Friday, June 27, 2008

Dan's Day

Dan does not have access to his blog through his government computer and he did not take one with him on the deployment. He figured he would make do with what was provided him and wasn't willing to pay the $100 a month he would have to pay for internet access out there. The only downside for me is that he can't even read my blog so I just have to email my posts every now and then to him as I remember. The other day I got this email and he asked me to post it.

"I enjoyed Cristtin’s blogs so much that it has inspired me to lead you through an average day here:

I wake from 0500 to 0730 and depending on how sore I am I might do PT. I immediately get the razor, put on shower shoes, and head for the bathrooms.

Since I shower at night when the room is clear, I don't have to shower in the morning when it's crowded. The bathrooms are on a ground floor. It’s about a 2 min walk from my room. They are made out of a CONEX boxes. If you have ever seen the movies with large cargo ships that have containers on the deck then you have seen my bathroom. It has windows cut into it and it is fabricated to put three stalls, three urinals, and two sinks. Often it smells like a porta-poddy since there is no sewage system. The truck has to come every day and suck it all out of the tank under ground. When you walk in and it doesn't smell like a porta-poddy, it's because someone is in a stall and it smells (indescribable).

I shave in one of the sinks as people walk by. Often I have to move away from the sink to allow someone to wash their hands after doing their business. At least they wash. I see many that just walk out. I have gotten in the habit a few years back to use towel paper to open bathroom doors in public places. Oddly, I think more people wash hands out here than back at home. It may be because they are in the habit from doing it before meals. Everyone washes hands before meals…otherwise we have disease issues.

Anyway, I finish shaving, rinse my face and use the wet hands to rub my eyes and short hair. Once I walk outside the air acts with the wet face to make things feel fresh. I walk back slowly and deliberately because I have my shower shoes on and the walk is in large gravel (stability issues) and sand where they put sand bags to get above the flooding that happens in March. Sometimes I drag sand it…in fact, at some level I drag sand in every day.

I get my uniform on, check my pockets for ID card, reflective belt that we wear at night, and strap on my weapon so it's at the "low-ready". Currently, I don't have ammunition in it since I am leaving my current job. I still have to wear it at the low ready. Once in a while I put it in my left hand pointed down and walk. It looks better that way.

So I head on my 15 min walk to work. It's nearly 3/4 miles from room to work since they moved me down to the original unit I am assigned to. There's only one sidewalk on the main road that parallels the flight line 400 meters away. I spend much of the time saluting and returning salutes. I see the annoyance to most people but we mostly all salute. After 1/4 mile I get to one of the dining facilities (DFAC). I don't always stop by for breakfast, especially when I drive back from taking a car down the night before. When I walk and am not behind schedule, I stop for some hot food. I can always get cold cereal and milk at the office since we load up on that stuff when we go to the DFAC for dinner. I wash my hands, grab my plastic utensils (not enough water here to wash dishes), and recycled cardboard tray, and head to the serving line. It always has the same English breakfast items.

Today I stopped by and loaded up with an extra milk and cereal to replenish the food I ate the day before. One milk box got away from me and hit a Local worker (from Afghanistan) in the butt as it fell. I said sorry, his friend picked it up. Poor guy was just emptying the trash and some Captain throws a box of milk at him. I imagine he was worried. Our rules here are so strict and they need the jobs so badly that he was likely worried that he would lose a job. I am off to work. I try not to load my right hand so I can return salutes. Today I just walked by as they saluted me. I didn't want to drop milk again…not on the ubiquitous gravel and sand!

Anyway, back to the average day: I get to work and drop my hat off, place my weapon in the weapons rack and immediately call Cristtin. People are around and the TV is usually on but I call anyway. There is no private area to talk. At night, her morning, I get more private time to talk. I get through the phone line most of the time. It's important to call immediately because it is about 1000 PM her time. We have a 10 min conversation before the recorded "lady" voice says we have no more time to talk. I call anyone that has a military base nearby that does morale call programs. In the instance of my family, that limits the options to Cristtin and Mom. The call to Cristtin starts my day off right and I immediately get to the e-mail so I can see what happened the night before. The rest of work time is pretty dull.

There's always the guy that goes to lunch at 1130 AM every day. He comes by to invite me (came by as I was writing this), I decline most of the time because I am engrossed in work or I have gotten an early start on lunch hour and I am dominating my staff in "Command and Conquer Generals". It's a game we play that takes 2 GB of space and doesn't require a disk to place. You can play online or on a network like us. I have applied the training I got in officer school (something my enlisted staff didn't get) and I beat them most of the time. That can last almost two hours if we all build up huge armies. We call it "training" since I always have to teach it to someone else.

