he been popular as they’ve clamored for their turn to “work” for him!

Photo by Beppy
The girls have had an equally wonderful time with Beppy indoors. Just look at this fruit salad Beppy and Erika made for dinner one night. Isn’t it the cutest thing?

Ahhhh, grandparents. There’s not much better than grandparents.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A couple of Saturdays ago... the Chili Cook-off

The day before Father's Day Erika and the boys took a trip to town to see the Tehachapi Chili Cook-off and Car Show. It was a small town-type fair with merchandise booths, a kids' play area and more chili than I've ever seen.

We charged Erika with making sure that Arden didn't get lost. She was on top of her job the entire time, and didn't let him straggle into the crowd one bit.

First stop for us was the car show. The locals gather their collective rides and show them off on the streets. We saw everything from '39 Mercs to a custom '76 Jet boat.

Arden showed Erika what a "Rumble seat" was in a car. Hopefully he'll be the only boy ever to do so. ;)

I also heard him say to her, as he walked toward the '55 Chevy, "Here's one from Grandpa's generation." Erika has a new respect for the age of that car. ;)

No word on who won the votes of the public, but Arden and I had our favorite, pictured here. It is a 1937 Oldsmobile and it was just neat to see. A daily driver, this car is unlike any that I've seen before, and I've been to a lot of shows. To me it was both elegant and futuristic for the time, a real treat.

No question which car was Erika's favorite. This pickup was PINK!

Next stop was to go taste chili. They fundraise by selling "tastes" for a buck per dixie cup serving of several different types of chili. It was interesting to try the different types and tastes side by side, and makes for a great way to raise money for the local causes.

Erika's favorite moment of the day was getting her snowcone from Grandpa. Erika chose Blue Bubblegum, and from the look of it enjoyed just about every bite - blue tongue and all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Madelyn's Camera

While doing the "Dad" thing this week and fixing Madelyn's playskool camera, I started going through her photos and discovered some great ones. I thought they'd be fun to share here. I'm not 100% certain Madelyn took every one of these photos (we have quite the shutterbugs in our house - imagine that!), but it is her camera, so we'll put them under her flag.

Next week I'll be sharing some of Victoria's photos from her camera. She's also very excited to get the public gallery treatment.

All Madelyn - from here on out...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bako Buddies

Jill's Journal: See this? This blur is six happy kids playing an impromptu game of “Ring Around the Tree.” Four adults spent a pretty happy day too. It dawned on us that we’ve seen Chris and Julie and their three adorable kids – Athena, Zoe, and Jack -- three times on this RV journey of the last two years, more than any other friends. It helps that they currently live in Bakersfield (people around here call it “Bako”), which is only about an hour from my parents, but it’s more than that. We just seem to fit. It doesn’t always happen that both members of a couple both truly enjoy both other members of a couple AND the kids are evenly matched and everyone gets along swimmingly. We just love this family and so enjoy our time together. In fact, if I were to picture our dream neighbors and friends, this wonderful family would probably top the list.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

El Taco Loco

Jill's Journal: Rob returned from another week in New Jersey on Saturday and the girls and I picked him up at the tiny airport in Bakersfield, California. Within minutes, we drove past a taco truck named El Taco Loco. Rob quickly reminded me one of his favorite comedians, Gabriel Iglesias, is from Bakersfield and has talked about this particular truck in his act. Apparently, they’re mean to customers, but the food is good (a la the Soup Nazi). Of course, we had to stop.

We had a tiny order and didn’t truly expect any drama. But guess what? They were a little mean! First, they reprimanded Rob for not knowing they weren’t making what he wanted at that hour of the day and then they made some fun of the white boy in Spanish! But I suppose we had been duly warned by Iglesias. Oh well, at least the tacos were tasty. :)

Clip from Gabriel Iglesias: Hot and Fluffy.  Funny stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Jill's Journal: We’re finally getting some summer heat and it looks like humans aren’t the only ones feeling it.

Caught on film: a pair of bookends in the sun. What luxury it must be to enjoy a mid-afternoon nap like my Dad’s horses!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Hate Goodbyes

Jill's Journal: Our whole family gathered from different corners of Southern and Central California for one last time over Father’s Day weekend before we start heading East and leave this clan. We all so enjoy our time together, which we know is a great blessing, so these last days together were appreciated. Of course we’ll share visits in the future, but the chances for us to all be together at once will most certainly be few and far between. *sniff, sniff*

The girls got some last time with their new baby cousin. We tried to talk Kristi and Adam into letting Logan come with us, but to no avail. I want these cousins to grow up knowing each other. *sniff, sniff*

Erika said a special goodbye to her most favorite dog in the whole world, Kristi and Adam’s aging Meisje. She’s never known life without Meisje and had a harder time saying goodbye to her than the people. (I remember moving across half the country when I was about Erika’s age and having to leave my beloved pony behind, so I understand). *sniff, sniff*

It was hard for me to say goodbye to these two. How I love my sister and brother, best siblings in the world. I really, really wanted to be an only child when I was a kid, but now I’m so glad I’m not (thanks, Mom and Dad!). I couldn’t possibly imagine life without these two. *sniff, sniff*

One last shot of my parents with their four granddaughters before Uncle Adam, Kristi, Kristi’s Adam, and Logan had to leave. Happily, we’ll get a little more time with Grandpa and Beppy in the coming week or so, but then we’ll wish them farewell too. I hate goodbyes. *sniff, sniff*

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Last Stop in California

Jill's Journal: We’ve been in California a really long time. With the exception of three months in Oregon and five or six weeks in Nevada, we’ve been in “Cali” since arriving on the West Coast almost 19 months ago. We feel like we’ve covered this great, varied, and gargantuan state pretty well – from north to south, from east to west, from ocean to deserts to mountains – and although you can never see absolutely everything, we’ve had a pretty fulfilling (and wonderful) time here.

