Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Forgotten Moment

In the retelling of my vacation I realized I missed our families most important moment.  Each year our family plays a game.  It's called First in the State.  It's played how it sounds.  As we pass state lines throughout our vacation we often all reach towards the front of the car trying to be the first to enter the state or all rush to the back, if not a front contender to be the last out of the last state.  This game has three major components. 

The first scenario is only one person recognizes the state line ahead.  They then continue to act very relaxed while waiting with spring loaded tension to make a perfectly timed dive to the front windshield and be the uncontested first in the state. 

The second is that both people recognize the state line, but both think the other is unaware and so will anxiously engage the other in a conversation where they will not notice the upcoming state, the trick to this is not becoming so engaged you forget yourself.  Invariably though, you both make your dive and it comes down to timing exactly.  Dive to soon and the laws of physics require that to every action there is a reaction and it is your seat belt ricocheting you back into the seat well before the actual state line.

The third and most fun is when both people recognize the state line up ahead.  Both people are well aware that the other is aware and both are strategically planning the way they will win this battle of state entrance.  Read this story's last paragraph before proceeding.  Still sulking over his loss two years ago, Travis this past year was looking to redeem himself.  It became apparent as we left South Dakota and headed towards Wyoming, Travis's temporary home, that he was going to be making a play for the state line. 

Once again he reached for the dash too early,  I rolled my window down hung halfway out and past the dash.  He pulled over once again to make a mad dash for the line.  Rookie mistake trying to do a repeat.  Regardless he had learned and was now staying in the car, totally stopped on the side of the road trying to figure out what to do.  I tried to grab the car keys and make a dash for the state line.  He caught on and held them in place.  Although a great sprinter I knew it I couldn't beat the car at this distance in a race.  So my quick thinking once again made me victor.  With the keys in the ignition I opened my door as if to sprint.  Travis put the car in gear and I then turned back one last time to turn the engine off with the car in Drive.  This leaves the keys stuck in the starter drum where you can't pull them out nor can you restart the car until you put the car in Park.  I knew this would buy me enough time in the sprint.  And I was off barefoot on the side of a broken glass strewn nowhere highway running, quickly diverting to the tall yellow grass side of the road to a Wyoming state victory.  Travis eventually drove by leaving me to walk a ways with a pretended abandon, but eventually he circled around and picked me up.

I may have had two puncture wounds from glass and highway debris, but our whole family was laughing from the deepest parts of our stomach at our ridiculousness.  How I love my family!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Some of My Favorite Things...

...come in a dozen.  If you know me at all doughnuts, flowers, eggs, condoms (there's a whole story behind this), pastries, bread, rolls, cookies etc -It's like a whole categorical problem for me-, but moving on....apostles, and lots of religious symbols, and time (months). Never thought I'd see the day where apostles and condoms were in the same sentence, although technically it's a run on and if properly editted would likely be two sentences, but I digress.

But my very favorite thing is my marriage.  A short 8 days ago Travis and I celebrated 12 years of wedded bliss.  We've lived in 5 states and many more homes, some we loved, some we didn't, but we always made a home where we were.  And they were filled with love and laughter, tears of joy and pain, lots of baked goods and straight chocolate.  We've had amazing years and some that were not as good.  We've had scary months and fantastic adventures.  We've literally logged tens of thousands of driving miles and even more flying miles playing get to know you games with one another until we've exhausted every last bit of history of our life before we met one another. 

I've been raging mad at Travis and deliriously happy.  And every moment of every day since I got married twelve years ago I've always thought I am the luckiest woman in the world.  My life with Travis has been the longest stage of my life so far and hopefully since we got married so young our love and this stage will break records.  Because with him by my side, I want to be one of those old (100+) couples shuffling down the walkways of a very nice assisted living facility holding onto one another outlasting the current world record couple's record of almost 88 years.  Die already Chands and give the rest of us a one in a million chance - will ya?  But that chick was 13 when she got married and that my friends is just a touch disturbing.  But I digress again.  It's a bit of a problem.

