Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reagan Library and the Beach

While visiting a library of a former president didn’t seem too appealing for the younger four members of the family, we decided to follow Bruce Robert’s recommendation. Since I’m the only family member to remember most of the significant events of the Reagan Administration, I was elected to write the blog entry. The Reagan library and Museum is located in Simi Valley, CA which is just north of LA in a very pretty part of the state. The building is the stucco look of the southwest and looks like the Reagan ranch.

Inside, the Christmas of the World display included decorated Christmas trees from about 50 countries. All three girls especially liked to look at all the different Christmas trees and proceeded to take a picture of each one, along with their info on where they were from and how to say Merry Christmas in its particular language. Following the huge array of Christmas decorations from around the world, there were displays about Dutch’s interesting career beginning in radio thru his years as an actor -- most notably as the Gipper at Notre Dame. His move into politics began as Governor of California – “the branch office in Sacramento” and concluded at, “The Home Office in DC” as the 40th President of the United States. His landslide in 1984 of 525 electoral votes to Walter Mondale's 13 electoral votes (95.2% margin) is the largest in history. It was interesting to see the exhibits about the hostages in Iran, his attempted assassination, Operation Urgent Fury -- the battle in Grenada (I remember our 82nd Airborne CPT talking during our entire calculus class about what was probably happening as the Div participated in the first military action since Vietnam.) A large portion of the display is devoted the Cold War and its ultimate end due in large part to the efforts and mentality of the Reagan administration (remember “the Evil Empire?).
One of the highlights of the museum is the section that includes the transportation means that President Reagan utilized. While not as well known as the impressive Air Force 1 which actually flew seven different presidents and Marine 1, the helicopter utilized for short trips, it was nice to see Army 1a and 1b represented in the Museum. All in all, a trip well worth the effort and we concur with Bruce’s recommendation.
After the Reagan Library, we made our way south to Camp Del Mar. This was kind of cool as it was located right on the beach north of San Diego. Camp Del Mar is actually part of Camp Pendleton, a large Marine Corps post. We didn’t do a lot of swimming in the cool 59 degree Pacific Ocean, but it was neat to be playing in the beach in late December. I think the highlight of our stay at Del Mar was on Sunday we had planned to attend church in town since the post chapel was so far from the RV site. I went out to do a bike recon of the route to the church in the morning and was doing that when I saw a sign on post that indicated a chapel nearby. The chapel said that service started at 0900 and since it was already 0815 and I was about 10 minutes from the RV, I didn’t think that there was any chance of getting back in time. I figured I’d go back and if they happened to be up and at ‘em, we’d make it. Upon entering the RV, the only ones awake were Toley and Kik (as usual). I told them that if we could leave in 20 minutes, we could go to the earlier service (this is important to Z-man since the Packers come on at 10 PST). Miraculously, we not only got out of the RV in time, but even made the 2.5 mile uphill bike ride in time for the 0900 start. The service was ok, but Kik got to go to Sunday School for the first time in quite a while. He really enjoyed it. After the service, we listened, on the radio, to the Pack thump the Seahawks and make the playoffs.
The next day was sunny and nice and Zman, Pooh and I braved the 59 degree water and VERY large waves just to say we swam in the Pacific in December. Well worth it.

Another interesting and fun stop in the RV Odyssey.

Peace ~ Dad

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas was GREAT this year. I enjoy a low key Christmas every once in a while. It reminded me, in a way, of our Christmas 5 years ago when we went to Ukraine to get Kik. Nothing major, a tiny make shift tree, a few gifts that were small and useful here in our RV, and just the 6 of us. We were on a small base at the time and just like our Christmas time in Ukraine, we ended up conducting our own church service.
Here, on this remote post there wasn't a church within 4 miles and it was too far to ride our bikes in the dark, so we had Christmas Eve service here. We sang songs, read the story of the birth of Jesus from our Bibles and sang some more. It was nice. Pooh played a little music on our keyboard to make it all the more festive.
The picture above is Christmas morning and the kids are wearing the matching shirts I made them. Zach got long flannel pj pants. All were cozy for the morning activities
We had decorated our RV with lights too. We have them strung up in the living area, on the dash board and in the bedroom in the back. So, no matter where we looked, we were all lit up with colored lights! so fun! My mom sent an early Christmas gift of a clock that played Christmas music every hour on the hour. We had a lot of fun listening to the different songs played. My mom also sent crafts for us to work on. This is a little elf that Toley made. Fun!

