Wednesday, April 30, 2008


WOW! Yosemite is awesome.
Last night we drove into Groveland where our campground is located. It is a great campground - very picturesque and not crowded at all. They even have a petting zoo and some other kiddie-type attractions. We are planning to explore Groveland some time later this week - it boasts the country's oldest saloon that has been serving up drinks since the gold rush. I plan on saddling on up to the bar and ordering a shot of whiskey. I am not much of a whiskey drinker but it just seems like the appropriate thing to do. In fact, I will probably be ready for a double in a couple of more days.

We are told that Yosemite is not crowded at all right now. We are glad to have been informed of this because we wouldn't have known otherwise. We're used to Big Bend. There were more cars in the parking lot(s) of the Visitor's Center in Yosemite than in the entire Big Bend park during its busy season. We even had a couple of traffic jams. A good part of the park seems to not even be open right now due to the snow (the higher parts of the park). Anyway, today we drove around, had a picnic, and toured the visitor's center and watched a beautiful movie on Yosemite. We have learned about John Mueir, the naturalist who has written so much about the park. Some of his quotes caused me to tear up quite a bit. He strikes me as a little Thoreau-ish.

My quest for timelessness on this trip continues to elude me. I am a slave to the clock and was hoping to escape it on this long, rambling journey. But that has not been the case. We've been "trying to make good time" - "trying to arrive before nightfall" - "trying to make it before dinner".....blah blah blah. When I try to rest and relax I am every bit as aware of the clock (knowing that I have a certain amount of time to sit before we must be on our way again) as I am at home with all of our scheduled appointments and commitments. And of course it is hard to relax when you are not only responsible for your own urges of hunger and potty-stops, but those of 5 children as well. So I am literally always taking someone to the bathroom or getting something to eat or drink.....very much like at home only I am surrounded by big thunderous waterfalls. So definitely an improvement : ) Still, I need to find ways to live in the current moment within my role as sardine mama. I have just read "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle for the third time. I think I keep reading it in an effort to keep placing the act of taking responsibility for the current moment, into the future. After all, as long as I haven't finished the book I'm not expected to practice living in the now, am I? Oh well, I am quite the spiritual work in progress.

Enough of that. I feel the desire to describe our physical living/traveling conditions. We are in a 26 foot travel trailer. 26 feet seems like it should be a lot but we are dwarfed by the rigs surrounding us. Every place we've stayed has been full of gigantic 5th-wheelers or rock star buses. When their doors open, either a childless couple or a family of 4 emerges. When our door pops open we pile out like clowns from a Volkswagen. But we love our trailer! It has the unique feature of sleeping a ton of people. The back holds two bunkbeds - so sleeps 4 in a very small space. The couch folds out into a bed, as do the seats of the table. The trailer is what is called a hybrid, meaning that one end has a pop-out queen-sized bed like a pop-up camper. So we sleep 8, which is our entire family with room for a brave guest.

Today Ellie got to talk to Juliana on the phone while lying on a huge downed tree (see photo below). We have had very poor cell coverage for the past few days but Ellie managed an entire conversation. I have tried to use the phone a couple of times (Susan and my dad) only to be dropped. But we have wireless Internet access so I can blog and Jeff can keep up with the Spurs.

Tomorrow we are planning on a couple of gorgeous (and probably crowded) hikes. One of the trees we'll be hugging was alive during the reign of Cleopatra. Makes us and all our problems seem rather fleeting, no?

I will write more tomorrow!
Oh - thanks for the comments!! Ann - yes, after I wrote about Disney I thought, "I've been to Disney since 1976....." Do you remember those little matching outfits we bought? Mine was yellow and yours was blue. They were "wrap" shorts with tube tops - tropical print....
Sardine Mama

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Voice in the Wilderness

Hellooooo!! We have been so busy and up so late at night that it is has been hard for me to post. On Saturday we left LA and made the big trek up north. It was a VERY long drive through lots and lots and lots of farmland. We passed vineyard after vineyard and groves and groves of orange, pecan, olive, pistachio, peach, and cherry trees. The mountains seemed so far away. When we finally arrived in Redding it was dark. About an hour later we pulled into Mark and Rita's. It was really late and they had been waiting for us. After setting up the trailer (finding a reasonably level spot, etc) - we put the sleeping little ones into their beds and discovered our hosts had a lovely hot tub waiting for our tired bones. Ahhhhhh......a beautiful steamy soak under the stars with the sound of a rushing creek behind us (Rush Creek, actually). When we climbed into bed we were relieved to see that it became dark when we turned off the lights (after LA where it never got dark) and that we only heard the rustling of the wind through the trees and the sound of the creek (after LA where we heard traffic noise and sirens all night).