I guess the point is, I love this guy.  And I'm so glad he was home to celebrate it with me because there is no one I would rather spend my time with.  Love you babe, Happy late Anniversary! XOXO

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's A Crazy World Out There

One of the things that are most said to me when people hear that I have a hubby who works away from home the majority of the time is:  Do you sleep well or Do you ever get scared at night?  Usually they follow it up with I wouldn't or I'd be too scared to sleep before I even get a chance to answer.

For me the answer is no.  Normally I am not a terribly fearful person, and add to that fact that I have no knowledge of anyone ever entering my house at night or when it is locked in my thirty some odd years of existence and therefore it is not something I worry about.  That being said....

The other night I was deep asleep in my bed.  I awoke automatically feeling like someone was in my room.  This happens with some frequency and so I listened for children footsteps to discern who it was and then what they needed.  I heard no footsteps and so popped up to see who was in my room.  No one!  Hmm.  I still couldn't shake the feeling that someone had been in my room.  It was at this point I started to feel a little freaked out.

So while I mentally willed myself to calm down, I chanted in my head - the doors are all locked, the garage is closed, there is no way anyone could be in the house without my hearing the entry portion.  After a few minutes of calming I ended it with this prayer:

Heavenly Father, I know that faith and fear can't co-exist.  If someone is in the house, tell me how I should proceed, if not let me fall back to sleep and not spare another minute worrying.  Within seconds I fell back into the dreamland I had been awoken from. 

So when people ask me how I sleep the answer is, usually just fine.  Because with answers to prayers like that, there sure is a lot of faith and very little fear.  Sweet Dreams.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 3 & 4 - Can I Get a Little More

We started the week by stopping in to Wyoming to visit Travis, see the drilling operation, and our newest family acquisition, a camper, where he temporarily lives. We went to the Gillette Rec Center which was the most fabulous and outrageously cool Rec Center I have ever seen. He says it's the perk of having one of the nation's largest coal companies in that town, donated money can make awesome city attractions. This Rec center featured a gargantuan rock climbing walls, a great fitness facility, more than one actually, an indoor track, basketball, and tennis courts. Additionally there was an indoor water park complete with multi-story water slides, lazy river, lily pad crossing float ponds, and spray areas. The town itself is much larger than I expected but when considering some of the residents the general feeling was hairy scary, further confirming both the kids and my notion, that likely we wouldn't want to live there. From there we dipped down into our second home.

For weeks 3 and 4 we spent our time in Utah.  And although we still own a home out there, my brother and his family are currently living there and it's not big enough to house us all comfortably, so I decided to spend the time with another "bestie", Candice.  They own a house big enough to house her family of 6 as well as ours with a little room to spare.  Suffice to say, her newish house, has garnered a lot of attention because of its size which I find hysterical.  I teased her that I would take pictures of big clocks, tall ceilings, and weird ginormous features and put on my blog to embarrass her.  But in the end I love her enough and was too distracted by our playing to actually get any.  But instead later I will feature her hubby's butt in picture form because that's how I roll and he endlessly teases me so I think it's fair game, and his teasing has nothing to do with the fact that he may have caught me flexing and checking out my own muscles.  I don't really know why he teases me.

In Utah I have tons of family and friends and so despite spending almost two full weeks there, I feel like I didn't see everyone as much as I would have liked to {I'm still not sure why you have to work for a living, Elizabeth. Definitely could have used more time with you}.  We had a cousin sleepover in Tooele, hiked Arches National Park, Travis ended up coming for my birthday weekend too and we had a family party which helped.  Not only did we celebrate my birthday, but Allie's, Candice's daughter, birthday.  It is the day before mine.  Additionally we celebrated Pioneer Day and because they know and love me we celebrated my visit with stops to or takeout from some of my favorites - Bajio's, Jamba Juice, Jdawgs, and Apple and Raspberry Fritters from a local bakery.  Have you caught the theme from my vacation posts that I am a total foodie, aka Food addict.  Yeah it's an issue.  We'll work on it later.

