Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fun In the Sun

After our busy day at the science center we needed a slower day so we took the kids to the park and let them run and run and run! I'm not sure who needed the slower day, the kids or the parents? Friday is pizza and movie night and we just can't leave that tradition behind no matter where we are! When we were at the park today we overheard a mom tell her twin sons, "Remember today is Friday, so tonight is pizza night." Ann Marie and I laughed and said that we aren't the only ones that have Friday night pizza and movie! So our movie choice for the evening was Herbie the Love Bug. I don't think any of the kids had seen the movie before so there was plenty of laughter to go around for the evening!

We always need a slow day in between the busy days and that is what Saturday turned out to be...a busy one! This morning we packed up our motorhome to head out to the heart of Phoenix to visit with Ron and Joanne (Joe's dad and wife) for the afternoon. The kids had a great time running around their beautiful yard in the warm sun...riding on the scooters, taking turns getting rides on the motorcycle, picking grapefruit from their tree, and picking up pecans that had fallen to the ground and snacking on a few. We also got to enjoy a picnic lunch in their fun to have a picnic in January on a warm, sunny day!!
It is so much fun to be able to give our kids the opportunity to experience something new, and something so simple as picking grapefruit off of a tree in a backyard! I know doesn't seem like much, but the kids sure had a lot of fun and got to experience something that they don't ever get to do at home in Alaska.
Then after our afternoon picnic and fun in the sun we headed over to Gilbert to see the Crosses (Theresa's parents). They treated us to an evening of fine dining and music at the Organ Stop Pizza. What a fun place to eat pizza and listen to one man play the largest theater organ in the world! Seems like we are always having a new experience just around every corner! After dinner we were then treated to ice cream cones at Baskin Robbins with more choices for ice cream flavors than my kids had ever seen!

We are staying the night here with Bill and Sandi and will be going to church with them in the morning, lunch with them and their son Joe and Jenni with their five kids, then we will be taking off down the road towards San Diego.

Arizona Science Center

The Arizona Science Center was our place to explore on Thursday! There was something for everyone of all ages so we all got to enjoy the day. We arrived at 10am and didn't leave until 4pm...we all had tired feet! The Arizona Science Center is a great place for hands-on learning from construction, how the body works, physics, music, the sun, and so much more! We also got to see an IMAX movie on coral reefs and how useful they are for marine life. The kids were quite impressed with the huge screen! I would say as a homeschool teacher that I never could have taught that much science in a day! That's a place you could go back to and discover something new everytime!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Catchin' Up

Well, let's see it's Friday and I'm long overdue for a post to my blog! Let's see if I can fill you in on the things we have been doing since our adventure to the Grand Canyon. On Tuesday Uncle Jim took Steve, Ethan, Tyler, and Adams back out to the camp to do some more pheasant hunting. Steve and Ethan had a great time getting six birds between the two of them! Tyler and Adams were having some fun of their own! Adams is always wanting to be a cowboy whenever he gets the chance!!

While the boys were off chasing birds, the girls were wandering around the mall in Prescott. We were looking for just a few things and then headed back to the house. It had warmed up a bit today so when we returned to the house all of our boys were in the yard with shirts off! You could definitely tell those are some Alaskan hits 50 degrees and it just feels hot!! They were all busy washing the motor home before we hit the road again tomorrow. The rest of the day was spent gathering up our things and putting stuff away again in themotor home. And then we all had to go sit one more time in the hot tub...our family of eight kind of fills up that hot tub!

Wednesday we finished gathering our things and doing those last loads of laundry. We said our goodbyes to Uncle Jim and Aunt Joan after lunch and then we headed down the road. Our destination was Anthem, Arizona, only about an hours drive from Prescott which is where we were staying. We met up with the Germain's in Anthem at a kids park and all of our kids were so excited to see each other after five weeks! Adams and lil' Tyler were hand in hand as we walked to the park...if only they would stay that sweet to each other all the time! The kids got to play, climb, run and chase for several hours until they were all tired out, I think, although we never seem to fully wear them out! Then we headed to Jen's brothers house to spend a couple days until we head out on Sunday for San Diego.