After the normal day of actual work and random or reoccurring meetings, my staff and I walk to dinner, get take-out trays and go back to the office to keep working, play the game, or just socialize. I always call Cristtin again and start her day off right. I was once asked why I called twice. I call my wife in the morning and my best friend at night. They didn't ask again after that. Some guys don't call their wives but twice a week. How? It's not just about us out here…they need our support also.

After calling Cristtin, if I didn't workout, I go running. That goes well as I dodge the traffic on the sidewalk I walked earlier that morning. I jog back and forth until I get 45 min - 1 hr of running (any cardio after 30 min is when a person really starts to burn the fat). Yes, I am trying to lighten up since I have a reoccurring back injury. I just have to take the load off the upper body. That's one reason why I don't want to gain muscle either; I'll just strengthen and tone. Cristtin will be the main benefactor!

Now I can go shower. I shower in the mornings after I work out but the changing room is 3 x 3 ft. I have bumped into other dudes while trying to get dressed. I like having that space to my self. That's the main reason I prefer night workouts. I just don't like socializing in the shower room.

About the shower, it's on a second level and there is a widow cut where you can see someone’s window at their room. Who does that? You wonder if they plan these things out. There are 6 showers, limit 5 min a shower, the changing room is next to it and then there are four sinks. It's made of the CONEX boxes also so it is metal mostly with a wooden floor. Once I had to shower without shower shoes. It was icky. I never forget the shower shoes anymore.

After my shower, I go to my room. It has a doorway in the middle. It is about 6 x 10 ft room, made of wood, and not private. Someone made a door that goes up to 6 ft, leaving the rest above it open. That is consistent with the walls where sheets are tacked up to provide privacy. I leave one side open so that it feels more roomy. Somehow I have managed to place a closet, bed, desk, all my bags, lawn chair I acquired, a fridge, chair, and drawers in the place. I basically live in a walk in closet. I brought rugs over that I got from my last room. I just have to take the shower shoes off once in a while.

Someone installed a long shelf on one wall that holds my toiletries. I use it to put my cool MP3 player my family gave to me for Christmas. I listen to it every night. After I get back in the room, I check to make sure that no bugs entered in through the window that always stays closed but is so poor that it doesn't close all the way. Can't wait for winter! I sit down and immediately read two chapters out of the Book of Mormon. I used to read another book but I have been getting back late. I say my prayer and lay down to sleep in my single bed with the headphones on. I never fall asleep to them since I have been rudely awoken to the louder songs. I once found myself shaking because I wasn't ready for a song.

That is essentially an average day."

I did do some minor editing to the email. There were a couple times he confused the Pronouns, used you and Cristtin interchangeably, I just couldn't leave it. Other than that, I left it in Dan's words. It is so much fun to get a picture of what his days are like, even the icky parts. I figure this is a good time for some pictures he has sent me recently...

Here is Dan with some Pro-Ball players. That is Shaun Bradley with his arm around Dan, and yes, Dan is standing on a chair. These guys are the only ones Dan has bothered to go and met yet. Famous people have come to his base a few times but he has never taken off work to go see, not even concerts. But for some Basketball players he made some time. Although, he is not sure whether or not he offended Shaun Bradley or not when he invited him out to church, they were there on Sunday. Dan told him how great church was because it was so quiet without kids. He just looked at him and said, "I have six kids," with a face that said church is great with kid noise. Dan just kind of shrugged and left it alone. No one on earth could ever say Dan is anti-kid. I think that title goes to me.

Here he is at his soon-to-be ex-desk. You can see the weapons rack he was talking about in the background and even on the board on his wall some letters and pictures the kids drew him. Tanks and helicopters, of course.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Flashback

A couple weeks ago I was driving in the car when on the radio they were doing one of those "On this date..." things. On this date 15 years ago, Jurassic Park opened in the box office. I started at the realization that it had been 15 years and then was instantly transformed to that summer. See, Jurassic Park has always had a special place in my heart and that summer even more so.

The summer of 1993, seriously, no competition, the BEST summer of my life.

There couldn't have been more anticipation leading up to this summer ever in my life. I was fourteen years old. I had just completed my Freshman year in High School...

