Sunday, June 29, 2014

Alligator Alley and Reno's Reptiles

If you find yourself near Foley, Alabama, you should visit Alligator Alley, even if the whole city of Summerdale is a speed trap.  Consider yourself warned!  If Reno's Reptiles are there, definitely pay the extra couple bucks required to add to your ticket. It's worth watching a feeding, and it's also worth buying a cup of food to feed to the gators.

Everyone had a chance to hold a two year old gator
Very glad for the tape on the gator's mouth
This is the three year old pen
They had a boardwalk where you can observe the bigger gators
This is Captian Crunch, the world record holder for bite strength. He is 13 feet long.
All the kids held a baby gator, even Jake! We were all amazed at how soft its skin was!  As cool as the gators were, I think the highlight for most was Reno's Reptiles. The guy clearly had a passion for his reptiles, and he shared it with everyone interested.  The girls held lots of super cool snakes (and I am not a snake person AT.ALL!) Even Steve & I held a couple. We also got to hold a tarantula. It was kind of cool and kind of creepy, all at the same time!  This place is definitely worth a stop!

We all had fun holding this friendly snake. It was an albino anaconda if I remember right.

Alyssa bonding with a python
This snake was too heavy for Genna to hold
This snake was named Cuddles.  We had no idea that it would try to go between us.
The snake went around my neck and back
This snake knew how to amuse
Shanan and Linda wanted to get in on the fun.
They also had a tarantula you could hold, which is very creepy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

USS Alabama Battleship tour

One of the things we're enjoying now that we're all together again as a family is playing tourist.  We are trying to explore the area we are currently in.  It's a bonus of the RV lifestyle. It's not that there aren't maintenance chores in an RV, but there is generally less maintenance--i.e. no lawn care.  On the weekends we're taking advantage of the area, checking out the area beaches & tourist attractions.

Admittedly, touring the USS Alabama Battleship is a bit pricey for a family our size, but we really did enjoy ourselves. It was quite hot, and there were many ladders to go up & down, but with Katie in the sling & Steve spotting Jake, who had a few panicky moments, we did just fine.

With admission, you can also tour the submarine, which we enjoyed just as much as the battleship. There are also covered picnic tables on site, so we had a picnic lunch. While it was hot, the shade and the breeze off the water kept it rather pleasant.

A great day to check out a piece of history
It was hot in the non air conditioned boat
Time for lunch?
Genna inside a giant mixing bowl

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Visiting Dallas friends along the way

We were all looking forward to visiting our close friends & family in our old hometown en route to Alabama/Florida. I was bummed that I'd just dealt with sick kids along the way & a little concerned that we wouldn't get to see people after all. Fortunately, everyone recovered, & our friends welcomed us anyway.

My best friend Kim from my college years at TWU
Zuoming & her growing family
We packed as much visiting & play into 5 days as we could. We arrived with two days remaining in the public school year, so lots of yearend activities were in full swing. Our timing might not have been ideal, but our friends still managed to make time for us. Shanan, Alyssa & Genna got to have a sleepover with the Hargus kids, and all of us had a lovely, not nearly long enough day at my friend Kim's place out in the country. We also got to meet our friend Zuoming's newest little guy! We even squeezed in some fun with the Gordon's in the evenings & on the weekend, in spite of their crazy schedules. And we got to end our time with some good memory making with cousins & hanging out with my sister! I love that we have fantastic friendships that pick up right where we left off!    

Gordons & Zavockis
Katie & Uncle Gregory were rather fond of each other
We even got a chance to celebrate Genna's sixth birthday with her cousins...and of course, chocolate cake a la' Master Baker Uncle Tracy. Oh so yummy! And...I'm delighted to say the last bit of the drive from Plano, Texas to Robertsdale, Alabama was altogether uneventful! :)

Happy 6th Birthday to Genna!
Katie getting acquainted with Aunt Wanda
One big slumber party with the cousins, complete with bedtime story
Swimming with cousins

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cross country with five children and only one parent

Although we knew that it was possible, even likely, that leaving Utah might mean a period of time where we would be split up as a family, I don't think Steve or I really anticipated how difficult that might be.  When Steve received a job offer for a position in Pensacola, Florida on the very same day that we received an offer on the house (just 2 weeks after putting it on the market), it seemed like this leaving Utah business was actually happening for real!  Little did we know all the drama that would ensue from there....