But must of all we just enjoyed each others company. God is so good, all the time and he granted us a blessed Christmas. The weather was warm, which is a change for us, but we were able to go for a walk and just enjoy the sunshine for a change. It has been over 6 years since we had a green Christmas! We all took a vote and like the snow better!!!

We didn't get too many Christmas photos, but here are a few. This is one of my favorite. Kik got a new suit for Christmas. He loves to wear them and he wore it most of the day! The second shot is of him working on his bike, but he wouldn't take his shirt and tie off! HAHA! so cute!!!!

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and blessed New Year!

XO Mom

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Hi everyone! Here is a picture of our humble little tree. It is decorated with our playmobile nativity set! Perfect!!! I hope to post more pictures tomorrow.
We just wanted to wish everyone a VERY MERRY Christmas. We hope this blog finds you well and happy. Remember that Christ came to earth to save all of you! Enjoy the season, but remember why you are celebrating!
HUGS and lots of Love - Mom

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Monterey Bay Aquarium

While in Monterey, I really wanted a chance to see the Aquarium, which is said to be the best in America.

Unfortunately, it is very expensive to go in, but, through some wonderful connections, we managed to get in. We had a fantastic time. We started off with the otters at feeding time. The otters made quite a show! They had to do tricks for some of their food. They were given shelled food because if they give them whole, shell and all, they bang it against things to get it open. In this case the windows.

Next, we moved out smartly to see the last of the penguin feeding. The aquarium is huge with two floors and a bridge on the top floor. The "south African" penguins were cute, but not as exciting as the energetic otters! We looked around on the top floor at the different fish. Including Nemo and Dory (above).
They have lots of cool jellyfish as well and we got some really great pictures. You can get a really good close up look at them through these tanks. We headed downstairs to see a show about Great Whites. How they attach tracking devises and where they go. It was really interesting. We learned that the sharks don't really leave their area. Unlike whales, the furthest they go from CA, is Hawaii. The sharks don't mix with different sharks from different places.
They have touch zones, where you can feel kelp and starfish. They also have a neat area where you can touch bat rays (to the left) which are like sting rays. The stingers have been removed and they swim around in a little pool.

The Secret lives of the Sea Horses was really neat as well. There are tons of different kinds. All different colors and sizes. This was one of our favorites. They like to wrap themselves around plants in the tank, and they swim funny. With little fins on their backs going back and forth rapidly.

We saw a diver go down in a huge tank to feed the fish and sharks. He wasn't exactly a "SCUBA" diver because his tank wasn't self contained, but we did see lots of scuba divers outside the aquarium. He had a microphone so he could talk to us while in the tank.
We took a peek outside to look at Monterey Bay, it is really pretty. Altogether we had a great time and now understand why it's the #1 aquarium!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks

Hi all,

This will be short, but I wanted to get something out about our last couple of weeks here in CA. We have hit many National Parks, which is awesome and the last few weeks haven't failed us in the continuing awe of our country. It never ceases to amaze me how different the United States is.
Our first stop was to Sequoia National Park in the mid eastern section of CA. WOW! Let me tell you we were all amazed at how HUGE these trees were! We took an hour hike through the forest and they were everywhere and each time we saw one we would run up to it, take a picture and touch it. So amazing. I wish I could describe to you the width of these ancient trees. But, all I can do is show you some pictures. I am sure you will agree that they are magnificent.