My older brother just finished his Senior year and this was the first year we had gone to school together since elementary school. We even had two classes together, band and swimming. Derrick and I were good friends and this year had been so awesome. Some of his friends even had younger siblings my age and I became really good friends with them. We all just blended together in this big sibling/friend band geek group. It was great. I had been really nervous starting High School since I had been going to a different Junior High in another district and had decided to go back to the school district I belonged to for High School. I had to keep the tradition alive. Being the baby I would be the last one in my family to go there and every one of my siblings had gone there. We had a lot of the same teachers. There was one teacher that had us all. Our band director. Wasn't he lucky?

Back to the point. I just had to get that picture in and a little background. The anticipation to this particular summer came in the form of an announcement from my mother a few weeks before school got out. "We are going on a trip." Not a sign of anticipation, let me tell you, it was the next sentence. "Your father and I. For six weeks. And you kids are going to stay home." Holy crap, play it cool, must not show pure unadulterated joy right now, save it until out of sight. I don't know how any of us manage to play it cool, years of practice, but we did. Oh, the silent celebrations and Toyota jumps around the corner were plenty. Calmed by the realistic approach we had all honed through the years of not counting chickens before they hatched.

Even with trying to restrain our enthusiasm, my one sister who had moved out decided to move home for the summer upon the News. It was arranged that my oldest brother would be allowed to pick up my dads paycheck every two weeks and deposit it so we could pay the bills and, you know, eat. And the formality of who was in charge went to my oldest sister who was married and still living at home while she finished her student teaching. Just for clarification, my closest to age with me brother was just about to graduate from High School even though he wouldn't turn eighteen until November and I was fourteen. But my other four siblings and my brother-in-law were obviously all adults. So it was five adults with two teenagers. It was heaven

We actually took this picture during that summer. The day we all sent to see Phantom of the Opera in L.A. We did some of the best stuff that summer with my parent's money. We shopped at Sam's Club and bought all our food in bulk, but for some reason all I can remember eating that summer is lasagna and taquitos. My dad has never been known for his clean truck so after they left we cleaned it so we would be able to use it. We found $28 in spare change that paid for 28 dollar movies.

The day of their departure was set for the day after graduation. And my party was set for that night. Although everyone was under strict orders that they could not come over until they heard from me, just in case something delayed their plans.

Graduation came and went. And my parents departure went off without a hitch. A cross-country drive that would take them from California to Florida all the way up to Prince Edward's Island and back. With lots of scuba stops on the way. We heard from them a few times, I'm sure, but I have no memory of it.

The party went off well. My friends, swimming and hot tub until like 2 or something. We eventually got bored so we played truth or dare and went toilet papering, of course, like freshmen would. I think most people went home some time around 3 or 4. My first real party was a total success.

We spent the rest of the summer like this...

Or as close to it as possible. One night my brother's friends and my friends were doing a fire on the beach when another group of kids asked if we could pool our wooden resources and make our fires last longer. We agreed and a tradition started. They were from Fullerton about half an hour from us and we agreed to do it again the next week. Imagine my shock one night when one of the guys calls me. I had not given out my number. I wasn't really like that. I didn't really notice guys since they didn't really notice me, I had the handicap of looking ten when I was fourteen. I accepted it. But I had noticed him. He was way too cute to not and he called me.

We spent the rest of the summer getting our friends together at the beach and eventually at my house, hello no parents. It all came crashing down though, as all good things do, when my parents came home. But I never told them about him and kept him to myself. He would still call me but now meeting was a little more tricky.

Then I came up with a brilliant plan. We would go to the movies. I told my mom that I was going to a friends house and my friends said she was going to my house and he picked us up and we went to see Jurassic Park. At the appointed time her mom was going to pick her up at my house we were out front waiting. The catch, she called and said, "I'm coming to get my daughter now." No, your not, my daughter is at your house. We waited outside the front of my house for more than an hour before I finally just went inside to the pandemonium. My oldest sister had already figured out that he was probably involved and since he was seventeen, I was fifteen by now, and so cute he had always made her a little nervous. She finally told my mom what she thought was going on.

So a lot of grounding later for both of us girls, then he went home to get busted for an enormous phone bill. The long distance summer romance kind of ended. It was so great. Just for another clarification, I was sneaking around hiding a "boyfriend" but I was still incredibly shy at that age. If I had met him a year or so later things would have been very different. But it was very innocent regardless of appearances and he was a very nice boy besides very nice looking. I just handled it poorly in the eyes of the adults. I am just saying.

That was and will always be the best summer of my life. And lastly just for fun. My Senior ID...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Not so smart

I know that I do things sometimes, alright frequently, that aren't so smart. Not the best ideas. However most of the time, they are honest mistakes, lapses of judgment, moments of forgetfulness, things of that nature. Today, not so much. I am not sure what I was thinking, trying to torture myself? Wanting to cause myself pain? I would've been better off, falling down the stairs, like last year and spraining my ankle again than going forward with this idea.