We have one final order of business before exiting the Golden State and that, of course, is spending time with my parents near Tehachapi. Life is never dull with three little girls around, as my Dad could attest when he found his cowboy boots (above) gaily decorated with bows. Rumor is the girls may have had some help from a visiting Aunt Kristi. Now Grandpa sure adores his granddaughters, but no word yet on whether he’s willing to actually wear his boots in such a fancy state.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Jill's Journal: Any day we get a playdate at the home of friends is a good day – no, a great day – in our girls’ book. While in the Visalia/Hanford area of Central California, we spent a lovely afternoon at the home of Kevin and Teresa. Our girls remembered playing with their girls nearly 18 months ago and it didn’t take three seconds for everyone to dive right back in again. It’s so fun for me to see our girls interact with other little kids. This group was clearly fast friends…

…with Madelyn right in the thick of things, as always. I never have to worry about her making friends; every new person, whether Elaine (above) or Rachel (below), is always her best friend. It warms a mama’s heart. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sequoia National Park

Jill's Journal: We’re not “tree huggers” by any stretch of the imagination, but when in Rome…!

In a random grove in Central California’s Sequoia National Park along the Generals Highway (the twisty road that connects Sequoia with Kings Canyon), we spotted a few unfenced Giant Sequoia trees and couldn’t resist seeing these gentle giants close up.

“The Pacific Coast…is the paradise of conifers. Here nearly all of them are giants, and display a beauty and magnificence unknown elsewhere.”
–John Muir, 1901

Our day in Sequoia began at Three Rivers, the closest town to the entrance of the national park. This picture is actually a shout-out to our brother-in-law, Adam, who was born in this cute little town in the middle of nowhere.

Established in 1890, Sequoia is America’s second-oldest national park after Yellowstone. This welcome sign has been here since the 1930s, when it was made by a Civilian Conservation Corps worker from Arkansas.

Tunnel Rock, a huge “balanced” granite boulder under which the road into Sequoia once led, greets visitors soon after Sequoia’s main entrance. The road now bypasses the rock.

Our girls love places like this. I just couldn't resist sharing this picture.

One of our main stops in Sequoia had nothing to do with big trees. It was a hike up Moro Rock, a large granite dome, which offers a beautiful view of the Great Western Divide from the top. I *think* this is Moro Rock from quite a distance away.

The steep, narrow trail to the top features over 350 steps and is not for the faint of heart. Wooden steps were first put in place in 1917 and replaced with concrete in 1931.

The top! Even at only 6,725 feet, it feels like the top of the world.

Why is going down so much easier?

Mama bear and her cub! Seeing this pair was a serendipitous moment for Rob and Rob alone. I was in the midst of taking all three girls to the restroom after our Moro Rock climb while Rob retrieved our car from a quarter-mile away. It seemed to take an unusually long time for Rob to return and the girls and I were so excited to hear he’d spent 10 minutes watching these bears. Rob has video of the mama tearing apart a piece of a fallen tree to eat the bugs inside while the baby capered around. So very, very awesome.

The closest the girls and I got to any significant wildlife in Sequoia was this deer (because I don’t think squirrels quite count).

Of course the main attraction in Sequoia is the Giant Forest. Look at the trunk of an average tree (in the foreground) compared to a Giant Sequoia in the background. It’s a humbling experience walking among the land of giants.

From a tremendous distance away, one can spot the General Sherman Tree. This is the world’s largest tree by volume. It’s located twenty-seven miles south of the General Grant Tree we’d seen in Kings Canyon.

The girls are standing near the base of the tree. I backed up as far as possible and still couldn’t fit the entire tree in the frame while remaining close enough to actually spot them in the picture. Although the General Sherman Tree is not the tallest or the widest tree in the world, it is still considered the largest living tree on earth due to its volume and that was a hard thing to explain to them. At about 2,100 years old and as tall as the Statue of Liberty, it is believed to weigh 2.7 million pounds, containing more wood in its trunk than any other tree. Interestingly, the top of the Sherman Tree is dead but that doesn’t stop this Giant Sequoia from continuing to grow wider at the trunk. The General Sherman Tree adds enough wood each year to make the equivalent of a 60-foot-tall tree measuring one foot in diameter.

The tree was named in 1879 for the Civil War’s General William T. Sherman, hero according to the North and demon according to the South. (His destruction of a large swath of the Confederacy during his “March to the Sea” was particularly brutal.) A six-foot-tall human looking up at the Sherman Tree is the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a six-foot-tall man. These random guys to the left of the tree base (sorry folks!) looked about six feet tall. Do we really seem that big and intimidating to a mouse?

Farewell, Sequoia. This was far from our favorite national park, but we still had a pretty darn nice time. Such a marvelous country we have.