Jolly Holiday

Not this past weekend, but the one before, our family got to take a weekend trip that didn't involve a funeral. What it did involve was only a three-hour drive to get there, and a hotel with a pool! It was wonderful.

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We all had a good time in Fort St. John, B.C., especially since fall is the loveliest time of year along the Peace River Valley. The colours were slightly more advanced there than here, and on the Sunday, we had to take a drive out to a lookout to take in a new view of the Peace River before heading home.

Another kind tourist, seeing my frustrations trying to work the remote shutter on my fancy-pantsy new camera, kindly offered to take a family photo of us. Other than Levi being sick, grumpy, and needing a nap, it turned out pretty good, I thought. (At least we're all looking at the camera, for a change.)

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Thank you, Fort St. John, for a great end to the summer.

Any Season is Knitting Season

I am in adamant denial that summer is only two weeks from ending. Even while typing that, I blindfolded myself and thought about rainbows and sunflowers so I could trick myself that it was just a "pretend."

This summer has been full, and busy, and not, all at the same time. July was travelling and visiting and getting sick, a cold that worked its way through our entire household and didn't move on for about a month. What is it about summer colds that makes them hang on so long, anyway?

Combine that with the heat wave that we endured for most of the month, and on into the first part of August, making our li'l Tin Can o' Dreams a mere 30C+ by evening every night, and most of the summer "to-do" list didn't really start getting tackled until the August long weekend (first weekend, for those not Canadian-holiday-aware). So, what did we do while we were coughing, and sweltering, through July?

First two weeks: The boys had swimming lessons from Monday to Thursday in the morning. Conveniently (for me), they were in a consecutive two-hour stretch each morning. Guess what? That meant two hours of nearly-uninterrupted KNITTING TIME!! I also met a new friend, another avid knitter named Lori. She was making a tank top. I was making a cotton sundress. (More about that in a minute.)

Next two weeks: Veg. Recover. Read. KNIT. I read several books this summer. The whole 12-month "Conspiracy 365" series (preview for Jude, ostensibly. Not bad--a little "mile-a-minute" for my tastes, but good adventure for teen and pre-teen reading.) After that, I read "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" by Gregory McGuire. This is the novel that the musical "Wicked" is based on. While I enjoyed the skill of the writing, and seeing how the source material was changed to create the musical, I was disappointed in the vulgarity of the book--about an "R" rating. Oh, well. Since then, I have been working through "Which Lie Did I Tell?", William Goldman's sequel to "Adventures in the Screen Trade" about his life as a screenwriter.

The skirt of the sundress was very boring. Since I was reading "Wicked" on the Kindle app on my phone and PC, and therefore didn't need hands to hold a book open (and only a light touch to "turn pages"), I also got a great deal of knitting done while I was reading. This was a new trick for me, but I found it worked well to keep my mind occupied while my fingers were doing the same repetitive stitch for hours.

Cotton Cool Sundress 2

Here's the story of the sundress: I actually started it early last summer (2011), very excited about the slight challenge the lace bodice would supply, and the prospect of making myself a summer garment. (I don't usually knit summer dresses, I sew them.) Last summer, as you all know, was more than a little busy with moving, renovating, and the like. So, I didn't really put any speed on with the project until the week between Christmas and New Year's, when Jason was off of work and we were watching movies every night, with not much to do all day but knit, either.

Cotton Cool Sundress lace detail

By the end of the week, the skirt was nearly finished when I realized I had made two fatal errors: my gauge had loosened considerably from when I started the project, meaning the fit would be off, and I had also cast on the wrong number of stitches in the first place.

I was so grouchy about it, I stuffed the whole thing into my knitting bag and didn't touch it again for months. This spring, I was finally over my "irk" enough to rip it out and prepare to re-knit.

I (re)cast this on the third weekend of June, and finished it by the end of July. I am SO glad it is done, it fits (maybe a touch loose, but nothing major), and I can move onto something else.

Cotton Cool Sundress

Like this sweater for Jason, for which I just ordered the yarn.


The Days are Just Packed!

We started summer almost a week early in our house, having Jude skip the last few days of school (mostly "party time" anyway) so we could spend eight days in central Alberta, visiting family for the most part. The holiday was a nice mix of "busy" and "relaxed", with plenty of visiting throughout.

My brother even came up from Seattle area for the second weekend, so although most of the visiting was with Jason's side of the family this time around, I got to see my immediate family lots (since we were bunking at my dad's.)

