Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Journey Hasn't Ended

Well, the vacation is over but the journey isn't : ) I had so much fun "blogging" while on our trip that I'm going to continue doing it. Anyone bored with the humdrum of their own lives can come here and read about the humdrum of mine!

We still haven't completely unpacked the trailer from the trip and in fact, the kids are often wandering out there to look for socks, etc. But we're planning a trip to the beach in July and will be forced to clean it out by then (in order to fill it up with more stuff).

We miss our vacation!! John Michael just brought over some absolutely gorgeous prints he made of 3 of the photos from the trip. He did them in black and white (Ansel Adams style) and they are breathtaking. We're like, "Did we take those????" Two are of Yosemite waterfalls and one is of an apple blossom on one of Mark and Rita's trees. I need to frame them. They were intended to hang in my meditation nook above my little water fountain but they turned out so well that I'm not sure that I want to hide them away.

Ellie was home for a very short time before heading off to Baltimore to compete with her Odyssey of the Mind team at the World Finals. She left yesterday and I talked to her last night and she was happy but exhausted. There are a few glitches (they are stuck reassembling their things in a parking garage and their Singapore buddy team was placed in a different dorm) but she is excited and having a good time. They are competing against their Polish buddy team from last year! So that will be fun. The Polish team won 1st last year (in a different category).

Our "school year" is winding down THANK GOD. We are down to our end-of-the year stuff. Camille has a dance recital next Friday and I have some work to do on her costume and I am totally not good at that sort of thing. Camille doesn't really know the dance routines but doesn't seem concerned about it at all. The girl is all about tutus and lipstick. Joel just earned his orange belt in tae kwon do - Jules will try for his next month. Ellie has a couple of piano recitals in June. Even I have rather gigantic plans: I am getting to escape mommydom next weekend! Twice a year (when I'm not breastfeeding) I go off without kiddos. These excursions are also known as "child abuse prevention weekends". Jeff and I will head to Corpus Christi. He will work calling on local hospitals and I will work on a tan and a few margaritas. yahoo!!!! Several local volunteers have to work to make this event possible and they shall be justly rewarded in heaven.

I plan on posting! Feel free to "visit" and comment from time to time!

Sardine Mama

Friday, May 9, 2008

We're Home!

We made it home! If you haven't read the previous post there are great pics of the Gila Cave Dwellings....

Schnitzel is a very happy weiner dog. Diane did a great job looking after the house. It was lovely to come home to a clean house with live plants......

Our corn and tomatos are thrice the size as when we left. We have baby swallows in all the nests. The guinea pigs are whistling. The cat had a fight while we were gone and I'm running him to the vet in the morning - lots of scratches and a nasty ear. Our barn is full of pigs. Someone (Jeff's brother?) caught a mess of wild pigs and they are apparently being fattened up in the barn.

Ellie has been banging on the piano, Joel is on the computer, the other 3 are running around in their dress-up clothes and Jules is spinning......

We are glad to be home but it was an awesome trip and we will not hesitate to do it again if we are able. Tomorrow we'll unpack and go through the mail. It is really humid - how do you folks stand it???

Carol (former sardine mama)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Final Leg of the Trip

Evelyn and Harlan - the boys say HI! And John Michael - Ellie responded to your comment with a comment - you'll have to check the comments to read it.

You might have noticed that in every picture on the blog Joel is making a bizarre face. He is doing this intentionally and it is really getting on my nerves. I have not taken one decent picture of the child the entire trip. Even on the Disney ride shots, he is making faces. I asked him, "How do you know where the cameras are positioned on those rides? You've never ridden them before." And he said, "I don't know where the cameras are." I thought about this for awhile and finally said, "Don't tell me you are trying to hold those goofy expressions for the entire ride!" He said that is exactly what he was doing and that it was really hard to keep his eyes crossed all through Space Mountain. Jeff and I are so proud.

We are on the way home, with a few little diversions. Yesterday we were driving toward Silver City and couldn't resist the urge to stop at the Petrified Forest. Would you believe that people remove 1 TON of petrified wood from that national park each MONTH??? At that rate, there won't be any left for our grandkids to see.....we took a short hike and resisted the urge to visit every corner of the park, especially Jasper Forest. It is supposedly full of jasper. When Jasper was little Jeff called him "semi-precious". We were trying to explain to him what a semi-precious stone is and that it carries his name - unsuccessful attempt at that explanation, though. One thing that really struck me at the petrified forest was a timeline of the planet's history. They condensed it all into one calendar year. According to that calendar year, recorded human history makes up about half of the last minute.