In the morning we were able to finally see the beautiful place in which we had landed. Mark and Rita literally live in the middle of a forest in a lovely cedar house. In addition to their private practices (Mark and Rita are both psychologists) - they own and operate an amazing aviary. So we have learned all about the beautiful birds who live with them. Jack is a true character and he fell head over heels in love with Ellie. He pruned her and kissed her and in a truly rare show of devotion and adoration, he attempted to regurgitate on her (luckily Rita saw the signs and removed him before he could prove his love). The big birds who live in the house are all talkers so they got along just fine with Camille. Mark and Rita also have a dog and 3 cats. I am happy to say that all animals were alive and kicking when we left - we do not have any $10,000 birds to replace.

The creek behind the house is a beatiful, swift-flowing creek and the boys panned for gold and actually found some! The fool's gold looks like someone sprinkled glitter along the sand - there is that much of it. But Joel quickly found a real speck of gold and showed us the difference (you could mold it and squish it and it stayed together, rather than breaking apart). Jules found his own version of gold in the form of lovely, round rocks which he gathered to bring home to AnneMarie so she can heat them up and use them as therapeutic rocks. These rocks will have good energy, AnneMarie! Jules tested them out by heating them up in the microwave. Camille also collected a pretty rock for JoDee and Ellie found a nice chunk of petrified wood and collected some other natural items.

We had a lovely picnic along the banks of the Trinity River which was really moving. So many nice spots to pop a tent! We drove up a dirt road to get to our picnic spot. It twisted and turned and luckily we didn't meet another vehicle. It was rather warm and we were in shorts but the mountains were covered with snow.

Yesterday we drove into Weaverville and had the most delicious lunch at a quaint little restaurant. I had strudel stuffed with swiss cheese and shrimp. I have eaten well on this trip so far and will have some major dieting to do when I get home. Jeff wanted to stop and buy some new hiking boots before we left for Yosemite so Mark and Rita directed us to a little shop that had an amazing variety of boots and the most knowledgable sales clerk. He got exactly what he wanted and then I ended up with a new pair, too. We also visited the little museum and Ellie gave a concert on an antique piano (with permission, of course). After that it was ice cream and air hockey and back home to make dinner.

This has been such a delightful stop in our trip. Ellie has been sleeping in their adorable guest room so has had the opportunity to get some bed/reading time away from her siblings which is important for her sanity. The boys and little ones have been able to run around and expend their energy on the animals. Mark and Rita employ people who help them keep up the grounds and care for the animals and one of them has a "gator" and all the kids got to drive it.

We have enjoyed this time visiting with Mark and Rita and I am so glad the kids have had this opportunity to bond with relatives they hardly knew. We stayed just long enough for them to start getting comfortable and secure other words...we left just in time : )

So far, Mark and Rita's place has been the best RV Park. Nice location, good food, private hot tub and well, Mark did our laundry last night. The next place is going to seem like a dump!

Today we are driving to Yosemite and can't wait to hit some trails in our new boots!! We will have internet access in the RV park and I will be better about posting now that I am not going to be up all night catching up with relatives : )


Sardine Mama

Friday, April 25, 2008

2 Awesome Days at Disney!!

First of all - check out our cool road trip logo! John Michael photo-shopped us into a sardine can : )

2 days at Disney and beautiful, gorgeous weather. We didn't even get sweaty - yesterday was actually cool and today was warm but not muggy and hot. Yesterday was not crowded at all. In fact, most of the rides were longer than the lines! Today (Friday) was a little more crowded but with the Fast Pass system we still had nothing to complain about.