Our first several weeks in both California and Arizona have been very cold, but by Tues
day things started warming up and we are thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warmth now. Last Sunday we woke to snow covering the ground at Uncle Jim and Aunt Joan's house...for some reason snow in Arizona just doesn't seem right! Thankfully we haven't had any frozen pipes in the motor home because we have had some very cold nights these last two weeks. Our first night in Prescott, AZ it got down to 5 degrees, but we stayed cozy and warm in our motor home! We are certainly looking forward to the warmer weather!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Grand Canyon Railroad

What a surprise day this turned out to be and ALOT of fun!! We got up early to head out for our day to see the Grand Canyon...we needed to be in Williams by 9am to check in for our train ride on the Grand Canyon Railroad. At 9:45 our adventure began with an old Wild West Shootout that got everyone shot except for the Marshall! From there we boarded the train and found our seats not realizing what an experience we were about to have. You see this train ride was more than just a way to get to the Grand Canyon, this was to be an experience we would not forget! We were served by a wonderful hostess that gave us lots of history and funny little tidbits of information along the way...we were entertained by a guitar player who sang songs from the old west and on the return trip a violin player serenaded us with his music and funny joking (notice the picture of Ann Marie playing the violin!)...we knew we were safe because the Marshall made several passes through our car visiting with all the passengers...but then the train got held up by those mean train robbers that we thought got shot in the shootout in Williams! It was certainly a day full of laughter and a fun experience aboard the Grand Canyon Railroad. The kids all had a great time going on their first train ride and getting to experience what it might have been like in the Old West!

Of course our reason for taking the train ride was to get to see the Grand Canyon...a breath takin
g sight to behold! It is so difficult to really be able to understand the magnetude of what you are looking at when you first gaze out across that wide expanse. Depth perception is totally lost when you look out across the Grand Canyon that averages 10 miles across and 1 mile deep. The shadows that play across the red sides of the canyon can make you think that those canyon walls are much closer than they really are! But I think the majesty of the Grand Canyon is a little lost when you are a parent of six children and you are wanting to hold on tight to them so that they don't get too close to the edge, especially when you have two 4 year olds who fear nothing! Now don't let me frighten you, we didn't have any scary moments, but we were certainly holding on to those little hands tight!! We spent about three hours at the rim of the Grand Canyon...hiking the Rim Trail, looking in gift shops, and eating lunch. Then we got back on the train for our two hour return trip to Williams. We got home 12 hours after we had left at 7:30pm with some very tired children who had many exciting stories to tell.

Monday, January 22, 2007

More of beautiful Arizona

Well, we set out on a cold and windy Friday morning to Jerome and Sedona, not sure if we would be able to get out and do much because of the snow and wind. Amazingly the snow stopped and the sun came out, and it turned out to be a beautiful day! Jerome is an old copper mining town, a mile high up in the mountains of Arizona. In its boom days Jerome once had a population of 15,000, but then it became the largest ghost town. The population now is around 400 and is probably mostly for tourist
s. The kids had a great time looking at old cars and ghost town buildings. We also visited the museum that once was the large home of the copper mine owner. We have been amazed at how much the kids enjoy all the different things we are seeing and doing even when we aren't sure it is something that will interest them! Our next stop up in the mountains was Sedona to see the red rocks. We were running out of time in our day so we didn't get to spend alot of time there, but we hiked around on the trails at the Red Rock State Park. The pictures here are from the hike in Sedona...such a beautiful area with different scenery than we are used to looking at!

Then on Saturday Aunt Joan took us girls shopping and out to lunch. The girls had so much fun shopping and it was fun to spend the time with just them! Uncle Jim took the boys to a model train display which the boys thoroughly enjoyed and then out to lunch as w
ell. A relaxing dip in their hot tub ended the day well! The kids have all enjoyed getting turns in the hot tub, but we have had to convince them it is supposed to be relaxing and not a swimming pool!!