As for Candice and Scott well I can't begin to explain all the good things about them because the list is limitless.  And I love Scott practically as much as Candice.  And a testament to our friendship is that Sunday morning, the day after I arrived at their house, Scott and I started talking at the kitchen counter - it too is hugocious.  Several questions into the conversation I found myself openly weeping, not a common sight for me.  And to put it simply Scott has a way of boiling down all my bull crap, he has a ton too so he knows all about it, and getting to the real part of me including my feelings on a slew of things that I wouldn't share with just anyone.  I like to tease him that although he was an Accounting major and quite fantastic at it too, that he secretly wishes he would have majored in Psychology.  And together with his wife, well they are a power house couple and family.  Their life hasn't been filled with all bubbles and candy, but you would never know it if you met them because they are some of the happiest people you will ever meet.  Case in point, Candice takes the sad stories of her life and the stories of those who surround her sadnesses and turns them into inspirational music.  She has a CD, Silver Lining, and will soon be recording a second one.  Note:  Buy it, it's awesome.  Shameless plug I know.

As for Candice, she is one of the most beautiful people I have ever known in my life.  And although she is physically very pretty that's not what I am talking about.  When I think of her I think of the 13th Article of Faith.  She embodies it and when I think of the last phrase I think of her..."if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."  It's why no matter how hard in life she might try to shake me, it will never happen, since I'm seeking her like a heat seeking missile to some really hot object.  Note to self:  Department of Defence analogies no good.  Anyway...even after two weeks of living with her and being constantly together we still cried as we hugged and said our goodbyes.  We weren't annoyed with each other at all which considering that Scott, Candice, and I all have strong personalities is a testament to their awesomeness level.  Plus let's be honest, I'm pretty sure I'm still the most difficult of the three of us and in their greatness they would never complain or let on that they were bugged by me.  So we'll just go on believing that none existed whatsoever.  And the thought of spending another year without seeing her is the quickest way to bum me out, so I try not to dwell on it. 

In addition their kids are amazing.  Brilliant, little - okay they are actually not little at all. {Side Note:  Scott is 6'6" and Candice is 5'9" compared to Travis's 5'6" and my 5'3" we call ourselves the Giants and Midgets. Their kids make my kids look minuscule.  Case in point their 4 year old is the height of my 8 year old.}  Going back their kids are brilliant, very fun small adults with more proper grammar than what I possess.  Another example of kids getting along flawlessly helping the friendship reach another level.  Anyway...she/they are amazing.  Love you guys and loved playing with you for so long.  I miss you and can't wait to see you again soon, even if it means I am driving to New York, Utah, or even Ushuaia - put that in your book Scott. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lemonade Stand

My kids, today are hosting their first ever lemonade stand.  Dakota is the driving force in starting and carrying out this operation, Bella is the one with the skills to set it all up and mix up beverage, Wyatt is our money handler, and Issac is the marketer.  He is riding round the neighborhood on his scooter, Paul Revere style, yelling that we have lemonade.  He targets the other little kids out and about.  At a nickel a cup, 16 oz I might add, who can refuse.  The neighbor kids have joined in and we parents are laughing ourselves silly.  I love kids, especially mine :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

North and South Dakota (vacation time)

Let me be honest, you better like nature or this is not the place for you.  Sure these states have a rich cultural heritage, Native Americans, and they have the Black Hills, the Badlands, and lots of underground caves, but there is not a whole lot of anything else, and although we had a very fun vacation, that is that and I cannot tell a lie.