Toley, our tree hugger! She hugs all the trees we see. I think she will eventually blog about her tree hugging self!!!

The next stop was to Yosemite which is just a little bit north. This National Park reminded us a bit of Zion as there are huge rocks that you drive right through. The cool thing about both of these parks (Zion and Yosemite) is that is could be a beautiful sunny day, which it was both times, but you get right inside and next to these huge cliffs that it feels like another planet. It is cold, dim and damp. So funny to look up and see blue sky!

The pine cones off
of these trees are

Todd walking down
one of the hiking
paths. See how big
the trees are?

We had a great time in both parks taking a hike, climbing on boulders and just oohing and aahhing out the window. What a wonderful thing it is to visit so many of these National Parks.

The kids climbing on a fallen tree:

Pooh getting ready to video the huge rocks and
waterfall in Yosemite. Good thing we have such
a great videographer! It is nice to know we will
have videos as well as pictures from our trip.
Below is the waterfall that we climbed to. It was pretty thin as it was winter, but I can imagine how huge it would be in late spring! Good thing as climbing on the rocks would not have been possible with all that water.

Toley showing us how vast this place really was

Z-man making the big climb to get as close to the waterfall as possible.

Pooh and Daddy posing for mommy. It is
amazing how HUGE these rocks were, but
they made for a really fun hike.

The valley down below where we were

Kik spent most of his time looking at the GPS, making sure we were all going in the right direction. I can't tell you how many pictures we have of him doing this! It is a hazard though as he usually stumbles or is soooooo sloooowwww! Like his mother, he is not much of a dual task type of person.

FUN FACTS: Grants Tree, the 3rd biggest sequoia tree is 268Ft tall, 1,254 tons! 40 feet in diameter, 46,608 cubic feet in volume, and 1,700 years old AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!

Enjoy all the pics...............XO Mom

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Working out on the Road

Kevin Foley, formerly the head of NMU’s Clinical Lab Science Dept and a self-proclaimed stud told me that I’d get soft on the trip. First, Kevin is very fit and knows a thing about staying active. Conversely, one constant in my life is trying to stay in shape, so I took that as a challenge of sorts. Second, since working out is frequently my top priority (a fact that I’m not necessarily proud of although PK admonished that admission saying that at least I stay true to my values). Anyway, in order to keep my old body fit, I like to work out 2 hours/day. Unfortunately, that isn’t always feasible on the road. So, in order to keep the old body moving, the following are examples of “Working out on the road:”
Biking: We brought 8 bikes: 1 mountain bike/person + Isaac’s tandem that fits on my bike and my road bike that I don’t leave home without. Did one mountain bike race at Fort Lewis that was a brutal 30k thru some very technical terrain – finished fourth, one place out of the money (of course, there were only 5 of us that completed the long course). My favorite rides are the family rides that include hills. We road to Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada. I didn’t figure it would be bad since it was only about 4 miles. What I didn’t realize was that it went up about 1000’ so it took us the better part of an hour. We also rode to the Commissary at USAFA with almost the same elevation change over four miles. The girls weren’t happy.
Running/power walking: Since I’ve been afflicted with some sort of injury to my calves since 2001, my running is limited. I occasionally run 20-30 minutes with the dog. Zach and I did a 5K at Elmendorf AFB in AK and we continue to target some trail runs in CA as possible training venues. Otherwise, daily walks with the dog are the normal AM routine.
Hiking: Probably the best family friendly activity. As long as there’s food and some kind of distraction (water, rock formations, etc) the kids are usually all right with it.
An awesome hike was in Bryce Canyon, UT. While only 1.5 miles, it went down 500’ and back. The beauty of the park made the challenging terrain acceptable.
Hill runs: One of the best climbs I’ve done in a while was at PKs on Mercer Island. The road was probably 20% grade for ¼ mile with a staircase that finished at the top of the hill and was about 100’ up. That was until we discovered ”The Incline” in Manitou Springs. Rob Koehler told us about this workout and referred to a NY Times article http: that claimed that the Olympic wrestlers at the training center considered it one of their hardest workouts. So, with that kind of reputation I figured that we should give it a try. Zach wasn’t too excited, but like usual, did as he was told. The incline rises 2000’ over the one mile climb or an average grade of 35%. Actually the middle third was closer to 45% and pretty much maxed my heart rate. I did it in just under 32:00 and Zach was a couple minutes behind. I love those high intensity, short workouts. The run back down was great as well. About 3 miles through some beautiful terrain. Reminded me of the run down the Kramer in Garmisch, except there was no sheep poop or the accompanying flies – “they’re kind of nasty, but at least they don’t get up in your Kool-aide” Rudy, June 2003.
So, in addition to swimming or lifting on posts when we stay at military campsites, those are the activities that we use to stay active while traipsing about the country.
Until next time, Go Pack…