I think we rode just about everything. Juliana - sorry - no princess photo of Ellie. You have to get in really long lines for those and even though Camille loves princesses she loves roller coasters more (you go, Camille) and said "later - i'd rather stand in line for space mountain". We did get one picture of her with Jasmine and Alladin after the Alladin show. She was absolutely thrilled and Jasmine was delightful. Captain Jack Sparrow was wandering drunkenly around Disneyland and Ellie would have loved to have had her picture taken with him but it was really difficult.

Speaking of princesses: Camille's favorite - Sleeping Beauty (I have no idea why - we don't even own the movie). My favorite is Belle - yellow dress (my favorite color) - best music in a musical EVER, plus I had a crush on Robby Benson when I was a teeny bopper ( he did the voice of Beast). Ellie's favorite was initially Ariel (I personally think it is because Ariel is defiant and refuses to mind her father) but now she says it is Pocahontas, because she isn't frilly like the other princesses. I asked the boys who their favorite princesses were and received all kinds of disgusting answers that I shall not repeat (like Princess Booger, etc). At the parade today (which I LOVED) the princess float was approaching and Camille sat up at attention, looking for Sleeping Beauty. There she was - but on the other side of the float! Oh no! But just as the float came alongside of us Sleeping Beauty danced over to our side. Camille caught her eye and Sleeping Beauty waved gracefully. Camille's face lit up and she waved back - then Sleeping Beauty reacted as if she had just received a kiss and she put her hands over her heart, never taking her eyes off of Camille. Camille melted and I actually started crying! But speaking of parade connections, Prince Caspian rode down Main St. on his horse. He was a handsome young thing in the way that Orlando Bloom is a handsome young thing. Our eyes met - I waved - and he raised his eyebrows in what I thought was a hubba hubba way, but Ellie thought was more of a "Oh my God that middle-aged woman is grossing me out" way.

We visited toon town for lunch - it was very sunny and didn't have the same cool, shady vegetation feel of the rest of the park. We had trouble finding a table in the shade. No problem. "Here," I said. "Slide this little table over here in front of this fake red door. Its shady." So the boys moved the table and we sat down to eat. A few minutes into our meal a big clock overhead starts clanging loudly. Then a young man acted all excited about where we were sitting and began trying to help us move the table (quickly). The door flies open and out comes Goofy - right into the Pavliska's lunch. Now, we had tried to get close to Goofy several times, unsuccesfully. So having him trip over our pizzas and sodas was quite convenient. He was good natured about it (no character rage such as we've seen in the news) and Camille and Jasper received pats on the head, which thrilled them no end.

Jasper is exactly 40" tall and was able to ride everything but the Indiana Jones ride (which is simply indescribable). So he rode Space Mountain and Splash Mountain and the other thrill rides. In the pictures you can't quite tell what he thinks about it - he definitely doesn't look thrilled : ) but he insisted he wasn't scared and was ready to go again. My favorite ride is Peter Pan's Flight and Space Mountain. Both boys ranked Pirates of the Carribean and Indiana Jones as a tie for first place. Jasper liked Splash Mountain - even though he is phobic about wet clothes. But I truly think his favorite was the Disney Train that goes through Dinosaur Land and the Grand Canyon. Camille liked Space Mountain the best (rode it twice). Ellie liked Alice in Wonderland! She enjoyed the fantastic thrill rides, but loved the storybook kiddie rides because she enjoyed the old-fashioned Disney stories so much. Plus she loves Lewis Carroll. She also got a humongous kick out of the Haunted Mansion. Jeff loved everything - he had so much fun and I could always hear him laughing hysterically in the car behind me....