Sunday was a day of rest with church in the morning and naps in the afternoon for the younger ones. We have had a busy week and they needed the extra rest. Uncle Jim and Steve took the boys back up to the camp to do some clay shooting and the girls go
t their turn in the hot tub. It was so nice to have a relaxing day so that we could be rested and ready to go again this week! We have really enjoyed our time with Uncle Jim and Aunt Joan and getting to see the sights of Arizona with them!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Montezuma Castle & Well

On one of our many educational adventures we went to see these Indian ruins. Pictured at left is Montezuma was built into the side of a rock cliff inside of a cave that was already there. They speculate that at least 35 people lived in this home at one time and had to use ladders to come and go from their home. We understand that Arizona has many Indian artifacts and it has been interesting to see some of this history. The kids are always quite fascinated with whatever we go to see and they are learning so much!

Pictured below is Montezuma Well with more of the Indian houses built into the side of the cliffs. It is a natural limestone sinkhole with over 1 million gallons of water a day that flow continuously through the well. With Indian houses lining the inside of the well above the water line they must have used this well for a constant source of water. It is so fun to be learning more of our nations history and in
a more personal and hands-on experience! Sometimes I think being a home school mom that I am learning more than our kids!!

Visiting Family

I forgot to add this picture in of our time in California...we got to spend a little time with Great Oma (Al's mother). Here we all are with her at Bethany Home.

The Great Hunter

...has a story to tell...his first shots with a shotgun downed the birds! Not too bad for his first try!! Uncle Jim took Steve, Ethan, Tyler and Kailee pheasant hunting at a camp up in the mountains in Arizona. Actually we all went and got to watch them hike around a field following Cody the dog as he hunted the birds out of the grass. These were not wild birds, but are released for hunts like this for kids. At this camp they also have fishing, horse back riding, and lots of other activities. We attempted the fishing as well, but it was a little too cold! Ethan was a great hunter for his first bird hunt! We cooked the pheasant for dinner last night and it was good eating!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Adams & Alyssum...

...make quite the pair! They are always having so much fun together, but we are never quite sure what they are up to all the time! Just thought I would share a few fun pictures of them recently...
...pondering the fishing prospects for the day, or planning something else...

...sneaking up on an unsuspecting, napping Opa!

Could it be...a quiet moment with Oma, or maybe just contemplating his next sneaky plan! Life would be so dull without our fun loving pair...Alyssum and Adams!

Friday, January 19, 2007

On to Arizona

On Monday we took to the road and headed for Prescott Valley, Arizona to see Uncle Jim and Aunt Joan. This was our first actual road trip in our motor now are we officially RVing?! The kids were great travelers as we spent the whole day on the road with just two stops for lunch and dinner. To make the time pass we pulled out the school books and got a few lessons done in math, language and spelling. I was surprised that we were all able to have our noses in the books without anyone getting even a little car sick (I usually have a very hard time reading in the car and not getting car sick)! We all had fun seeing the many different big trucks and fellow RVers that were on the road with us! We arrived in Needles, California, a town on the border between California and Arizona, about 8:30pm and found an RV park to stay at for the night. It was incredibly windy in Needles and on the road there; Steve had a hard time with the wind trying to push the motor home around on the road. We all slept well in our cozy little home and were on the road not too early the next morning. It was interesting to see the scenery change as we drove out of California and into the Mojave Dessert in Arizona. We arrived at Uncle Jim and Aunt Joan's late afternoon on Tuesday...just in time to have More for dinner(a special Uncle Jim casserole dish)!

Moaning Cavern

Have you ever been 165 feet below the surface of the earth? If not, then maybe you should go see the Moaning will be an experience you will not forget! It begins with a narrow staircase that descends the first 65 feet then opens up into a large chamber that is big enough to hold the entire Statue of Liberty! One cannot have a fear of heights as you gaze over the edge of the huge chamber. Then you descend another 100 feet inside a steel spiral staircase...once you reach the bottom you have gone down 243 stairs and now you have to climb back up! Our whole family got to enjoy this adventure, even Adams and Alyssum got to climb all those stairs(I think mom and dad were more afraid for them than they were)! Ann Marie, Ethan, and Tyler marveled at the amazing formations of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling and the stalagmites coming up from the floor or sides of the walls. The name of the cavern comes from the sound that is generated by drops of water that fall into bottle shaped holes at the bottom of a formation. On our tour Ethan was the first one to hear these moaning sounds coming from the cavern! Oh, the adventures we are having on this trip!!