Desperately-needed morning offee at the Silver Bean coffee shop in Cortez, Co where we first went in 2007
After two weeks, our buyers backed out, so while continuing to prepare for Steve's departure, we were back to square one on selling the house.  Sixty plus showings later (& those were just the ones from before we left Utah), I can say that I've experienced last minute showings, showings that schedule & don't come, showings that show up early, showings that say they scheduled but I never received notification for, showings that were spontaneous from people just driving by & stopping to ask to see your house...   I *think* I've seen/experienced it all.  And...we still own a house in Sandy, Utah.  The irony??  I still genuinely like the house.  It was exactly the house we needed, when we needed it.  Why hasn't it sold???  Not sure, but God is still God, and He is good, all the time.  That is all.

Four Corners: Everyone is in a different state
And...Philippians 4:13 still holds true.  I never imagined just how difficult it would be to sell our house.  I never imagined that three of our kids would get a stomach virus while we were selling our house & having showings, even multiple showings, daily. And, despite so many showings, we still had to pack up & empty our house.  And yes, we pulled the house from the market to do that, so of course, people begged to see it anyway...  And, yes, despite begging to see it while it was off the market & touting that it was their #1 house, of course they didn't buy it.

And yes, 3,000 sqft of house is hard to empty & clean, no matter how much "prep work" you think you've done in advance, especially with 5 sweet kids.  So glad that Steve flew back to help, but wow, it was oh-so-painful, and altogether impossible I think, if our dear friends the Valdez family, didn't help us with the kids.  Wouldn't you know that Katie even managed to get sick & run a fever for the duration of the final emptying & packing up, just to make things a little easier...NOT!

Saying goodbye to the Valdez family before beginning our trek
As painful as emptying the house & cleaning it was, we did it.  It might not have been a pretty process, & I *might* have yelled more than I should have, but it did get done on the same day that I dropped Steve off at the airport to fly back to Florida/Alabama.  I only had 2,000ish miles to drive with five kids and one overstuffed van.  Still, it was a relief to drive away!  Little did I know that the next morning would include discovering that Katie's fever of the previous day was due to hand, foot, & mouth & Jake would begin his day cluthing his stomach & throwing up on his favorite, beloved Transformers blanket.  And, he would proceed to repeat the process numerous times throughout the day.  And no, he would not throw up into the grocery bags I always keep in the van for such purposes. I still went to the Four Corners, because I'd promised the kids we would, & at that point, he'd only thrown up twice. The kind lady who offered to take our picture for us never did manage to get a shot with all 6 of us in it at the same time. ;)  I bribed Jake & Genna to get them to pee in the pit toilets, but in the end, I settled for getting Jake to pee in the trash can.  Oh well... And, as soon as we took off again, Katie pooped. Once again, I pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere to take care of her. I was feeling pretty good because I had managed to maintain my sense of humor. That ended around Farmington, however, when I pulled into McDonald's to try to get some Sprite for Jake as he was still throwing up.  Wouldn't you know, they were out of Sprite!  I called Steve in tears & told him I couldn't go on. Do you think he was in agreement??  Not a chance!

Steve insisted that I could in fact make it to Bernadillo, New Mexico, and he told me he'd already talked to the front desk person at the hotel & they were cool with 5 kids in one room. Upon arrival, not so much, buuuuutttt, after the day I had, I wasn't exactly in the mood to play pushover, so the front desk guy acquiesced. ;) After venturing out for food to bring back because those of us that could eat were famished, I collapsed into bed with a still feverish Jake and a just fine Katie, after setting Genna up on the floor with a nice, comfy pallet made from the hotel bed comforter. Somewhere in middle of the night, I heard/saw Genna walking aimlessly around the room insisting that somehow she poured water all over her panties!  Seriously??!!? Recycled water, maybe...sure enough, somehow, after months of not wetting the bed, she did, & in grand fashion.  Grateful I had put the comforter on the floor, I threw it on the bathroom floor & sent her back to bed somewhat scantily clad & attempted to catch some rest once more.

Thankfully, Jake awoke the next morning, feverfree and with a bit of an appetite. We made it all the way to Flower Mound to stay with the Gordons. We may have been just a *wee* bit travel-weary, but we made it.  And we were delighted to hang out with good friends & family that were thankfully willing to risk our potentially yucky germs (fortunately, everyone was well again...& stayed that way) and rest up for our final leg of the journey to be reunited as a family!

After resting up & making memories with friends & family (check out the next post on our time in the Dallas area), we drove the final 600+ miles from Plano, Texas to Robertsdale, Alabama. It was a long day...and Katie was oh-so-done by the end, but we made it uneventfully (unless you count the explosion that Steve discovered when he extricated a rather distraught Katie from her seat upon arrival)! good to be together again!

Playing Barbies in the backyard shortly before the end.
Wheeler Farm with the Valdez's