The drive to Silver City was beautiful. When we arrived at the RV park we asked the owner were we could get some good, flat New Mexico enchiladas. It was 8:30. He called the restaurant for us and they said they'd stay open for us. That is the 3rd time that has happened on this trip! The food was excellent - Ellie and I had the green sauce and Jeff, the red. Sopapillas for all, dripping with honey! The scales are definitely tipping.....when I get home it is going to be 6 weeks of de-toxing....fresh vegetables and fruit.

The next morning we were GOING to head home but ended up driving up to the Gila Cave Dwellings. It was only 40 miles away but a 2-hour twisty, turning drive. Ellie began complaining that she was carsick right away but when Camille said it I tossed her a bag because I recognized the inevitable vomit-session on the way. Jeff pulled over and the boys proceeded to initiate the emergency exit drill. They flew out the back of the van the minute it stopped while poor little Camille lost her breakfast cereal. Jasper soon became jealous and wanted something to throw up in, too. So I gave him a little box that a souvenir came in. When he was unable to force himself to vomit, he used it for a drum. Then Camille wanted to use it for a drum. He told her, "I will share, Camille, but I'm gonna barf in it first." Amazingly, that didn't diminish her enthusiasm for demanding her time with the drum. When Jasper wasn't drumming he was fighting a stuffy nose. He became somewhat obsessed with blowing his nose, screaming that he couldn't get the boogers out. Finally he had a really good blow but then said that some of the boogers were stuck in his bones and wouldn't come out. That sprouted all kinds of comments for the rest of the day. You would be surprised how many situations present themselves where Jeff can incorporate the words, "bone boogers". Speaking of phrases, Ellie is getting better at using the word "unfortunate" in place of "sucks". I came up with that, thank you very much. I'm pretty sure that when she says, "Well, Mom, that is really unfortunate," she is making fun of me : ) Now I am working on getting her to stop saying, "Jesus!" I am having a small measure of success in this endeavor. She now says, "Buddha!" I'm pretty sure she is still offending a significant portion of the world's population....Oh, and speaking of cursing and general blasphemy, Jasper's word is "donut". We think he is trying to say "darnit". So now Jeff says, "donut!" whenever he makes a wrong turn, the van breaks down, or someone vomits.

I digress...when we got to the cave dwellings they were amazing! Much smaller in scale than Mesa Verde, but the experience was similar to when we went to the Merced sequoia grove - sooooo worth it due to the privacy and spiritual experience it afforded. Only one other woman was visiting the caves and she avoided us : ) We were able to climb all over them and sit quietly, imagining the people who once lived there. As I sat in the cave, looking out at the mountain splendor and the river running below, it occurred to me that there is no way to to be separate from the earth in that environment. No wonder we are so removed from our Mother - we lock ourselves away in skyscrapers and environmentally controlled buildings - our natural habitat has turned into something we watch on the Nature channel. I hate to admit it but there are weeks where the only time I go outside is to get in the car to run off somewhere. I am going to change that. These 3 weeks have been so great - I have been outdoors more than I have in the previous 6 months - and in really holy places.

When I quit writing Jeff is going to try and load "Road Trippin" on the blog to play as background music for your listening pleasure. I know - the trip is over - but Ellie wouldn't let me listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers until today. She complains that it is all I listen to but the peppers are the best band that ever has been or ever will be. So while listening to the Californication CD we heard "Road Trippin" and knew that had to be our theme. And isn't it appropriate that it is off of "Californication?" You know, since we went to California. There has been no californicating in the trailer :).

We will be home tomorrow evening! It has been GREAT having you all along on our trip! I will miss the blog.


Sardine mama
PS Jeff has informed me that he is unable to download music to the site for your listening pleasure. Donut! The Red Hot Chili Peppers would have won album of the year with Stadium Arcadium if it weren't for everyone feeling guilty for giving the Dixie Chicks grief over their anti-Bush statements. Buddha! That was a disappointment. And also, I don't want all of you posting comments about how the Chili Peppers are not the greatest band to ever live. Especially if you are too young to know what you are talking about (like Kari's husband).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bump in the Road

