Monday, August 22, 2016

Plan Q

One of my dad's famous sayings is, "Plans were made to be changed!"

Good thing, too, because you could kind of say that's the story of my life, and you could definitely say it's been the story of my summer!

As we were finishing our amazing roadtrip, the kids and I had some decisions to make. Matt was heading off to training, and I wasn't exactly sure what we would do. My big sister lives in Washington state, and I desperately wanted to see her because I hadn't since January 2014!!! She'd never met Annalee!! She lived in Germany and then had gone to live in Washington, so when we took our trip to California last fall, we weren't able to see her. 

BUUUUT... Driving to her would take at least two long days. I hoped maybe she'd be coming to California, but she was working and couldn't get time off. And then came the bombshell: within two weeks of each other, both she and her husband were very unexpectedly laid off. While she had the time now, I couldn't expect her to travel to see me, and she was in a flurry of applying for new positions.

Meanwhile, Jayna had an offer to go with her friend from Anacortes (where we lived in Washington prior to moving to Hawaii) to a youth mission trip in inner city  Portland.  At first she told me no; she didn't want to do it because she'd be on it for her birthday.

But when I returned to our hotel room after dropping Matt off at LAX at 5:30 that Saturday morning, she was awake.

"I think we should do it, Mom" she said as I was just crawling back into bed, hoping to sleep a few more hours.  "I think we should drive up to Washington, and I need to get there by Monday at noon so that the youth group can meet me on their way to Portland."

And she was right; it actually... kind of... made perfect sense.

So in a few hours, we were repacked and driving north on I-5. We stopped in Stockton for the night to stay at my father-in-law's, then hit the road as early as possible (which, honestly, was about 9), and drove like crazy.  Jayna finally let us stop for the night in Salem at about 9:30 pm. First thing the next morning, we were on the road again! 

It was lunchtime when we got to where my sister lives. Jayna had arranged to have the youth group pick her up there that afternoon on their way to Portland, and we were meeting Jenny and her family at an Indian food place for lunch.

Oh my goodness, seeing my sister again... It brings tears to my eyes to remember.
 We were just standing in the parking lot hugging and crying. Every minute of the drive was worth it.
After lunch, I got Jayna sent off, and then had the greatest week at Jenny's house.
We did things like going to the Point Defiance Zoo
and shopping, but the best part was just being with her

and her sweet kids (minus her eldest who was at camp). We hiked,

visited parks and playgrounds,
and went blueberry-picking
-- and picked 21 pounds of blueberries!!  And by the end of the week, there was wonderful news: both Jenny and my brother-in-law had great job offers!
That Saturday, I drove up to Anacortes to get Jayna and see friends.  We had such a nice, restful three days.  Our friends we were staying with live kind of in the country,
so the kids had so much fun hiking on the trail on their property, jumping on the trampoline, feeding their chickens... And just being with them because they are some of The World's Nicest People.

I visited other friends (like my friend Amber, mentioned in this post, a worthwhile read even if it's not Small Business Saturday today!) and hiked at Washington Park,

one of my favorite places.
Then we headed back to my sister's for one more night.  We left her house and stopped for the night in Salem, where I had dinner with my old boarding school roommate and dear friend, Heather.
Then we stayed with "Aunt" Linda and "Uncle" Terry -- much-loved staff at the same school.

We finally made it back to California, visited more family, and spent several days at my in-laws' house, with a little side trip here and there, like to the train museum in Sacramento.
The hardest part of this summer was that my kids weren't very healthy. Annalee kicked off the summer with back-to-back Hand Foot &Mouth and roseola. Right before we left Hawaii, I discovered that Lilly had a raging middle ear infection. Then we all had, to varying degrees, a chest cold. Wyatt and Annalee had it worst, so I ended up taking them to urgent care. Then Wyatt caught a tummy thing and spent a night throwing up or crying about his stomach hurting when we were in Monterey and I'd planned to see some friends, including an older friend who is battling cancer. I couldn't have him around her or risk it if I were coming down with the bug, so we walked around Monterey instead.

Yes, "Plans were made to be changed."

We rejoined Matt in Southern California
and learned that his training was ending sooner than expected. So we changed our travel to South Korea by 48 hours to have a day of rest before he started work here. And so plans changed again. We spent our last week with some of our closest friends, people we'd been wanting to see all month, but they had the flu. It was such a wonderful time, filled with the kind of laughter that makes your sides and cheeks hurt. The only downside was that leaving felt heart-crushing.
I have no idea what edition of my summer plan this would be, but I'm guessing Plan Q. Just a ballpark estimate.