I have been wallowing. Dan has been gone for six months. It should be the halfway point of a normal deployment but we are only at 40% instead of 50%. It will be another 45 days until we hit the hump. I have been obsessively checking my Donut of Misery willing it just to get to 40% and show me the six month mark, which has made it take even longer. Then I came up with the really bad idea, the supremely not smart idea.

Dan was gone last summer, starting a 15 month deployment, got four months into it and then came home for about three months and then left for this deployment. I have a friend here whose husband stayed on that deployment and he comes home next month. So I have been thinking a little too much about that. Been a little too jealous about that. Then I did it anyway, knew it would hurt, and did it anyway. I put in Dan's original report date from the first deployment and redeployment date. 85%. A couple days before my 30th birthday. It was so not smart.

There are so many, many reason that I am so grateful that he is on this deployment and not that first one. I am absolutely certain of the conviction that he is on the deployment that was best for our family, his job, his safety, my sanity, his health. Everything has worked out so much better for us that he was removed from that team and put on the unit that he is on now. Would someone please get that fist to unclench around my heart?

It was so stupid.

There was another not smart thing I did. I paid the mortgage to the company on the line above my mortgage company's on my bank's online bill pay website. And didn't catch on until I got the angry letter from the mortgage company saying, Yo, pay your mortgage. Talk about a heart attack. Luckily, the company above my mortgage company on the list is my Money Market account. It was resolved easily enough, after the hyperventilating.

In other update news, since I have been sort of MIA.

I have been busy with keeping the kids busy. The kids are in gymnastics and swimming. And Punx and I still have Scouts so all that is Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The three of them in Gymnastics is some of the cutest stuff I have ever seen. It is totally not bragging when I say my kids are better than all the other kids.

On Saturday, Punx had his first swim meet. So awesome. He was to swim three events but we were super late and I made him miss his first one. He was DQ'ed from his 25 breaststroke because he apparently doesn't do the arm stroke right, he does a full pulldown for every stroke, that is a no-no. But in the 25 backstroke he got 4th place in his age group.

I have found my true summer calling. It is laying on a tube at the lake. It is the way tubes were supposed to be used, no screaming involved. My sister and I went to the Lake by her house and just laid around on the tubes while the kids splashed around or played in the sand. So Fridays you will find me by the lake by my house if I am not at my sister's, weather permitting.

Lastly, Mr. Bunbury finally made up his mind and quite exploded. He finally decided he couldn't live anymore and died. Which is good, since I have never liked vacillating. Indecision just about kills me, at least it appeared to have finally killed him. By Mr. Bunbury I mean Bug's pet frog Kelly. Is it wrong that I feel relief? And maybe just a bit of anger at all the work this lazy frog made me put into it to keep it alive if all it was going to do was commit suicide? And I just spent like $8 on new vitamin fortified cricket food hoping that would help. I am so sick of neurotic pets. We are now, at least, a pet-free family. We will stay that way for a long time.

Any suggestions on what to do with a 25 gallon terrarium with heater, cricket habitat filled with crickets, a years supple of cricket food, six months supply of weird squishy moist dirt stuff, and a travel terrarium? Stupid dead frog. And I will be feeling no mom guilt over this thing. It died with fresh water and four crickets in it's cage.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cleaning the Car

One car trip too many, I guess. The car was so grossy. It could be put off no longer. I had to vacuum the car. While I was vacuuming the car all sort of things occurred to me. First was that just vacuuming was not going to be enough, bucket and soap was required, but here are a some of the other things that came to me.

My kids are gross. Not just lots of crumbs, trash, messy gross. I mean gross. I vacuumed a booger today. A smeared one my backseat, ew. And there is a high probability that there was another one on the door that I had to get with the soapy water. It was wrong.

My car really is a black hole. I found a zinger wrapper under the seat, while scrounging for trash. I sat down and tried to remember when is the last time I bought a zinger or even zingers in plural. I couldn't think of it. I have a vague inkling of a box of zingers back in ND, like two years ago. My car has been cleaned for sure twice just in the past year, deep down cleaning, look under the seats kind of cleaning. What the heck?

My upholstery is way more forgiving than I ever thought it would be. Soap and water and rag got out almost everything on those seats, very surprising.