Well, yesterday as we left Needles we heard a "noise". We kept listening and the noise went away. We convinced ourselves that maybe it was just the coffee skin (thermos) rolling around. We kept going - doing read-alouds and having a good time. We were really looking forward to getting to our fabulous campground just 1 mile from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park! According to the website they had a petting zoo and playground for the kiddos - teepees - landscaping, etc. We finally pulled into the entrance with the intention of dumping the trailer and heading to the canyon. Have you ever seen one of those movies where the family gets to the "resort" they were promised only to find a nasty room full of roaches and a window opening up to a brick wall? WELL - we pulled into the campground and it was worse than that. Really. It was a gravel parking lot with mostly permanent residents living in ancient travel trailers.
The bathrooms were graffiti-laden and had signs warning you not to leave your personal belongings where they could be stolen. The showers were disgusting and you had to pay to use them! The petting zoo was a goat in a pen the size of a doghouse and an old horse tied to a tree. The playground was some tires and a lopsided slide. And the place was $50 a night which was more than we have ever paid! Just as I said, "No way - we are NOT staying here...." the van made a really bad grinding noise as if to say, "oh yes, you are and possibly for a really really long time...." Jeff got out and looked at the tire and said, "We are lucky the tire didn't roll off while we were driving. The bearings are shot." Then he wiggled the tire around to prove it. He pulled into the first available spot (pretty much where we had landed) and got out his computer to check the web for repair shops/ tow trucks. No Internet access. He got out his phone. No cell coverage. He walked to a store and was told the nearest mechanic was an hour back. He picked one out of the phone book and made the call. The guy told him he'd be there to tow us in the next morning around 8 or 9. Then he added we might want to call him if he didn't make it.... We settled in for the night, nestled in the armpit of Arizona - the Grand Canyon being only a mile away but the furthest thing from our minds. The campground came complete with a vicious barking dog in the trailer next door. He finally settled down about the time the live band started up at the bar across the street.

In the morning we were up early emptying the trailer of all of our valuables. 9:00 came and no tow truck. Jeff called. The guy he had talked to was not working that day - we should have expected that. "No problem, Pop," the guy said. "We'll be there in about an hour." Oddly enough, the drama perked up the teens. They were perky and pleasant and enjoying the tragedy of their family vacation : ) Jasper, while waiting for the tow truck, looked around the dilapidated trailer park and said, "Isn't it bootiful here, Mom?" We watched RV's come in and do one of two things: either they left right away or the couple getting out had a fight over whether or not they would stay. The women inevitably did not want to stay but the men would gulp and puff their chests and insist it was "just fine".

While we waited for the tow truck we planned our day. I was trying to be a good sport. "I'll keep the kids here while you ride in with the tow truck," I told Jeff. "We have lots to do here," I said with brimming eyes and my "aren't I a trooper?" look. Just then it began to rain. "Oh no!" I said. "Now we can't go for walks and look for used condoms and needles at the playground." When the tow truck arrived Jeff informed the driver that the entire family would be coming along. Of course, we couldn't fit in the tow truck. The driver informed Jeff we could ride in the van, and then he laughed and shook his head. He loaded up the van and then it lifted up really really high onto a big flatbed. "How do we get in?" I asked Jeff. "Well," he said, "I'll just lift up the kids and you can...." here he proceeded with caution. He quietly went and talked to the tow truck driver who lowered the bed back down so I could climb in.

All of the depressed guests and permanent residents of the trailer park were watching the scene. All of their faces said the same thing: "well, at least we're not them." So we provided the population with a small pick-me-up and don't you know that felt nice.

Once on board, we watched with amusement the startled expressions of the other travelers as they realized there was a family on board the van. Some of them laughed at us. Stopping for gas was the worst. People pointed.

At first The Joels were very still and quiet so as not to cause the van to fly off of the tow truck. Then they got bored and didn't care and we rocked and rolled down the highway. When we got into town the driver turned on his flashing lights and Ellie was so pleased. "In case it was possible someone didn't SEE us....." she said.

Once at the garage there was some discussion as to whether or not the part could be located in Williams. Several phone calls later concluded it could not. A part was found in Flagstaff and a runner was going to bring it over. We stood in the drizzle looking rather pathetic. Town was about a mile down the road.....

"Would you like us to call you a cab and you can go into town?" John the Mechanic asked. "Sure," we said. "Will we fit?" We were assured they would have the cabbie drive the van over. Of course she showed up in a car, looking totally surprised at our number. She informed us that the van was broken down. "Hmmmm.....I'll take you guys in two separate trips." So she did. We ate in a historic building in an adorable part of the town. The building had a lot of history. To be specific, it was a whorehouse. To be more specific, it had at one time boasted housing up to 8 whores at one time. Actually, it is still boasting it. There is a plaque. Well, let me be honest. It was not just a whorehouse - it was also an opium den. Now there are no whores or opium - just a bar and great Mexican food. We had a great lunch and really enjoyed it. I looked around at the table at the kids and Jeff and suddenly became tearful. I don't know why. I was just so grateful for my family and the fact that our biggest problem at the moment was that our van was broken down and we were eating lunch in a historic whorehouse. Considering the reason for the trip - I just always feel so blessed and undeserving of our good fortune. Everyone laughed at me for getting emotional and Jasper made another comment about how this was his best vacation ever.