Travis flew into Chicago, I picked him up late, and the next morning we drove to Sioux Falls/Mitchell, South Dakota.  There we went to a museums, the corn palace - where they were changing out the corn art, and the Drive In Theater, a family vacation favorite.  I sure wish there were more around the United States, even just for nostalgia's sake.  The next day we went to church, more museums, and local attractions.  We headed out early to our next destination city, Watertown - no where - SD.  We used it as much needed downtime.

The next morning we hit the Fargo/Moorhead, North Dakota/Minnesota area hard going to Bonanzaville, like Landis Valley Museum but not as cool or interactive.  We headed to the Hjemkomst Center where they have a Viking ship, and to "Historic Downtown" this was neither historic nor townsy.  But I did find a mall and score some great shoes and a cardigan on clearance.  From there we headed to our next no name city, Valley City at the AmericInn Hotel - super nice recommend to anyone traveling there.  You see I love small towns, there is where you get a feel for the state and the people. 
Bismark, ND was next on our list and the capital city.  It was the first real city we had encountered on the trip since heading into the Dakotas.  The capital building was beautiful and I wish we would have had more time to explore that.  But we ended up spending an entire day in another museum.  My family really loves museums, especially science related interactive ones.  There were endless logic puzzles to solve and we got to work on them.  We ate at Texas Roadhouse and stayed at a very mediocre hotel.  It wasn't until I headed to the Hotel next door, Country Inn and Suites - where they have all night cookie service and a borrow a book program - that I saw they had an indoor water park in the hotel, thus making me envious. 

From there we went to Medora, North Dakota.  Seemingly it is nothing, population 112 at the 2010 census, but it is the recognized birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt and in the middle of the North Dakota badlands and my personal favorite stop of our North and South Dakota vacation.  There is a national park with wildlife, there are tons of free parks - fancy park, horseback riding, golfing, and family fun activities galore.  The town exists for the summer as a tourist trap, that I would gladly enter time and time again.  Some online reviewers were bothered by this, but I found the town cute and energetic, paying homage to history and Roosevelt while likewise making if fun for kids and filled with modern amenities.  Here is where we played on the world's largest inflatable - a several story inflatable water slide where my bathing suit and I lost a fierce battle with gravity and Travis was there to photograph it for posterity.  Take my butt and like it :).  Also we attended the Medora musical, filled with no plot but a retelling of the history of Medora and North Dakota through the eyes of residents and Theodore himself but with current pop and country music throughout that kept the kids entertained and half singing along.  Super fun plus Wednesdays and Sundays kids are free to this musical making it a very affordable option for our family.
From Medora we headed to South Dakota once more to see Jewel Cave - worlds second largest underground cave and largest disappointment, not the cave itself, because we never got to see it because of how flawed the national park system is run there.  Example:  Call for reserve tour tickets a week in advance, it fills up fast.  I heeded this advice and called a minimum of 5 times a day for one week without every talking to anyone, half the time with no recorded machine service, and once getting there was unable to get on any tour for a day and a half.  Great if you have no other plans or reservations, but if you do - oh no.  Their excuse, high visitor demand.  They have four phone lines and only two phones being answered.  Can anyone say dumb, hire more people, have the tours closer together, and make more money.  There is our government hard at work again making things overly complex, functioning at half their potential, and doing a much poorer job at it than if the private sector were to own and operate it.
In the same area though is Mt. Rushmore - largely anti climatic and Crazy Horse, an unexpected surprise.  The story of Crazy Horse was somewhat emotional for me as it sheds like on our government's shady dealings with the Native Americans through history.  Additionally it is a story of capitalism at it's best - refusing to take government money and to stay private.  And although the blasting has been going for many years and is still not finished, when it finishes some day it will absolutely blow Rushmore out of the water in the Wow factor.
Overall it was a fun vacation, not so much because the area itself, but because being with family exploring is my favorite past time.  And although I may never have a burning desire to return to the Dakotas, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride from the citizens, especially in Medora, who love their state, lands, and rich heritage.  Their love of state made me love it too, despite not being able to find anything so spectacular to set it on a pedestal.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Homage to Friendships