What, how, when did the ceiling get stained? The ceiling above where the kids sit is lightly peppered with brown dots. Frosty? If there was some sort of Frosty war going on two feet from me, I am almost positive I would've noticed. And guess what else? My ceiling is not made out of the lovely forgiving material that the seats are.

I finally figured out how to turn on the back speakers, rock awesome. That is good sound. Now when I rock out, I will get full sound and get to blast out the kids at the same time, bonus.

How did the little cubbies in the driver and passenger door get filled with tiny pebbly gravel? The kind that is on the floor of your car from your shoes and stuff. My feet don't go anywhere near there, I think.

The bright side was that cleaning the car got me into one of those manic cleaning moods. I finished the car, did a little straightening up in the garage and then swept it, worked a little on organizing my desk (always a disaster), vacuumed the living room, hallway, kitchen, bathroom, and then watched DD mop the kitchen floor as I cooked dinner. I mean it, cooked a real dinner. I had to, the missionaries were coming over.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Altered Reality

Back to life, Back to Reality, that's how that cheesy song goes right? Except everything is messed up and I can't figure out what reality is anymore. All that pre-vacation to-do list stuff bumped my normal to-do list to the bottom of the list and now the list has hit overwhelming proportions again. Just one thing at a time right? Blah, blah, blah. I am so sick of living my life through some weird non-addiction like 12-step program. What is my addiction anyway? Getting stuff accomplished?

On the second to last day of vacation, the best/worst day, while I was driving from activity to activity my to-do list from back home had already started to creep back into my head. I tried to push it away, thinking I am still on vacation, go away, bug me on the four-hour drive home. Which me made with no stops, by the way, unheard of accomplishment, it was so cool. Back to topic, as the dreaded list is scrolling through the noggin I start trying to plan the whens, wheres, hows, and all the practical things to get this stuff crossed off. I notice I am starting to get into September in my brain and the list isn't done. I am now feeling that all too familiar tightening of the chest followed by a slight ballooning sensation, that let's me know I am on the road to mild panic/anxiety attack. They come so frequently now, especially in the car when all I can do is think and plan, that I was surprised the other day when I got through a drive without a squished chest.

The thing that really surprised me about this one was what set it off. The thought that I didn't have enough time to get it all done by October. I needed to get it done by October, four months away. It's not enough time. Four months, it's too short. I won't get everything done, and if it's not done by October then it's too late.

October's significance is that we think/hope that Dan will be coming home for mid-tour in October. Most people have the luxury of knowing when their R&R will be, but not Dan, he is an exception right now. We are thinking that he will know within the next month or so, we'll see. Like everything else, it's just a waiting game. He requested October but won't get final approval until they move him, yet again, to another job.

So here is where the whole altered thing comes to play for me. Since when did four months of waiting to see my husband become not enough time? 120 days, too little time?! It totally blew my mind. In the grand scheme of things I know four months is not much, even compared to fifteen months, it's not much. It still seems weird to me that somewhere in the past five/six months four months became, what? Easy? Bearable? What has the Army done to me? I remember crying when Dan got word once of having to leave for a five week training with just a few days notice. Then a few years later doing the same thing when he only got a couple weeks notice for some six and a half week training. And I always said to everyone that he was going to be gone six and a half weeks. I think now I would probably say, he'll be gone about a month for that length of time.

Am I now some sort of deployment wife snob? I think I might be. I actually made my first disparaging comment about Air Force deployments a couple weeks ago. They typically deploy about four months, maybe some unlucky fool has to go for six, that's a shocker. See, what I mean? I couldn't even get through a background info sentence without inserting some contempt. When did I get contempt for the AF? Dan hasn't even been Army for two years. He was AF or Air Guard for six years. I had not planned on becoming HOOAH, how did this happen? I am confused.

I do not know what to do, how to function, or even where to go from here in this new altered reality.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Smokey Update #3 (cont.)

My worst idea ever...

Let's go tubbing on the river. Wait I mean "river." Sounds like a great idea, good fun. Except...

I've never been, didn't know anything about it, and had no clue what kind of questions to ask that would have given me the information I needed to make an informed decision before taking my three young children down the River Wild. In hindsight it is one of those things that makes perfect sense. Maybe taking three kids with one adult down an unknown "river" in an area that has been in a drought for a couple years, with one child who doesn't know how to swim and two who are lightly proficient swimmers was one of those things that takes a little more thought than, "hey, that sounds fun, let's do it."