Next we headed to a small museum and Ellie and I were about to hit the thrift shop across the street when our van pulled up! Everything was fixed and we recovered from the shock of what it cost and headed toward our trailer. "Do you even still want to go to the canyon," Jeff asked. I told him we were going to go look at that !*@*&^! hole in the ground if it killed us. So we did. And WOW. Another breathtaking moment. It was really late and cold so we only went to a few overlooks and the museum before heading back to the trailer. Jeff had located another campground for half the price that had Internet access, a heated pool, and no permanent residents. The problem was, checkout had been at 11:00. Technically, we were supposed to pay for another day. We looked around at the graffiti and the sad, lonely goat and hooked up the trailer and peeled out......technically we stiffed them but they gouged us so we're even.

We stopped at the IMAX theater to see the Grand Canyon movie and it was great. Especially since we didn't spend as much time at the canyon as we had hoped.

Well, we are now in the nice RV park, the kids have been swimming and most are asleep. It is really cold. Joel would get out of the pool and stand in the cold watching the steam from his skin. He lasted up to 2 minutes at a time. A woman asked him what he was doing, if he was alright or needed anything and he explained to her what he was doing and she just looked disturbed and said, "OK". Jeff is now reading the 4th ballerina book to Camille, and we're about to turn in.

The Universe has not turned against us. When we didn't listen to our intuition when we first noticed the "sound" it was infinitely patient, allowing us to make it safely to a place where we could spend the night before allowing the tire to completely fall apart. We saw the blessing in this and continued to trust that things would take care of themselves. We were not stuck here for 2 or 3 days - the garage got us out in a couple of hours and we had a very enjoyable time in town. So, in our opinion we've enjoyed especially good luck, not the other way around.

Tomorrow we're just going to get as far as we can....probably won't be home until Friday, though. That is ok. I am really enjoying this time without chores, appointments, schedules, television, phones, gameboys......except for missing some solitude, Ellie and Joel have admitted they're not missing any of their "things". All we need is right here in this little trailer. We're not living in a tent in a refugee camp somewhere, or in a FEMA trailer, or in a shelter or a car.....or in an ancient travel trailer back in the RV park we had fled. We're just playing at being nomads with the assurance of a nice comfortable home waiting for us. It makes me feel guilty......

We're counting our blessings tonight!
Sardine Mama

Monday, May 5, 2008

Gettin' Our Kicks

Well, today we are headed to the Grand Canyon. We are just going to do a little quick-see. If we had more time we'd do a hike and take the steam engine train.......but eventually we have to head home!

Well, either the laundromat dryers are shrinking my clothes or I have gained weight on this trip. Ellie has all the willpower. She doesn't eat meat and it isn't because she doesn't like it. And she'll probably never eat meat, again. I, on the other hand, can't seem to pass up anything unless I am "on a diet" which is always for a measurable amount of time. How is it that I can create a person with more willpower than myself? Hmmmm.....maybe I didn't create her. Just a portal, I guess. Speaking of portals! The Kuplacks have named the baby Tristan. I love that name. I fell in love with it when Brad Pitt played Tristan in Legend of the Fall. He came riding out on that horse with his long hair blowing in the wind....wait a minute.....everyone knows I dig bald guys : ) Congrats again to the Kuplacks and hopefully little Tristan will be home soon, adding his voice to the mayhem.

Yesterday consisted of driving. We followed the historic Route 66 through the Mojave desert. One exciting thing that happened was that we played the "pass and be passed" game with Avril Lavigne's tour bus! We didn't see any stars in LA this time but kept up with Avril all day yesterday. We tried to stop for a bite to eat along 66 - there wasn't much. The first place we came to was crawling with buses so we kept going. Then we came to a Dairy Queen and found the same situation - the line was out to the door. Across the street however, were the remnants of a ghost town with a big faded and peeling sign that said "Coffee Shop". There was one car outside. We decided, "What the heck?" so we crossed the highway. It was like stepping back in time : ) The little ones and Jeff sat at the counter, behind which was a woman at least 80, wrinkled and cranky-looking while wearing a fluffy lavender dress and apron. There were pictures of movie stars on the wall, including Ray Charles and Elvis. We had burgers/fries (Ellie had an egg salad sandwich) and then (Eugene you would have loved it) banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, dutch apple pie... YUM! The cook came out once; he was 7 feet tall and looked like he was freshly paroled :) So glad we decided to cross the road. The burgers were definitely better than anything we'd have had at Dairy Queen and instead of a busy, hurried lunch with a bunch of other haggard travelers, we sat in a cool and peaceful place where we received a lot of attention and homemade pies out of the pie case.

