Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sweet Summertime

On Jer's side of the family there are eight kiddos under the age of 7. With the exception of the age of 5, we have one at every stair step. So needless to say, our time together is not often photographed. The odds are just plain against us. However, a few weeks ago, I brought our blow up pool over to Mimi and Pops and the kids had an absolute blast playing in the water and soaking everyone {and everything} with the hose. It was a lovely afternoon that ended with naps for the littles and a popcorn and fruit picnic for the bigs in the shadiest part of the yard. Sweet summertime.











Monday, June 23, 2014

The Sloan's Storm California, Pt. II

The next leg of our trip had us driving to Sequoia National Forrest for a little camping and to see The General, of course! But not before the long, long, loooooong stretch of highway through the Mojave Desert. It was bad people. The RV was beyond hot. I was road sick from standing and walking so much while we were driving. The kids were beside themselves with the fact that we had been driving for 15 hours. It was a poor showing on all of our parts and about the only "good" I can say about this day is that we didn't breakdown, overheat, or blow a tire. All I kept asking Jer was HOW in the world did early settlers cross this desert?! Can you even try to imagine what crossing this stretch of land in a covered wagon with your family would have been like?! Unimaginable, in our opinion. I felt like it was torture going 65 with air conditioning, all the while sipping on a coke from In-N-Out!
Which brings me to my next modern day convenience. The iPad. It saved our sanity more than once this time around. Here are the kiddos circled around Despicable Me while the last minutes of daylight dwindle. Not pictured: Two parents furiously chugging coffee and searching every mind-reserve to come up with things to talk about to keep each other awake. I think we still had 4 more hours of driving to do that night. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
After a four star sleep in Barstow {not!} we hit the road again bright and early with the anticipation of seeing giant redwoods. The excitement proved to be too much for some of the rookies on board.  I can't even remember the last time I held this boy until he fell asleep. Maybe 2010?! Times have changed. This kid is HEAVY! Here is us; him asleep and dreaming of Legos, me silently longing for my white cheddar popcorn stored waaaaaaaaay out of reach.
Finally, around hour twenty-something the scenery began to change. Fruit stands started popping up all over the place and there were orange groves for miles and miles! Our six pack even managed a road side stop for some peaches, strawberries and cherries. It was Jer's attempt at a morale boost. Seriously, the drive time was threatening to do us all in!
Meanwhile, back in the RV for the last bit of our haul, I pulled out every trick in the book to keep the kids busy. Books, coloring, and Play-doh. I absolutely loved Abe and Ben's creations! 
Abe's duck
Ben's frog

At last we arrived at our campground. Sadly, these are the *only* two pictures I have of our stay. They were taken while we were waiting for our food at a little restaurant beside the river.

Long story short, we drove up to the Sequoia park entry only to be turned away because our RV was too long. Ten feet too long, to be exact. To make matters worse, the nearest entry our RV would be able to access was hours away and the nearest rental car shop was closed, as well. We looked into guided tours-closed for out of season. We looked into hiking it-out of the question. We even asked a college student if we could rent her Honda Civic (HA!) for the day. Three guesses what her answer was! As you can imagine, it was disheartening to have come all that way only to have no way to actually make it in to the park. There were tears and not from the kids or Jeremy. However, the Lord took such good care of us, giving us a much needed night of rest and some down time in such a beautiful place. It was a gift we didn't even know we needed. As an added bonus, just a few hours in to our stay, our boys met up with a pack of kids who were inner tubing down the river. After some good ol' fashion rock climbing and jumping off into the swimming hole, they all became the greatest of friends and we could hardly keep track of them after that. As for Jer and I, well, we made friends too. After someone's little girl roasted a dead rat over our neighbor's campfire (true story!), the sweet couple from San Diego was more than eager to combine firepits, talk about life and kids, and manage a s'more or two, as well. 
 
It still makes me smile thinking back on how filthy our kids were at the end of the night. Scooters, swimming, tad pole catching, running barefoot through the campground, bug spray, s'mores. You get the picture. But the smiles on their faces? Best ever. Obviously it was a moment meant for capturing right there in the minute and no where else. But picture it. Clanky air conditioning running. Clothes reeking of campfire smoke. Kids laid out on any soft spot to be found. Feet and faces dirty and the feeling that vacation is just starting to unfurl. Pure bliss. It's probably best that we didn't get in to that national park after all. Those redwood giants would have paled in comparison to what I saw that night.

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Sloan's Storm California

Not gonna lie. It is a little hard to believe that just a little over a week ago, we were sitting on the beach in Cali trying to figure out the hardest decision of our day...where to eat dinner. And yet tonight I sit on the couch in my living room wondering who's gonna do all this laundry and when (oh when!) we're finally gonna get the RV unpacked. As if we weren't crazy enough the first time, Jer and I decided yet again to pack up the kids and the coffee pot and this time head west. This go-round found us RV living for sixteen days all along the Pacific Coast. We went as north as San Francisco and as south as San Diego and we did it all in approximately 400 square feet and with a small fortune in gas money. Ride along with us? 
Home, sweet home
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I'm not entirely sure what had us wanting to take our kids to see the Pacific coast but Jer and I sat down in the fall and started planning out just what all California might hold for our family. Mountains, beaches, touristy things, seafood, warm weather, and some dear family were just a few of the things that beckoned us. We decided on May, hoping to miss the crowds and to round out our homeschool year with a little of what we call in these parts, "school of life." We left on a Friday morning with our cabinets full of snacks, an arsenal of clean underwear, and a wee-bit anxious momma who was not quite sure she had remembered to pack it all.

Our first stop found us in Williams, Arizona. Even though Jeremy and I have lived well within a day's drive of the Grand Canyon all of our lives, neither of us have never been there. A shame? We thought so. So we made the slight detour and decided to find out what we've been missing all these years. Finally pulling in mid-afternoon, we swam our children at the RV park until their bellies rumbled with hunger and pool water. Then we walked them until we arrived at the most glorious BBQ honky-tonk joint I have ever seen in my whole life. It was on the old Route 66 and it had stuffed and mounted animals, pool tables and a juke box. It had wooden floors and a waitress who called you darlin'. But beyond that, it had a hamburger topped with pulled pork,  horseradish cole-slaw, AND FRENCH FRIES. It was entirely over indulgent and it was DI-VINE. And one of us {not me} might have even made ours a double. Woof! We spent the remainder of our evening stuffing ourselves and forgetting about the day's fits and hot drive and then miraculously, everyone slept. In.their.own.beds. Glory, hallelujah!
Saturday morning is when we actually made it to the park. Between the heat and the crowds, we figured early and rested was our best shot at walking the rim. Can I just confess that I was a BASKET CASE? Like in the sweating hands, stomach in knots, hot mess sort of way. The boys were psyched and I was convinced their enthusiasm would lend to a long, long, looooooong fall complete with dramatic mother-esque screaming. Obviously, after the fact, none were lost to the Canyon but taking four little people hiking along the Canyon rim with NO RAILING ranks up there with my list of things I am now glad are over. As for actually seeing the GC, though? Beautiful. And oddly fake looking. It's weird. You can tell that what you see immediately in front of you is real but the rocks in the back sort of just look like someone hung a backdrop with a picture screen printed on it.