But with Jayna starting her senior year of high school, I've been thinking a lot about what I want my kids to know by the time they leave my house.  And one of them is this: having a plan is good.  But being willing to change a plan without it completely derailing your life is invaluable.  I've seen adults who couldn't handle one small adjustment to their schedule without being in a snit. 

We had to be very flexible this summer, and I'm not going to lie: it wasn't always easy, just as I'm sure it wasn't easy for our friends and family who put us up.  There were times when I almost lost my mind, and the kids probably thought I had.  Friends who heard what we were up to thought we we're crazy too.  

But I know this: it was a great summer.  

In exchange for their flexibility, my kids had so many amazing experiences.  They saw old favorite places and found new ones.  They saw old friends and made new ones.  And they connected with family in a way that we needed so badly before embarking on our Korean adventure.
When we were in Anacortes, Paul, the patriarch of the family we were staying with, said something I'm always saying (but it's better when it comes from someone else right?): "Kids can never have too many people who love them."
We were filled to the brim with love with summer, so that instead of feeling depleted as we left California a week ago, we were energized and encouraged for what we are undertaking. Honestly, my only regret is not seeing more of our loved ones.

I hope my kids have learned that they will find joy in the places their many ever-changing plans take them -- even if next time, they are on Plan Z by the time the journey is over!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

About that "Unlimited Mileage"

(UPDATE: now includes links)

My rental car for this summer (because mine is on its way to Korea!) has New York license plates.  It's been quite the conversation starter, because the closest we've been to New York was Texas! So many people have stopped us to ask about them, and it always goes something like this:

Random stranger: So you're from New York?

Us: No, it's just a rental car.

Random stranger: Oh, okay.  So where are you from?  

Us:  Well, we're in the middle of a move. From Hawaii... To Korea.

Random stranger (wearing expression of surprise): Did you take a wrong turn somewhere?!

It's an understandable question!  As of the time of writing, I've put about 5,000 miles on the car and been to nine states.  I'm not sure the rental car company knew quite what they were agreeing to when they put "Unlimited Mileage" on the contract!

So where do I start?  We left Hawaii on June 30th and landed in California to spend a few lovely days (including the Fourth of July) in the wine country with family.  Then we flew to Austin for what I started to think might have been complete insanity...
Jayna had wanted to look at some colleges in Texas, and after three years of living on a rather small island, our family was craving a roadtrip.  Some of our best family memories have been made on the road.  At one point, we had talked about driving all the way to Nashville from California, but Matt had to leave for some training from Los Angeles on the 15th, so we acknowledged (ruefully at first) (but thankfully later) that we just couldn't manage that in such a short amount of time.  Our first day in Austin was kind of a bust even though we landed at a decent time because of a huge headache with the rental car (we'd rented a passenger van -- because 7 people with stuff for the next few months -- but the only one they had was so disgustingly dirty, we couldn't accept it.  So we had to get another vehicle, and it just took forever).  When the dust had settled, we had just enough energy to get to our hotel and eat some good, cheap Mexican food before crashing for the night.  The next day, Matt took the littles to an indoor play place, because it was super hot, while Jayna, Skyler, and I (and Annalee) went to view UT Austin.

 Then we drove up to Waco, stopping for too short a time at my the cafe of my friend Rachel, who runs the Sweet Lemon Inn and Kitchen in Georgetown.

If you stop reading here and take nothing else from this post, this is the most important part.  If you are within three hours of Georgetown -- no, no, if you live in Texas, period -- go to this cafe.  Actually, maybe you should just schedule a trip to Texas because Rachel makes THE BEST CINNAMON ROLLS I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE, and I consider myself to be quite the connoisseur of cinnamon rolls.  

We stayed two nights in Waco so that Jayna and Skyler could tour Baylor.  While they took the tour, I went to the Cameron Park Zoo with Lilly, Wyatt, and Annalee.
 It was really such a delightful zoo, and we had a great (hot) time.  That afternoon, we hit the Dr. Pepper museum

and, of course (because we are huge Fixer Upper fans), Magnolia.
It was that night that I lay awake thinking maybe I had made a mistake when we came up with this plan.  Road trips aren't exactly restful, and Matt and I were both feeling exhausted after the craziness of our departure from Hawaii.  We had made these plans and reservations just before, you know, IT hit the fan.  And now we were exhausted.  I thought enviously of my friends who take exotic trips with just their husband and wondered why we weren't doing that -- even though I knew the answer and in this particular case, it was our only time set aside as a family this summer.  I pictured us at a nice resort, or a rented cabin, and thought, Oh noooooo.....