Come with me on our trip down the, oh let's call it what it really was, stream interspersed with bits of river. We get to the office to pay for our tube rental and the workers see me with three kids by myself and just say, "Wow, you are going to do this by yourself? There was a mom with four kids earlier today." That would have been the excellent time to ask, "Did she survive?" But it didn't occur to me to ask. I go to pick out water shoes for us all, and they try to tell me I don't need to get shoes for Bug since he will just be in his tube the whole time. I thought about it for a second and realized that the boy gets shoes just in case and also if I am buying shoes for the other two I am not going to explain why he doesn't get any. This was the only good decision I made that afternoon.

Quick change, ride down the highway in the shuttle to the drop off spot where the crazy can begin. Right away it is a rocky stream where our butts get stuck on rocks every few feet and already I get separated from Punx and DD. It didn't last long and it went into exactly what I thought it should be. A slow moving relaxing trip down what appeared to be a river. I get the kids all rounded up after a little bit and just enjoy the ride, this is nice.

But it wouldn't be my worst idea ever if this was the whole experience now would it? Let's get to the screaming.

I see a rocky part coming and the water obviously is going faster. Alright kids get ready we can do this, let's stick together though. I teach them how to try and avoid the rocks by lifting the bum by straightening the body over the tube. It takes about thirty seconds for us to get separated again. Punx gets way ahead and DD way behind. She is now terrified, again, and screaming for me. But not in the helicopter funny way, I don't like this kind at all. I yell to Punx that he needs to stop and wait for us so he grabs onto a rock which happened to be some sort of lava rock that cut up his hand but the boy still won't let go until I am nearby. I had to talk DD down and explain how she had to get back on the tube and make her way down to me. This whole time obviously I had never let go for a second Bug's tube. We eventually get back together and the river comes back.

Nice float over, I see another rocky part coming. Alright kids, get out we are walking. On one side of the stream is a KOA and we just saunter on though on the edge of the stream until the river comes back again. It was a fairly easy walk, there was a pathway so not bad. Water shoes, good idea.

Nice float over, another rocky part. Get out. Now it appears we are walking through people's backyards. The kind where their yard just goes right up to the river. Now it is a little tricky, some of these yards have like patios up against the river and now there is a little more climbing involved and there is more walking over the stream's rocks. Man, this is not fun.

There are two more rocky parts but they don't seem bad. Kids, we can do it. It is small and it doesn't look long. We get through but not without my butt getting stuck while the older two were clinging to my tube. They kept going while I was stuck and it made Punx dump out. So I abandoned ship and flopped my way through while clinging to my tube and Bug's. The second rocky part is where it all fell apart.

Once again I made the decision that it wasn't bad and that we would get through it and once again my butt got stuck, but this time it dumped Bug. Before he could even go under I was off my tube and grabbing him up, just so you know all three kids did have on life vests. While I am securing him, his tube starts floating down the river solo. There is a fee for lost tubes. I throw Bug onto my big ol' tube and pushed all the kids into the shallow part where they won't float downstream. Now I try to rescue the renegade tube. Slight problem, the water is like 2 feet deep maybe less. And it is really rocky, you know it's a river. I can't run after the tube in that little water, I will biff it hard. So swimming it is. Anybody seen the Lord of the Rings movies? Where Gollum is fishing in the river? Now you have a visual of me swimming after this tube. I am flopping around, like a pasty chubby Gollum. But I was victorious. I go it and made my way back up stream to the kids.

Bug is sprawled across my tube clutching with all his might doing his "I am extremely uncomfortable" whine/cry. I grab him up and put him on the ground. The kids are ready to go but I inform them that I need a break. I just sit down right in the river and stare downstream and still can't see the end. Alright kids, mount up. They all start to whine.

Alright, new plan. I point to the direction that I know the highway is and say go that way, we are done. Once out of the river it turns out to be another campground. We are now walking through a campground. Bug turns to me and says, "Mom, that wasn't a good idea." Okay, let's be quiet and just get to the road maybe the shuttle will pick us up. I can barely see the highway when I see a shuttle go by, turns out it was the last one of the day. As I get to the opening of the campground, I ask the old man in chairs club how much more I need to go, oh, about 1/2 a mile. Well, get walking kids.

Now we are walking on the side of this highway. We are all in our swimsuits, carrying our tubes, except Bug, I am carrying his and mine. We walked maybe the equivalent of a block when I start laughing out loud. Mom, what is so funny? Guys, look at us, we are walking down this highway in our swimsuits carrying our tubes and I just took you guys on a really bad ride. DD, I don't see what's so funny. You will when you get older. When we got to the place, Punx said, "Well that was an adventure."