The last time I was at Disney World was 1976 :) It was so much fun and left a huge impression on me. I was worried that it wouldn't seem as great now that I am an adult. But it was just wonderful. I felt 11-years-old again. I felt my mom with me on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride - that was her favorite and she rode it several times. When I was young she read The Wind in the Willows to me.... the Disney integrity was intact and the dream is alive. Ellie didn't expect to love it but she did. She balks at consumerism and commercialism and other "isms" but she was enchanted the entire time. She appreciated the care and love and detail that went into everything. She said it was indeed a happy place and she had a wonderful time. She and I will both take one image home with us: we were standing in line (of course) and the teacup ride was in view. An older couple (late 70's?) was in a teacup. The ride began and the man began to spin the wheel while the woman closed her eyes and threw her arms wide open with her head back. She had a huge smile on her face. The man, also with a huge smile on his face, just watched her and spun and spun.... They could have been any little boy and girl in that teacup :) And for about 3 and a half minutes, I think they were.

Well, we have a BIG drive tomorrow. We are heading north and will be descending upon Mark and Rita very soon!


Sardine Mama

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Birthday to Jeff!

Well, Dr. Brackman gave Jeff the best birthday present today when he said, "I see no measurable growth in the tumor. See 'ya next year." 3 days of driving for 3 seconds?? You betcha!! What a 3 seconds it is!! He is not concerned about Camille's beeping. He said everyone has beeps. He explained to us that IF Jules has NF2 (and that is a big if because Brackman does not think he has it) then it is a spontaneous development because neither Jeff nor I, nor our parents, have NF2 as far as anyone knows. So if he has it, he has not inherited it (although he could pass it on to his own children). Therefore, if any of his siblings have it it would be the equivalent of the Universe pooping on us, which would be unlikely because we are such lovely people. However, Camille was disappointed so he looked in both of her ears very seriously. Then Jasper said he heard beeps so his ears were also carefully examined : ) BTW - thank you to AnneMarie Kane for lovingly providing Jules with reflexology every Tuesday, paying special attention to his brain and ears. Who is to say this is not keeping the tumor from growing? And he really enjoys his time with Ms. Kane because God (and AnneMarie) knows he doesn't get enough attention at home.

We were told to arrive at St. Vincents hospital this morning by 8:00, which meant we left the camper at 6:30 in anticipation of LA traffic. His MRI was supposed to be at 8:30. We arrived at 8:00 and the hospital said, "Jules who? Why are you here? Who has sent you? Do you come in peace?" and even though this has never happened to us before, I had been worried it might happen this time since we had the entire familia with us.......Luckily they generously obliged us before I had to break down and re-live the 3-day trip to get there. But instead of being at the hospital for 1 hour, we were there for about 4. Jules was a trooper. He hates getting the IV but all the techs tell him he has great veins (he is going to grow up thinking this is a positive physical attribute to list in a singles add). His hearing test confirmed that he is still deaf in his right ear - which always cracks me up because it is irreversible damage. His left ear was good but somewhat imparied WHEN "trash" noise is produced by the bad ear, which seems to be getting better or Jules is simply getting used to it.

Jules wore his new shoes today. But although I had managed to cover his toes, I failed to cover his ankles. He doesn't wear jeans much so I hadn't noticed that all of his are at least 4 inches too short : ) Between his pants and his brother's perpetual frantic hair, I realized that it is just hard to camoflauge homeschooled kids in public. When Dr. Brackman asked if we homeschooled I began to explain that I simply hadn't noticed Jules' pants were so short, plus he is super skinny and it is hard to find long enough pants......turns out he just noticed we were taking a vacation during the school year : )

After the immense relief of the visit we met my cousin, Reyn, and his wife, Marie, for lunch in Chinatown (1 word or 2?). We had a DELICIOUS lunch and the kids were famished and enjoyed every bite. Reyn is our knight in shining armour because he was making a rare visit to Texas when Jules was diagnosed with the tumor and said, "Hey, there's a place in LA where they treat more of those tumors than anywhere else...." and that has made all the difference in Jules' treatment and avoidance of surgery. The kids loved exploring Chinatown. Camille bought a present for Keziah and a piggy bank for herself. Jules added to his turtle collection with a little statue. Then we went to a Farmer's Market place that Jules always enjoys. The collection of people who visit there is just really interesting and Ellie was like, "Oh! I could live here!" We ate some sweets (cheesecake for Jeff's birthday - ice cream for the little ones) and walked around soaking up the atmosphere. Then we drove through Beverly Hills enjoying the colorful landscaping and greenery (and the mulit-million dollar mansions). No Paris Hilton sightings this time. We took a breathtaking drive up above the city on Mulholland Dr and then headed back to the hood to make dinner. Jeff cooked his own bday dinner of spaghetti with textured vegetable protein sauce - still appeasing the princess. BTW - she ALMOST broke her year-long streak of avoiding eating anything of consciousness when she saw the rows of smoked salmon at the market....but she didn't.