Needles is a little disappointing. We are in a parking lot with a boat slip : ( The teens had a meltdown last night - both are needing to retreat. The little ones are not used to any personal or private space (which is why I am not used to it either) so the rest of us are holding up just fine. This vacation has truly been a vacation for me - WAY less work than my normal life - one little bathroom to clean, lots of time to sit and think in the car, none of the daily grind I am used to. A lot of the time the little ones are strapped into car seats and when they're not - I have Jeff to help me chase them. So I am enjoying the trip and not anxious to get home (except that I miss Schnitzel something awful). But Ellie and Joel are ready to get home to their things and their friends. The rest of us could become permanent nomads and be quite happy. But both teens are doing their best to remain positive.

We have a few catchphrases that have arisen. One is, "Don't touch me - I have cradle crap." Jasper has eczema on his scalp and we call it cradle cap even though he is 4. He calls it cradle crap. During the middle of a meltdown Ellie tried to comfort him by gently rubbing his hair and he screamed "Don't touch me! I have cradle crap!" So now we all say it when we're getting irritable. Ellie also says, "Look at my face! You people are giving me zits!" Another is "Where's Jasper?" I always ask this, even when I'm holding his hand. I used to ask it while he was nursing so I have a history with this phobia. Our latest phrase is, "The wine skins have burst!!" Jules and I are reading Gregor the Overlander and in the book they travel with water in wine skins. Yesterday while Jeff was pumping liquid gold into our car Jules goes into the trailer to use the bathroom. He runs out screaming, "The wine skin has burst! The wine skin has burst!" Jeff was like, "What???" He follows Jules into the trailer to see that the bottle of wine we had started the night before had fallen off the counter and spilled everywhere. Jules looked at Jeff and said, "See? The wine skin has burst." Too funny. So I am quite certain that Jeff will never use the words "wine bottle" again. Never. Ever. He will call it a wine skin from now on. I know this in my soul.

Ellie is also very good at mimicking a Saturday Night Live character. The character is a woman who is always "one-upping" everyone. She twists her hair nervously and says the most outrageous things ending with a "so......". Ellie does this constantly and it is very funny. I was noticing that I have like 120 hits on my non-existent blogging profile (I never filled it out but I just might before the trip is over) and Ellie was like, "I've had over a million hits on my profile so..." and I was like "I've had a googleplex number of hits on my profile, so...." and Ellie says, "My profile won the Nobel Peace Prize, so....." If you want to read Ellie's award-winning profile you can do so by clicking on my non-existent profile, which will show my other blogs and their members - one is Homeschool Writers which is just my writing/literature class for our co-op - Ellie's name is one there and you can click on it and read her profile.

Well, tomorrow (or maybe tonight) I will have more interesting things to post.

Sardine mama

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Off to Neeldes

Well, not too much to post today. We took a lovely drive through the mountains - stopped in Fresno to restock at Trader Joe's (man I wish we had those in Texas!) and then on to Bakersfield. We spent the night in an orange grove - the place is full of large RV's. I always wonder about all of these people in the RV parks. Obviously - in places like Yosemite you know what they're doing there. But what about Bakersfield? You know me, I want to go talk to everybody. At Yosemite we were camped next to a giant bus. The people inside never came out! We could see them in there (nice place - entertainment center - bar etc) and they sat inside and watched Fox News 24/7. Were they scared of us?
In the non-touristy areas we are somewhat of an oddity with all of the kids. Joel went exploring last night and walked into a bingo game : ) He zips around on his skateboard receiving disapproving glances (of which he is totally unaware). All of the shower facilities have been nice, so far, at every park. So have the laundry facilities. We generally take up all the showers and washers simultaneously. There was major disappointment last night as the pool wasn't heated and it was way too cool to swim.

Ellie is no longer enjoying her nomadic life. She's ready to go home to her room and her friends. She is being a good trooper, though. She is sitting in the 2nd bench in the van, next to Jasper. This is a big job. She is constantly handing him fruit bars, water bottles, putting in movies and charging the DVD player....Camille sits behind her and she talks constantly and gets very insistent when someone doesn't answer her - so Ellie is constantly removing her MP3 ear buds to say, "Uh huh, yeah, sure, ok, uh huh, ......." Yesterday someone needed to use the bathroom about every 20 minutes - have to get those stops better synchronized.