Peace ~ Dad

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1st Thanksgiving in the RV!

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving (a couple days late!) Our 1st Thanksgiving in the RV was not much different than the ones in, well, a house! The boys watched football while the girls watched them throw things at the TV and listened to them yell at the Packers. Nothing new!

I personally could care less about football (unless Jordy Nelson is playing that is) and I also think the Packers are very good! But I’m out ruled on that one so I just keep my mouth shut. I always tell Z-man that they couldn`t do any better when he yells at them and that they are really good and trying their best and all you can do is yell at them! He just looks at me like I have no idea what’s going on. Anyway, you probably don`t want to hear what Z and Dad do to the poor Packers. But I WAS a little disappointed at the beginning of the game when Jords dropped the ball! For no reason at all!! Oh well. They won anyways so what`s the point of screaming at them.

You probably want to hear about the meal, right? Well, hold on, I`m almost done! So, the last thing I want to say is how Z is obsessively…obsessed with football. You probably already know but this is “behind the scenes” with Jordy. Before the game: Z is checking what other people are saying about who`s going to win, and checking scores and whatever else he does to get ready for the game. After the game: Z is checking what people say the Pack could`ve done better, the scores, the interviews. It`s absolutely pathetic!!! Everybody just sits there rolling their eyes at him. Well you`ve probably heard enough so I`ll stop there.
Alright, our RV is built like any other RV. Small. Well smaller than a house that is. With really no counter space at all cooking it tough! Our oven is about 12” X 12” and the stove has three teeny burners. Mom had to cut off a big bone in the center of the turkey for it to fit. Our counter space consists of a cutting board over a sink, and a little extra square counter that flips up and down. It`s a little hard for Mom but she manages. The Kitchen, as some of you might know, is in the same room as: Z-man`s bed, Toley, Kik and my bed, the TV room, and the Dining room. So when Mom cooked dinner the window`s were all fogged up and it`s practically a sauna up on the overhang! You can`t go up there without getting sweaty! That`s why Toley and I are usually stuck up there.

Also are table is pretty small, so when we`re eating, Toley, Kik and I are on one bench, Mommy and Daddy are on another bench, and the BFG (since he has too big of feet! Heehee) is at the end of the table on a fold up chair. But since it was a special event, we figured out a way to fix that up. First, since the table is directly perpendicular with the couch, we got an extra table from the storage underneath, put one leg down, and put it right next to the table and the other side we kept the leg up and put a lap desk and a couple books under it to make it even. Then we spread a tablecloth over the whole thing and voila you have a…10ft. long table! (Not really 10ft. but you know) So Toley and I sat on one bench, Kik and Daddy sat on the other, and Z and Mommy sat on fold up chairs on either sides of the add on table. It was really good, but I`ll admit we all ate too much! But that’s what you do on thanksgiving isin`t it? That and thank God for all the good food and family fun!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Bryce, Zion and The Hoover Dam