Along with trying to finish visiting all 50 states, this year's vacation was a homage to friendships I have made.  If you know me I use the word best friend to describe about a half a dozen people in my life.  The truth is once you are my "friend" you do so for life.  We may not talk everyday, write, email, or even make facebook comments on one another's walls - I understand that their lives are as filled and busy as mine - but when we reunite it is like a day has not passed where we haven't talked.  We fall into old habits and patterns.  We share anything and everything that has happened and we lay endlessly in bed or half cuddled on the couch together recapping our lives.  So these vacation posts will be as much about the people as the places.

Stop 1 was Chicago Illinois, home of Kristy, old college roommate, this term is also loosely used on anyone who I spent enormous amounts of time with during college whether we actually lived together or not.  Originally from Arizona we were at Ricks together.  Even once I was married, she was still confident enough to come play at my house with me and my hubster without having the third wheel mentality that created undue awkwardness.  I tried to get her to marry my brother without success and I guess that's for the best because her now husband is awesome too and we are still friends without actually being related, which was my biggest concern.  She lived in Pittsburgh for a while and when she did we saw each other more often, but I know that wherever she lives - I'll always track her down - I still think it should be PA, but whatever :)

While in Chicago, we spent most everyday at the beach, Lake Michigan.  The kids played and she lives so close we walked each day.  Personal Disclosure about to happen:  After arriving in Chicago, much to my chagrin I had popped a hemorrhoid.  This has never happened except for after having my babies.  I don't know if it was a result of 12 hours of driving or a pretty intense night of partying it up with friends two days before I left, regardless I was really bummed, in a lot of pain, and struggling to remain optimistic.  I felt like the least cool friend ever and worst house guest, but she let me lay in bed when we weren't at the beach laying and she laid beside me talking the days away, which later became a concern for Billy, aka husband, when he said every night I come home and you guys are in bed together and all the kids are in front of the TV.

Kristy understands so much about me.  In my opinion we have similar body types, have almost always been able to share clothes, not an easy task for someone with my body type and she is ridiculously strong.  Once doing a push-up with Travis laying on top of her, which then sparked my competitive spirit into doing said push-up too.  But in so many ways she is better than me - she is warm, kind, loving and generous in crazy amounts and I can't leave her house without acquiring so much stuff.  In that way she is like her mother who also always sends me on my way with assorted items I never knew I needed.  She is the penultimate All-American mom of snuggles and positive reinforcement and total support.  I love this girl and my time with her was unforgettable.  Last our kids got along fantastically.  I love when that happens.  I miss her tons and seeing her was amazing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Homeless Tour

As many of you know our family recently went on vacation.  Many have teased me about the length and extremes to which I vacated calling it the Homeless Tour, The Stay-cation: Stay away from home vacation, and other catchy ones.  Regardless it was the experience of a lifetime.

Vacation Name (as deemed by Whitings): Tour the Nation Vacation
Length: 5+ weeks
Number of states traveled through: 20
Number of states visited: 7
Hotels stayed at: 7
Number of family/friends' homes stayed at overnight: 5
Number of total miles driven: 6086
Events participated it: We swam, walked, wake boarded, pseudo bungi jumped, ate, cuddled, explored, tubed, celebrated, played, slid, visited, shopped, climbed, watched, hiked, lit, boated, read, stretched, caved, posed, built, sang, and floated. 
Number of pictures taken: 1600+
Number of pictures downloaded: 1495
Total Cost: $3137.49
Number of memories made: Priceless

The main question we are asked is What was your favorite part? No one in my family has yet to answer it. It was very overwhelming the whole vacation and although while planning the vacation I did so by segments of the trip, it really was a wholistic experience that is hard for my kids to seperate mentally. More easily they can tell you what they didn't like or what was a disappointment to them. But more about that as I blog more specifically.