Our van is noisy. The Joels do this thing (always have) where they make up stories to entertain each other. These aren't little "Once upon a time...." stories, either. They are really LOUD and when they get too loud we all start yelling at them and then they quiet down and build back up again. Lots of sound effects, dialog, and hysterical laughing. I mean quite hysterical. Often they are laughing so hard they cannot talk. No one else is laughing and we don't have the heart to tell them they're not funny. They did this yesterday for 6 hours non-stop. You can imagine the effect on Ellie. I often have to jump in and edit because I don't like Camille and Jasper repeating everything The Joels say (which of course, they do). They're back there screaming and I'm saying, "Don't say idiot! don't say shut up! don't say butt (that is my personal word that I hate), don't say fart (other personal word that i hate)......all of the stories involve underwear and all of the aforementioned taboo words and explosion noises. To add to the din, Jeff is a caterwauler. What do I mean by this? Well, he sings, hums, whistles, and well...caterwauls. He has all his little catchphrases and slogans and theme songs. Whenever Jasper says "I'm hungry" which is often, Jeff belts out Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf", etc. All afternoon yesterday, over the roar from the very back seat and Jasper's crying - Jeff belted out the theme song from Bonanza because he thought the scenery was right off of the Ponderosa. When he gets hoarse from all his vocal activities I read to him. We finished Deepak Chopra's "The Third Jesus" and are now reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth". I don't think he's listening to me but maybe our big bus is on the path to enlightenment, anyway : ) Speaking of books, Ellie finished Virginia Woolf's "The Lighthouse" and Aidan Chamber's "Dance on My Grave". She is now reading Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible" (beautiful book!). I finished "The Philosopher's Apprentice" and Joel finished another Charlie Bones book and is now on an Artemis Fowl book. Jules finished a couple of Goosebumps. In the read-aloud category (it is more like scream-aloud) Joel and I finished "Men Against the Sea" after "Mutiny on the Bounty". Jules and I are almost finished with another Gregor the Overlander book. We are trying to only go about 300 miles a day on our return trip - so will be camping along the Colorado River in Needles, CA. Tomorrow we arrive at the Grand Canyon!!! Another landmark of which my camera will not sufficiently do justice.
Well, Jeff is showering and I need to get the trailer ready for hook-up. Unlike Ellie, I LOVE nomadic life. So much simpler to rule over 26 feet of trailer than 3,000 feet of house.
Thanks for comments! I guilted you into it, I know it! Hannah - Ellie was thrilled to hear from you! What about Sarah M? We haven't heard from you yet! Although Ellie took Mark and Rita to your MySpace band site and they were mesmerized by your music - you have 2 more fans to add to your humongously growing list of people who adore you : )
Oh, and Ann, did the tequila pic bring back memories? I could always whip you at quarters.
Sardine Mama

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Hi! Just wanted to say that if you read yesterday's blog and noticed there were no promised videos at the bottom - they are there now :)
Sardine Mama

Friday, May 2, 2008

What a Day!

Wow! What a wonderful day we've had. First of all, let me say that the theme of this trip has been "perfect timing". We had perfect timing at Disney, great weather and left just as the crowds arrived. We had perfect timing for Mark and Rita's - great weather and before the eggs started hatching and they were doing around the clock feedings (plus the weather was starting to turn as we left). Here at Yosemite we've learned that THIS weekend is the very beginning of "the season" - so we are leaving just as it is becoming crowded. Also - TODAY was the day that Glacier Point Dr opened and, although we had no idea what we were in for, we can't imagine having come all this way to miss the view we enjoyed.

OH! Thanks for the comment, Katie! Congrats on your new baby brother! Wonderful news - the Kuplacks' baby boy has arrived! Brown hair?!? I will have to see that with my own eyes. Send us a pic and we will post it on the blog : )

We wonder what other exciting events we are missing....

We began our day with a nice, long drive into the Wowona section of the park. It has a great historical area and we were able to see the original stagecoaches that brought tourists into the park many many many years ago. There is a darling hotel with a restaurant and a lovely picnic area along the river. We enjoyed a picnic, picked up some souvenirs in the store, and then headed to the famous Mariposa Grove.

Normally you have to take a shuttle into the grove but the shuttles aren't running yet in the off season. So we were able to drive. A 2 mile hike (round trip) walked us through the beginning of a 500-tree grove. It wasn't much of a hike as it was a walking path. It was loaded with tourists although we read in our book that in the summer you can hardly get close enough to see the was nowhere near that crowded. But after yesterday's private time among the sequoias of Merced - it seemed like a party. We were able to see the Grizzly Giant.
It is officially the largest tree in the park, although the ranger told us they believe they have found a larger tree in the grove. It is estimated to be around 1800 years old. Because of the delicate roots, we were unable to hug it. There was a fence around it.

We learned some interesting facts about the sequoias. There are humongous pine cones lying all about - but those do not belong to the sequoias. They belong to the large pine trees. The tiny, itty bitty, little green cones belong to the sequoias. It takes 2-3 years for the cones to mature and then they stay on the tree for 20-30 years. Only 1 out of every million seeds makes it to germination.
We also learned that the older a tree is, the shorter it is. The water simply cannot make it all the way up to the top - so as the tree ages, its top dies off. Let's see....other interesting facts - the oldest trees are not necessarily the biggest. The trees who live the longest are often the slowest to grow -so some of the big trees were merely fast growers. Thre trees are also amazingly slow to decompose. The scene of the uprooted tree (in photo) shows a tree that is believed to have fallen over 300 years ago!