After we left Colorado, we headed through the not-so-beautiful plains of Utah. We planned on going to Bryce Canyon, Zion and The Grand Canyon. After some research we found out the part of Grand Canyon we were going to see was on an Indian Reservation. It was extremely pricey, so we scratched that idea. But we continued to Bryce Canyon, which turned out well worth the trip. (The collage is of Bryce)

Bryce Canyon is orangey rock, like the Grand Canyon except it was carved by weather (wind etc…) instead of by water. We took a great family hike down to the bottom and got some great snap-shots. We split ways at the bottom and the BFG and Dad took a longer hike while the four of us headed back. It was beautiful and we liked climbing in and around the rocks.

Zion is very different from Bryce so it is hard to compare the two. While Bryce is rocky and dry, Zion is very green and…watery. I think I like Bryce better, but loved them both. We took another family hike to “The Emerald Pools” which turned out pretty but not quite worthy of the word Emerald!
It was warm in the sun and there were lots of Cactus around the trail. We enjoyed romping around and exploring the “pools.” Once again the boys went on, while we headed back. They took a different trail to “Angel’s Landing” Mommy went back and forth about going, and was glad she didn’t after the boys related the story.
To get there, it is a steep hill with chains to hold onto so you don’t fall. Daddy wouldn’t even let Z go all the way up because it was too steep; Dad even said, “I’m surprised more people haven’t died.” Yikes!

It was pretty though and we had a great time and have enjoyed lots of National Parks. After Zion we went to an Air Force Base outside Las Vegas, which was less then desirable. Las Vegas isn’t my favorite place to be, too dry anyway.
While there we decided to take a trip to the Hoover Dam, which was neat to see, but not too much of an eye opening experience. We took a walk over to Dam and looked around; it was pretty amazing what they had done. Afterwards we headed to Lake Mead, the lake made by the Hoover Dam. We played around in the water a bit. It was pretty warm, although that’s not saying much since I’m used to Lake Superior, but it was fun.
We left Vegas on a Sunday afternoon for California. There was lots of traffic; we guessed everyone was going home from Vacation in Las Vegas.

We finally made it though and settled into a nice campground.


Monday, November 23, 2009

More Dear Friends

Hi all!

Happy Thanksgiving. We will be spending Thanksgiving somewhere in CA, not sure where, but it will be interesting to cook a turkey in a teeny tiny oven, that is for sure!

This letter is kind of a sequel to the other "Friends" letter I wrote.

After we left Utah, we headed to CO to visit a bunch more people. We decided that we should hit the mountains before the snow fell and we were glad we did. We had such a great time.

Our first stop was to see my cousin Diane and her family. Diane and I are the oldest (me) and youngest (her) girls on my dad's side of the family. There are three boys in between us and since there is such a big age difference, we never really got to spend a whole lot of time with just us, so this was a real treat for me. She and her husband Kenne were more than wonderful as we settled into their neighborhood, ate some awesome spaghetti and meatballs and played with their adorable kids - three boys no less! We had some late night chats and good food. Not to mention that fact that Diane's dad was there, my uncle whom I don't see that often and my other cousin Karl. All are now living in CO and it was great to be able to see them and chat a while. I found out that Karl, like me, is into healthy eating. As we were heavy into one of our food discussions, Diane walked by, heard what we were saying and said, "Oh this is great! Karl finally has someone to listen to him talk about all his organic food issues!" HA! It was funny because I am sure my family feels the same way about me :)

Anyway, our girls had a great time playing with the boys and little baby Nico (who was only 7 weeks!!) was more than adorable, as you can see!!! Gotta love babies!!!

Totally adorable Nico at about 7 weeks!

Next we drove down to the Air Force Academy where Zman took a tour, we got settled and ready for the next big day - Army/Air force football. Unfortunately, Army stunk! UGH! but, the game and tailgate were fun. Dad's friend Jon AKA "Homer" came down for the game, so it was nice to hang around with him for a while.