Camille has her Disney princesses shirt all laid out and ready to put on first thing in the morning. I have promised Juliana that I will force Ellie to pose with Cinderella. For some reason, this image causes her to become tickled.

The important part of the trip is over but we plan to keep posting so please keep commenting! We love coming back to the trailer to read what you've all said!! FUN! But if any of you are planning to continue correcting my spelling I will be forced to block you from the blog if I can figure out how. And I KNOW how to spell Feenux, Arizona. I was just tired. DUH.

Sardine Mama

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We are here!

Well, we made it to LA - Anaheim, actually. After I posted my quickie this morning we ended up visiting the Phoenix Wal-Mart. We noticed that Jules was in DESPERATE need of new shoes. I hate to take a kid to the doctor with his toes sticking up out of the ends of his shoes. While at Wal-Mart Camille had a meltdown and ended up with new shoes, too. Camille has more shoes than the rest of us put together. Then Ellie casually says, "Are we like gonna hike when we're in Yosemite? Because if we are all I brought were my Converse hi-tops....." So Ellie got new shoes. Then Jasper decided that his pink boots are getting too small and I almost cried right there and then because he has been wearing those boots for 2 years. So he ended up with Spiderman shoes. Joel - easy child - was not even slightly interested in new shoes. But he did say, "So - when you say we are probably gonna see snow in Yosemite does that mean it might be cold there? Do you think I should have brought a coat?" Unfortunately, Wallyworld has the swimsuits out so no coats. We'll layer him. Jules also brought no coat and says I didn't tell him to. I told him it would be cold and to pack accordingly. I should have known better. He and Joel regularly travel to San Antonio with me only to get to wherever we're going and say, "Should we have worn shoes?"

So we had great luck with our 2 previous RV parks so it seems fit that our luck has run out. We are spending the night listening to traffic noise from a park that hosts a few "permanent residents". It is not a good neighborhood. This was my blunder - they are not Good Sam's. But what can I say? Their website looked good and they have a shuttle to Disneyland......Luckily we are only going to be here to sleep, you know, like when we are at our most vulnerable.

It was fun pulling the trailer through LA traffic. Tomorrow we are rising early and heading to the hospital for the MRI. Jules is not looking forward to this as he receives an IV for the procedure. It is dreadfully cold in there and as we already determined, he has no coat. I will remember to bring a blanket. He is enjoying showing LA to his siblings. We went out to Baskin Robins for ice cream and all kids are unconscious.

Today would be my mom's birthday and tomorrow is Jeff's. I left his present on the top shelf of our closet. To make matters worse he keeps saying, "No you didn't! You're teasing me. You brought it....." But I'm pretty sure he is the one teasing. He knows me well enough to not be surprised by this. We are hoping to meet up with my cousin, Reyn, tomorrow for lunch. Then we will do a little sightseeing and return to the housing projects for an early night in anticipation of Disneyland the next day! The pics of the nice pool are from the place last night - not tonight!! We are having a lot of fun reading your responses! Camille was thrilled to hear from Keziah. Mark and Rita - the storm is gathering strength : )


We are Early Risers!

Well we are in Pheonix. They are two hours behind us instead of 1 because they do not practice Day Light Savings. So it is only 7:30 here and still, technically, "quiet time" in the RV park. But it has not been quiet since 6:00, which was when Jasper awoke. I didn't get to post last night, and am going to do a quickie while Jeff is hooking up the trailer. I'll post the pics tonight :)

Business First: Editor's correction:
Ellie has informed me that I misspelled Woolf, as in Virginia. What can I say? I wasn't homeschooled.