While at the grove, Jasper made an unsuccessful attempt at jumping over a very muddy puddle. This was quite traumatic. We initially thought he was hysterical over his muddy hands (he hates muddy hands) so Jeff washed them off in the stream. This made him cry louder because he accidentally splashed water on him and that makes him literally neurotic. It turns out that he wasn't concerned about the muddy hands. He was worried that his Spider Man shoes would no longer light up because they had gotten took awhile to calm him down and prove the shoes still lit up. Then he went in the backpack to prevent further trauma.

After the grove we decided to see if Glacier Point Rd was open. It was closed yesterday - still being cleared of snow and debris. It was open today! We began driving and immediately were in deep snow drifts on either side of the road. The road was VERY winding and had NO side rails and NO shoulder. I literally could not look over the side - it was so very steep - a huge drop-off. The kids were screaming "Stop the car! We want to play in the snow!" Jeff was like, "If I stop we'll die!" And the kids were like "So? Are you saying we can't play in the snow?" Eventually, we stopped to play in the snow : ) They had a blast and were totally not dressed for it at all. Joel was in shorts, for crying out loud. See movies at bottom of the post.

After we played in the snow Jeff was like, "Should we keep driving or head back?" We were supposed to go out to eat at the country's oldest saloon and so it was a big dilemma. Keep driving or head back? We decided to keep driving. We pulled into the first overlook and about died. Honestly, we had never seen anything like it. My breath was literally taken away and I couldn't breathe. I felt a sob just below the surface - it was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Jasper looked at the scene and said, "This is where God lives." Wow. We have never talked to Jasper about where God lives - he has no previous concept of God living somewhere in the sky, or even of Heaven. He happened to say it in the presence of two nuns who were standing there looking at the scene and one of them said, "You got that right." From our advantage we could see the mountain range and 3 waterfalls down below. WAY down below. A storm was moving in over the Sierras and the clouds were pouring over the tops. Did I use the word breathtaking already?
There were two Swedish foreign exchange students who went past the barricade and were standing on top of boulders....I was videotaping when they popped into view. I panicked until I realized they were not my boys. Neither one of them fell - would have been something for u-tube. The pictures and movies do not do the scene justice, of course. In the movie you cannot see the waterfalls moving. We could see them moving like glimmering ribbons of satin, below.

We got back in the car and headed to the next overlook. It was even higher up and you literally stuck out over the nothingness. I took pictures of Ellie and Joel on top of a boulder with the scene behind them - it looks like they are sitting out over nothing but in fact there is a wide sidewalk and landscaping between them and the steps leading down to the landing. But the pics are spectacular. From the angle I shot them, you cannot tell that they are not standing (or sitting) at the edge of the world.

We got back into Groveland around 9:00 and headed to the Iron Door Saloon. The grill closed at 9:00 but they agreed to serve us. Jules and Jeff had their first buffalo burgers and enjoyed them. We were seated in the restaurant section but really wanted to go into the bar where they had a great blues band playing. So we dragged the kids into the bar and got two tables on the dance floor. Jeff went and got us a couple of shots/beers. In the end, I couldn't do a whiskey shot. I am not that kind of girl. So I opted for tequila : ) The band was great and there was a very drunk guy on the dance floor (dancing by himself). He asked both me and Camille to dance. Camille actually considered it for a moment, I could tell. There were also two ladies dancing together. Did I mention we were seated on the dance floor? The kids were mortified. Especially when we toasted, drank and followed it up with a kiss. Where did we get these kids? What prudes! We left the bar to head home, but not before taking their picture beneath the sign. Joel keeps talking about the drunk guy who asked me to dance. I'm like, "Don't tell me that this is the only thing you're going to remember from this vacation." Ellie says, "No, Mom. I'm pretty sure he's also going to remember the lesbians who were gyrating right in front of him on the dance floor."

Ellie is beginning to show signs of stress. She misses her friends. Thank you Katie for commenting on the blog! It made her day! We are down to about 3 loyal readers, I believe. If you're out there - let us hear from you! Dad? Anybody? John Michael and Juliana are our loyal readers. When they stop commenting Ellie will be convinced she has completely disappeared. John Michael - you guys have to head up here. You could take some beautiful photos. I do not know enough about what I am doing to truly capture anything in any meaningful way.

Tomorrow we head out of this area and on to Bakersfield where we'll spend the night.
Time to go get the clothes out of the washers in the laundromat.
Sardine Mama

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bunch of Tree Huggers Spot a Bear

(Don't forget to check out the videos at the end of this post - they're of Joel and Jules "skiing" as they put it.)