Jon, Isaac, Todd and Zach enjoying the first half of the Army/Air force game. That was the only enjoyable half. Isaac was fascinated to learn that Jon was once a member of the Army parachute team. After the guys jumped, he couldn't ask enough questions, so I, being the great mom, sent him to sit next to Jon and ask HIM a hundred questions. He has young kids, so he was a good sport about it all.

Next was a nice long stay at the Koehlers. Rob and Chris have been long time friends. We met while we were all in grad school at IU in Indiana. Our two oldest boys are the same age and they were best of friends for many years. We hadn't seen them in almost 9 years and WOW, have things changed. All our boys are now taller than the parents - by far!

Rob and Chris were just great and it was so nice to talk with them, hang out and just see how life is going in CO. Chris and I were very close and it was just awesome to see her again after all these years. Rob too was great. He got us tickets to the game, busted on Zman, totally hung out with Kik and let us borrow the car. What a treat! They are just a great family and it was fun to see how grown up their boys are. They are super kids and I wish we had more time to be with them.

Funny Kik line: Rob had been totally hanging out with Kik all day and was just super with him. Kik loves people who give him their undivided attention and answer his incessant questions. At dinner that night Rob had changed and Kik said to me - "Mommy, where is that fun guy in the blue shirt?" HA! "right next to you sweety!" Too cute!

Kevin, Alex, Nicole, Jordan and Zach all snuggled around a very asleep Isaac. I kept forgetting to take pictures, so I made all the big kids, after a super fun game of "Catch Phrase" go in and get around Isaac for a group shot.

I am sure you are wondering how Kik got to sit in a real firetruck! Well, Rob and Chris's smoke detectors are wired directly to the fire department. And, being my mothers daughter, I am not a very neat cook. I let one of my meals over flow in the oven and when we opened it up the room was filled with smoke! We tried in vain to get it to blow out the door, but sure enough, the smoke detector started screaming. Chris called, but they were already on their way. En route they were finally gotten a hold of, but they came anyway. Kik was thrilled and I was embarrassed! Chris tried to make me feel better by letting me know it wasn't the first time and surely wouldn't be the last!

Next was a quick little dinner with a great friend of mines daughter Heather. Heather is a great gal and is on her way to be a missionary in a place FAR away! She came to our RV and had a spaghetti dinner with us and it was so nice to chat with her about her future and what has been going on in her life. She is totally sweet and a breath of fresh air! I failed to take a picture with her, which makes me crazy! Maybe I can dig one up from long ago :)

OK, only a few more to go! We drove up to Boulder to visit another roommate of Dad's - Steve AKA "Gumby" Don't ask me about the nicknames? I don't get it! Steve and his wife Jennifer were fun to hang out with. They too live in a nice neighborhood and our eye sore of an RV stained that landscape for a long weekend! We got snowed in and had to stay an extra day or so. It was fun. They have three children and all the kids hit it off doing this and that. One liked to sit on the couch all day and watch football like Zman and the other two liked hanging with the girls playing around, having a snowball fight and playing flashlight tag. Steve and Jennifer were more than gracious and we had a nice time while in Boulder. Jennifer took me on a tour of Celestial Seasonings and Steve and dad hung out remembering old times. The funniest part was when Steve asked us over and long are you going to be doing this?? how long??? How long??? HA!!

Last, but not definitely not least was our trip to Frisco to see an old friend of mine, Kathy. Our mothers met before we were born, so we have grown up together. We live totally different lives, but still seem to have a lot in common. I didn't get as much time with her as I would have liked, but between hitting the road and her working, that is the way it went. We did get to have lunch and go for a walk around Frisco and it was great. We had a nice talk and good food and I hope to see her again soon - sooner than last time!

Once again, God has blessed us with such wonderful friends and family. People are always so willing to open their doors to us and let us stay, feed us and give us a much needed relief of just stability, even if for only a day or two. We love you all so much and had a super time! Thank you!!!

XO Mom