Yesterday we drove from El Paso to Pheonix. The morning began with excitement as Jeff gave me an allergy shot in a trailer shaking with bouncing kids. The needle did not break off in my arm. We considered that a good omen and we hit the road. We drove along the Rio Grande, looking over into Juarez and its factories. Things became fairly boring rather quickly after that. When we crossed the border into New Mexico we stopped at the visitor's station and the 3 little kids were given 3 stuffed animals. Yay! We now have more stuffed animals. I had been up all night the previous evening worrying about the stuffed animal shortage....Anyway, it was a long drive. I do not think I brought enough library books for the boys - we are going to have to hit a used bookstore before the trip home. We had lunch in somewhere in Arizona. Between Tuscon and Arizona we ran into some wonderful rock formations and finally the big giant cacti!

Our RV park is really really nice. We are surrounded by retirees and a surprising number of homeschooling families. There are orange trees everywhere. When we drove past the adobe bathroom and shower facilities, the signs outside the door said "braves" and "maidens". Ellie said, "What language is that?" And as Jeff says, "She's our smart one....."

They have a gorgeous pool and we were the only ones in it. Camille and Jasper are perfectly happy to drive for 10 hours to get to a pool. Jasper said this is the best vacation he has ever had! Actually, he had a fairly rough time of it yesterday when we finally arrived in Pheonix. Jeff slammed his thumb in the trailer door and it was one of those scenes where it took him 30 seconds to even begin to cry. But once he started.....

After swimming we had a quick meal of veggie burgers, veggie baked beans, salad, and mac-n-cheese (the Annie's organic which is on sale right now at HEB - by the way). We only have 1 vegetarian in the family but it is easier to go along with the princess in these close quarters. Plus the veggie patties are quick and easy and microwavable : ) Jules and I read more adventures of Gregor the Overlander and then it was off to bed.

This morning we are making up stories about our neighbors. The homeschooling family next to us has sprinkled some sort of white powder all around their RV. It is either some sort of ant poison or a pagan protection ritual. We would prefer it to be a Pagan protection ritual but they don't look like Pagans, they look like Republicans. Actually we shouldn't stereotype. We actually know a family of Pagan Republicans - no kidding! And no offense to Pagans or Republicans, please : ) Anyway, the Pagan Republicans have 2 kids, both of whom wear bike helmets, which our kids find fascinating.

Thank you for all of the comments!! That was so exciting! It is always nice to hear from the Pope. We haven't heard from His Holiness since Christmas.

Love to All and tonight we will be in LA!
Sardine Family


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day 1

Well, we have made it in one piece to El Paso. We got off 2 hours later than expected, which was totally expected. We drove 580 miles, getting approximately pathetic to really sad gas mileage. We made really good time to the southside of San Antonio where we had our first stop to get things we forgot. We stopped for lunch at a roadside park and I turned my back for just a second, only to turn around and find Joel and Jules on top of the roof of the sheltered picnic table.

The little ones began the trip fighting over who got to sit next to Ellie. After 2 hours the little ones were fighting over who HAD to sit next to Ellie.

In addition to our family we are traveling with Charlie Bone, Artemis Fowl, Gregor the Overlander, Poppy the Ballerina, Harry Potter, and Virginia Wolfe. We are also about to have our vacation read-aloud of The Trumpet and the Swan. This book lives in the trailer and is only read on vacations. So we have been reading it for about 3 years. Reaquainting ourselves with Louis and his trumpet is like reuniting with friends at summer camp.....

Thanks to Juliana we had great music today. She is a great mixer! She even showed respect for her elders with a decent amount of Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, and the Guns-n-Roses version of Knockin' on Heaven's Door (my personal favorite).

We are now checked into the first of many concrete parking lots known as RV parks - heated pool and Jasper was in heaven! The chlorine dunk was substitued for baths.

A few pics are below. There are none of Ellie because she was uncooperative. Since she is unlikely to look any better tomorrow, and in fact will probably look worse, I might have to become sneaky with the camera.

We are looking forward to visiting relatives and I wonder if they are watching our approach on the blog like people watch a hurricaine or tornado approaching.....