Today we headed to the Merced Grove of sequoias. Merced Grove is the smallest grove in the park (20 trees) and therefore, the least visited. People don't tend to want to see the "smallest" things - they flock to the biggest. Except for the Pavliskas. We took the trail less traveled, and it made all the difference : )
What a treat! We saw 3 couples coming off the trail as we were heading up. Then we had the trail (and the trees) all to ourselves until we met some folks on our way out. This is not common for a Yosemite trail. We hiked 1.5 miles down, descending approximately 600 feet which was easy walking. The trail we followed was part of an old stage coach road which took tourists from San Fransisco to the Merced Grove.

The kids were thrilled as a good part of it was covered in snow. With the exception of Joel who saw tons of snow in Montana and Canada - this was the most snow the kids had ever seen. It was not cold and we were comfortable in our light jackets.

We spotted a bear nestled in a tree - see photo. His name is Little Green Bear and Jules has had him for 8 years. If it weren't for Little Green Bear we wouldn't ever know what Jules is thinking. Jules kept telling us that Little Green Bear thought this was the most beautiful hike he had ever been on (and LGB has been on quite a few). The smells of the pines, the sounds of the birds and bubbling creek we followed, and the sights of the tall trees covered by a fluorescent green lichen/moss (?) were a cacophony of treats for our senses.

When we arrived at the first giant sequoia we were stunned. Jasper screamed, "Oh my God!" which I think was a reaction to our oohs and aahs...... We immediately gave the giant a group hug : ). We continued on the trail, visiting most of the trees. Ellie found a cozy home in one and pointed out that she could live in it just like the boy in "My Side of the Mountain".

We continued on past the maintained trail and followed the old stagecoach road out into the unknown. We climbed over/under fallen trees, through gigantic pot holes left by uprooted trunks, and across packed snow drifts. Several times, Little Green Bear expressed concern and suggested we head back, but Jeff ignored him as he wanted to see how far we could get. Eventually, the creek crossed our path and we stopped for a snack of crackers, fruit bars, and Jasper's favorite, beef turkey (beef jerky).
Heading back up was not nearly as much fun as heading down had been. Everyone started up and I stayed back, walking slowly with Camille. Camille never stopped talking the entire time. Well, she did stop talking when she started singing. She stopped often to ask questions and look at things. This was not good for me. Just when I would get my heart rate up and set a manageable pace, she would force me to stop. Just as my pulse would slow she would start back up again. And we went on this way for quite some time : ). Eventually, the little trooper began whining that she was tired. The fact that she could talk to whine, and occasionally skip, sing, or yell, let me know that she was not nearly as tired as I was. I was really sucking air at that altitude and couldn't have complained had I wanted to.

When we came back to the giant trees, Camille and I sat at the base of one. There was a perfect little bench on its roots and we sat ourselves down. We were still. I asked Camille to try and be as quiet as a tree and she did. The silence was beautiful. I contemplated how long that tree had been standing there. What would that be like, to stand in one place for so long? Are we like butterflies, who live but for a day? I pictured the tree in snow, in storms, in fires, with children long dead playing at its roots....hundreds of years of naked brown children whose fathers hunted in the forest for deer to bring home to the village, pioneer children, children hopping off of the stage coach - and now my child, sitting quietly on a little seat of roots. Who else had sat here? What had they thought?
An elderly couple came out of nowhere and startled us out of our meditation. "You look mighty small sitting there," he said. "I feel mighty small," I answered. Then we headed back up the 1.5 mile trail - so glad we had bothered to come to this "small" grove of trees, visited by the relatively few. We walked over a mile to see 20 trees. It would have been worth it just to see the one who let us sit timeless in her roots.
Today I took lots of pictures. Yesterday I also took quite a few. But yesterday I also had a moment where not taking a picture was very rewarding. I was sitting (alone) on a pebble beach beside a slow spot in the river. Off in the distance, on the other side of the river, was a gigantic waterfall. Jeff walked up and asked me if I wanted the camera. I told him no. Suddenly, the last thing I wanted was a camera. I wanted nothing between me and the beauty. I wanted to look through the lenses of my own eyes, not a camera. I had no desire to take the scene home with me, or to preserve it in any way. I wanted to look at it for that moment, and then leave it there where it belonged. So I did experience a little "now" yesterday, and had forgotten to mention it.
With our added excursion at the end of our trail, we hiked about 5 miles today - so hopefully the little ones are worn out. They are certainly acting like it.
Well, Jeff has dinner ready and I need to remove myself and the computer from the tiny table.
Check back tomorrow - it will be our last day in Yosemite!
Sardine Mama

ps. Mark and Rita - Jeff found a Trader Joe's in Stockdon and so we are loaded up. I told you he would find one. :)