I wanna be a cowboy!

Adams wants to be a cowboy and is just enthralled with anyone with a cowboy hat! He also loves seeing all the horses here in California! We visited a small cowboy museum that had a room full of hands-on items for the kids to be able to dress up as cowboys and then sit on a saddle. Adams thought he was in cowboy heaven!

We also spent part of one day on Uncle John's ranch near the Don Pedro dam. Uncle John and his partner Dale brought their horses and a four-wheeler with a trailer for all of us to be able to ride the ranch with them. Steve drove the four-wheeler and Uncle John gave the kids rides on his horse. Adams loved getting a
ride on the horse and didn't want to get off. The back woods of California is just beautiful...the rolling hills, shale rock, shrub bushes, and the Black Angus cattle peering at us behind the trees. The poor cattle didn't seem to know what to do with the noisy group of people that just invaded their quiet territory. Uncle John and Dale explained to us that they check on the cattle and the fences weekly looking for broken places in the fence and for new calves this time of year.

What a special treat to ride along with Cowboy Uncle John for a day least that's what Adams would call him!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Our Big Trip

Our big trip has begun! We flew out from Anchorage on Sunday, January 7 on the late night flight...the kids did great on both flights from Anchorage to Seattle and then on to Sacramento. I'm sure we looked like quite the sight as Steve and I with our six kids were all asleep at our gate in the Seattle airport waiting for our connecting flight. The kids woke easily and got on the next plane without even a complaint. They were just all so excited to be going on this big trip! We arrived in Sacramento at 8:30am on Monday, January 8...Happy Birthday Kailee, she thought it was so much fun to be celebrating her 6th birthday as we were flying to California! Al and Marcia are along with us for the first week and a half as we visit with family in California, and they met up with us in Seattle. We were met at the airport with our motor home rental and then took off for the Modesto area to go to Aunt Janet's house where we will be staying all week.

We have all enjoyed seeing the sights of this farming area...cows, horses, rows and rows of trees such as almonds, walnuts, and grape vines. The smell of the dairy farms took a little bit of getting used to. The first day the kids thought it smelled kind of stinky, but they have gotten used to it now!

We spent one day driving to the mountains to see the Big Trees at the Calavares Big Trees State Part. We all marveled at the size of the Sierra Redwoods, the largest one in the North Grove having a base diameter of 30 feet, and at 48 feet above the ground the tree is still 16 feet in diameter! The Sierra Redwoods are just huge giants and such an amazing creation of the Creator!

The next day we visited a dairy farm where they milk 570 cows twice each day! Not coming from a farming community the kids all marveled at the milking process as well as just enjoying seeing the animals and being on a farm. Later in the day we also visited a cheese factory so the kids got to see what is done with some of the milk after it leaves the dairy. And then today we also saw another way that milk is used...we toured the Hershey factory and saw all the yummy chocolate bars they make, and all those melt in your mouth chocolate chips for cookies!

Yesterday we also got to visit a small Alpaca ranch...the kids had so much fun feeding the alpacas, especially bottle feeding the 3 1/2 month old orphan. They yarn that comes from the alpacas is so soft and makes such beautiful scarves. They have a website if you would like to see

Thanks for praying for our safe travels. We have been so enjoying showing our kids another part of the United States! This is also where Steve lived until he was 8 when his family moved to Alaska, so he has had fun sharing memories from his childhood with his kids.

Our motor home has worked out great so will be the biggest test when we go on the road next week! It has been cold at night but we have been staying warm and cozy in our little home. It is so nice to have a place that feels like our home for these six weeks. We we looked at our eight suitcases and the storage space available in the motor home we didn't really think it would all fit, but you wouldn't believe how much storage space there really is...we were able to put it all away with plenty of room to spare!

With love from the travelers,
Steve, Stacey, Ann Marie, Ethan, Tyler, Kailee, Alyssum, and Adams