I got Punx and me some band-aids before we left and we just got in the car all wet and just went back to the hotel as is. Punx and I both cut our hands. I didn't even know about my hand until we were on the road. And we both have some great banana legs. He has some scrapes on his legs and from my floppy adventure I have some good bruises.

It wasn't until later that night with the kids asleep did I realize what a monumental bad idea it was. Things could've been so much worse. I still have some lingering resentment at the tubing place for not saying anything to me. Just a head's up, this might not be the best activity for you and your family. Seriously with what I know now, I wouldn't want to do that even with Dan's help.

So there it is, worst idea ever.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Smokey Update #3

We are home from vacation but I still need to share our last day of vacation. I planned a grand finale for Thursday, our last full day at the Smokey Mountains. A full day of things I thought the kids would just absolutely love and would wrap up our vacation with a bang. I thought the last day would be best since if I did the super-cool fun stuff at the beginning of the week then every thing after that might seem lame. Two items on the days agenda will go down in history as the best idea I have ever had and the worst idea.

We started the day with my best idea...

I took the kids on a helicopter tour of the area and the National Park. It was so awesome. It was the kids and my first flight on a helicopter. It was DD and Bugs' first flight period. Punx's last flight was when he was a lap baby so it was pretty much his first flight, too.

We get to the place to start our trip and the boys are totally stoked and DD is already looking nervous and within the minute she is crying. I am trying to placate her with promises of safety for the aircraft and with the whole, would I take you on something dangerous? (remember that question for later) She stopped crying but was still not sure about the whole thing...

I was trying to get the kids to smile for this picture but realized that snapping DD "as is" was so much better for posterity. I figured let's keep it real. I am pleased with the result, it's a good face.

This is a face that needed no coercion. That was the facial expression he wore from the second he understood we were really going on a helicopter till we were driving away saying goodbye.

Alright, so it is time to get on the helicopter and begin the tour. There is girl who works there who has given us a quick safety breifing and is helping us onboard. The instructions were simple. Punx was going to sit up front with the pilot. I was going to sit in the back with the other two. I am to get in first, then Bug, followed by DD. The helicopter takes off from the hanger and flies to us where we are waiting near the landing pad. It lands and we begin a quick walk to it, DD is now crying, Punx gets in and I get in. I turn to help Bug get in. This is when DD turns it up a notch. The girl helps Bug up and then starts to help DD to get up. She is now screaming. Keep in mind, the helicopter did not turn off, the blades are spinning, the thump, thump filling the air, and we have our headsets on, I can hear her screams and every word she is yelling. I don't want to go. I want to go home. Mom, can we go home? I am leaning over Bug to grab her hand and pull her up and the girl is trying to push her in, we are saying, step up, step up, she will not budge. Finally the girl picks her up to just put her in the seat. The screams are now at fever pitch. As the girl tries to put her in her seat she becomes that cartoon dog that is being forced into the tub for a bath. You know the one am I thinking of, when the dog is being forced into the tub he uses all four legs spread out to stop himself from being pushed into the basin. She wrapped one foot around the open door of the helicopter and one arm on the other side of the open door-way.

We eventually forced her into her seat, but now she is trying to escape as I am trying to put on her seatbelt. She is stopping me and taking it off as I am buckling it up. I grab her face, DD, stop, look at me, what you are doing must stop, this is not safe. One look into her face convinces me that she is not there, she has already gone to the bad place. She has crazed darty eyes and she won't even make eye contact. She has now involved the pilot in her manic rants. Are you going to go high? Please don't go high. I wanna go home. We have her belted up but she won't stop screaming, so the girl asked her if she would rather sit by me than by the door. She won't answer, I am not sure she is registering that she is being asked a question. I hold her face again and ask her if she wants to sit by me. She still is past all reason and I finally say, let's go. She screams louder that she wants to sit by me so we switch her seats so she will sit by me. Finally she buries her head in my lap and the screaming is at least muffled. The pilot looks back at me with a baffled expression, what do you want to do? Let's roll. Man, I paid bank for this and we are doing this even if she screeches the whole time.

The pilot takes off with DD's face still buried in my lap. As we are just a little airborne she looks up and around, promptly put her face back on my lap. A little higher up she looks again and says, "This is fun." The tears are gone, the screaming is done. She is now laughing and talking with Bug about the small houses and cars. Seriously. Faster than a light switch. She never even had one of those residual intakes of breath that little kids do when they've been crying too long. I am dumbfounded, but then I remember which child I am dealing with here and the shock dissipates. I speak into my microphone to the pilot, "I bet you can't tell which is my drama child."