As we hit the road, my uneasiness increased.  Everyone was extra cranky with each other that morning.  I dropped something glass in the parking lot of the hotel.  We were trying to drive at least six hundred miles to get the longest chunk of driving over with in a day.  An hour in, I was ready to throw in the towel on the trip, and I muttered a prayer.  More like, "God, help." if that can be considered a prayer.

I can't say that it changed right then, but gradually the day improved.  We laughed and joked, I finished reading These Happy Golden Years out loud to Lilly, including the chapter about the tornado.  Not ten minutes after reading it, we passed through a tremendous thunderstorm that made us all wonder (just a little) about a tornado.  It was beautiful, though! We stopped that night for a PB&J dinner in a rest area
and saw a magnificent sunset.
We even met our 600 mile goal -- which I rewarded with a trip to the hotel pool even though it was past bedtime.  Hooray for still being on aloha time!

The next day, while listening to James Michener's Journey, about a harrowing expedition through the Yukon during the Canadian gold rush, we drove into Colorado.  We stopped briefly in Durango (love!),
and then headed to Mancos for the night and drove into Mesa Verde, where we made reservations to tour the Balcony House the next day and went for a quick walk to see the  incredible views at Park Point.

Wyatt "read" the Visitors' Guide to the park and upon seeing this picture
Informed me that our hikes there would have to be in our birthday suits. Being the excellent mom that I am, I told him that as long as we didn't complain about the hike, we could keep our clothes on! 

The Balcony House tour the next morning was described as a "strenuous" hike; it was more what I would call a somewhat stressful walk, though -- even with our clothes on!  Matt decided not to go on it with Annalee, and I was glad in the end because it included a climb up a 32-foot ladder
and squeezing through a tight tunnel.
But climbing up behind Wyatt on that thing... And the other ladders that were only 12 feet each...
Well, my palms were sweating. I've had a few accidents that make me think crazy stuff only happens to me, and while everyone else was doing fine, I was sure he would fall, or I would fall because I was trying to protect him. But we had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat!

From there, we drove to Moab.  We found a wonderful family flat at the Moab Rustic Inn, for a much better price than the brand name hotels were quoting, and that night we were able to have a "homemade" dinner because we had a full kitchen.  But of course, the best part was Arches National Park.

We had an amazing time hiking and "scrambling" on the rocks.  The colors were breathtaking.

It wasn't our first time there, but the previous visit had been when Jayna was a little older than Annalee is now.  The only downside was the incredible heat! However, when we returned to the park the next day, it had cooled by about twenty degrees and was quite pleasant!
We stopped at Moab Giants on our way out of town.
It was great, but a little pricey (especially the cafe!).
 The kids enjoyed pretending around the dinosaurs and especially enjoyed the digging pits that contained "fossils".
It was pretty tough to leave Moab.  I think we could easily have spent a week in the area!  We drove to Dead Horse State Park,
and I think the views there rivaled those of the Grand Canyon.
Bonus: a fraction of the people!  The park was practically empty.

We drove south and stayed in a small town that night, but the next day, we found another gem: Gunlock State Park.

It was about as hot as face of the sun, so we weren't much inclined to hike, but the lake was almost completely empty, and we enjoyed a swim in the beautiful, refreshing water.  
This is probably my biggest regret of the trip: we almost ran out of time for Zion National Park.  

We got there in the late afternoon, and had just enough time to take the bus into the park and do a short (but amazing) hike. 
The pictures don't do justice because I accidentally left my good camera in California. 

We had a short night in St. George, and then drove to Las Vegas because Matt had promised the kids a water park.  This was hands-down my least favorite part of the trip.  I know some people will get all in a huff about my saying this, but Vegas seems like a cheap copy of all the good stuff in the world and the idea that everything is for sale.  But the kids had fun, and everyone was good and tired that night, so we should have slept really soundly.  Except that right outside our (casino) hotel (sigh...), there was a bad cover band playing music till 2 am, and it was so loud it might so well have been in our room.  We were all very happy to leave the next day, even though it was the last day of our drive.

We got to LA again, met up with family for lunch at Downtown Disney, and then... We had to put Matt on the plane to send him to the East Coast for some training.  Besides California, we had been to Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona in ten days.

If you're reading this and thinking, Wait, that's only seven states and surely not 5000 miles -- you're right!  But since this post is plenty long already, I'll leave that story for my next post.  Trust me, though, it's a good one! ;-)