The rest of the flight was lovely. Punx didn't talk for the majority of the flight, just soaking it all in. I asked him a couple time if he was alright and he would just turn around and grin. The flight was almost over before we realized that his microphone didn't even work. Man, I wish DD could've had that headset.

It was such a great morning.

Too bad it couldn't have lasted all day. But it was time to move on. We did some hiking in the mountains and then moved on to the worst idea I have ever had.

Come back tomorrow for that one.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Smokey Update #2

Vacation continues and trying to keep the kids entertained and happy goes on. Except for yesterday, that was for me. Our little mini-road trip out to Biltmore was all for me. It took a little less than two hours to get there but since we were this close I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go and see it. Background info: Biltmore is the largest home in America, 250 bedrooms built in the late-1800's by one of the Vanderbilts. It is still owned by the family but has been open to the public for a long time and in varying stages of restoration during that whole time. Dan and I went to Hurst Castle a few years back and were amazed by that but it no where the size of Biltmore. We were there for four hours and only did the house tour and a couple gardens. It was getting really hot and the kids were tired so we skipped the stables, the farm, and the winery was never on the agenda.

The weird part of the day was my favorite part. It seriously was the drive. The drive from our resort into North Carolina was so great. Very pretty, with forests, creeks, and the best part mountain driving. Remember the good ol' days when you would go for a drive? Dan and my favorite thing to do back then was driving the canyons (when we lived in Utah) just choosing one and driving up and maybe picking a different way to come out. We loved getting lost. What a difference $.99 a gallon makes on driving habits. And not having kids or just a baby.

This drive was like doing one of those drives again. It was like driving the I-15 Arizona Gorge in between Utah and Nevada except without the crazy L.A. drivers. It was wonderful.

Today was a trip to an out-of-the-way place called Townsend. Where there was a scenic loop called Cade's Cove and then we went to a cavern. On the docket was some tubbing on the river there but we ran out of time thanks to some laundry mishap at the resort here this morning that may have resulted in the boys going commando today and our rooms becoming one vast clothesline. We will try to squeeze that one in tomorrow. Of course, Bug had to mention how funny it was that he wasn't wearing any underwear in the public bathroom at the cave today while I tried to play dumb. "Mom, isn't is so funny that I don't have any underwear on?" "Um, what?" "It's funny that I don't-" "Bug, you don't? Oh man." Then I just quickly grab the kids and get out of dodge before anyone else can exit their stalls.

These bugs are everywhere. And whatever freaky sound they make fills the whole air. We we driving on the grounds of Biltmore with the windows down but the music very loud, just the way I like it, can't hear the kids so much. And DD asks me what that noise is, I hear it and just think the road must be made of something different here and it is just the tires on the road making the sound. We get to the parking lot and turn off the car and the sound it Hitchcock deafening. I got a video of the sound but I won't even try to upload it with dial-up. When I get home I will post the noise.

I am so excited for tomorrow, I have the biggest surprise ever for the kids on our last full day of vacation. I am bursting with nervous energy for them, oh it's so good. I can't wait to see their faces for this one.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Smokey Update #1

We made it to the Great Smokey Mountains! Hooray. Normal road trip drama, he's touching me, I don't want to watch that movie, are we there yet? kinda stuff. It took a little longer than I thought it would but we survived and I used the knock it off or you won't get to go swimming threat judiciously. In the end we didn't have time to get to the pool on Saturday anyway, ha ha. I just want everyone to know how much I love my ipod, without that thing not only would I have to listen to the kids more but also their inane bickering or worse their movies. It's amazing what just one ear bud of Jack Johnson will do for a mom on a road trip. Not to mention when the mid-afternoon lull hits, lets crank up some All American Rejects or some OK Go! and actually get there alive. I did get lost on the way to the resort and a 12-mile detour later on the way back to the right road I saw a sign pointing to where the church was. So getting to church the next morning was a cake. Even met a woman at the ward who is moving to Fort Campbell at the end of this year, it was all very cool. Then walked out with a few good local ideas of fun stuff to do.

Sunday, was chill day but today we did the tourist thing, Wonder Works (a museum with lot's of kid things to do like find out your weight on different planets, optical illusion stuff, etc.) and the Ripley's Aquarium. Tomorrow we are small road tripping it to Biltmore.

But I wanted to share two good pictures of today. One is my favorite and the other was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up when I saw it.

This was taken outside a bar called Cooter's in the Smokies. Life, sometimes, is just so sweet.