The reason we chose that week, instead of the following one, is because my boys all had swimming lessons back here in P.R., starting at 10 a.m. on July 2. (Weird, considering it was a holiday here.) We made it in time, although Jude missed his first day, as he and my niece Kayla (who had come home with us for the week to visit) both woke up on Monday with a horrible cold. That cold has since made the rounds through everyone in our family except Jason, with me being the most recent victim. I have been feeling the effects all this week, and have now got it reduced to the slightly-sore-throat-and-lots-of-nose-blowing stage.

Thursday (the 5th), the last day of swim lessons for the week, we split from Peace River as soon as they were done to head back down to Red Deer, dropping Kayla off on the way out to my dad's again. Jason didn't come along this time, as he really didn't want to go on a 20-hour-in-4-day drive, no matter how beautiful the scenery. Our destination was Emerald Lake, B.C., by Friday afternoon, where my cousin Stephanie was getting married at 3:30.

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Emerald Lake, B.C.

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Walking down the "aisle" at Emerald Lake Lodge.

We made it with time to spare, and I got to visit with members of my mother's side of the family that I haven't seen in ages, including my cousin Michael and his family. Despite the fact that he has lived far away from me for most of our lives, I have always maintained a pretty good friendship with him (probably helps that he is my only cousin that is my age). His wife is a complete sweetheart whom I befriended as soon as I met her at their wedding reception years ago, and whom I hadn't seen since. (I always wish we lived closer together anytime I get to spend any time at all with those two.) And meeting their daughter Juanita for the first time was a joy.

The next day, my boys went kayaking for the first time EVER in some boats brought up by friends of the family and generously shared with all the guests present. The three of them went out together in a larger boat at first, coached along by Mr. Dalk in the basics of rowing, etc. They went a long ways across the lake before coming back.

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Our three big boys on their maiden voyage!

Then Jude and Noah each took solo voyages, a watchful adult in a kayak close by. Unfortunately, when Noah went out, all the smaller lifejackets were in use, so he was figuratively "swimming" in his. Fortunately, the boats were surprisingly stable, and he managed it like a pro! I was so proud of my boys. (And a little proud of myself for not going all maternal and not letting them go.)

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Jude on his solo trip.

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Noah going solo!

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Three crazy, amazing boys!

We had intended to take the short hike from Lake Louise up to Moraine Lake on our way up toward Jasper to camp for the night, but while the boating was going on, the aforementioned nasty cold bug hit Noah--he was suddenly in no condition for hiking. (This one comes on hard and fast.) So, my mom (who was coming up to Peace River from the wedding with us, having just flown up from Arkansas and driving out with her parents), the boys, and I packed up and hit Hwy 93 north. We did make a quick stop for the 10-minute hike to Peyto Lake. Since this was my boys' first time in the B.C. Rockies, I wanted them to experience it as much as was still possible with an "invalid" in the group. Unfortunately, Mom and I had to take turns carrying Noah the whole way up and back. It was a sacrifice we were willing to make to ensure the other two would get to enjoy a close-up with some of the amazing beauty we were driving through instead of just barely acknowledging it through the window.

The first night in the mountains (by Emerald Lake), I set up the tent with just the boys. It's an eight-man "mansion", as far as tents go, and although fairly easy to set up, I was quite glad that Mom was there the second night to help. Since this was my first camping trip of any kind for four years, I was also glad the the only thing I really seemed to forget was a flipper for the French Toast. In fact, being "out of practice" actually meant that I bought enough food to feed an army, so there was no lack of anything except ice to keep it cold.

On Sunday morning, we debated on our day's activities as we broke camp. We had to be back in P.R. by that night, as the boys still had swimming lessons the next morning. Noah was not doing a lot better (having experienced the bug myself now, I know why), so we thought that we would try to make one short stop at a place called "Jasper House" on our map, and that was it, disappointed to put off the planned stop at Miette Hot Springs for another time. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the sign that would have taken us off the highway to whatever that attraction may have been, so decided to take our own "pit stop" at Fiddle River, just before leaving the National Park. We pulled over beside the highway and hiked across the scrub and rocks to dabble our toes in the glacier-fed stream (COLD!!). Jude was brave enough to stand in it up to his ankles. It sure felt good on the sunburn I had collected the day before, and on that 30 degree day it was a wonderful refresher.

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The rest of the trip home was uneventful, which is good... Well, except for the yearling bear that ran across the highway right in front of us south of Fox Creek. We grazed his backside--but Mom said he still trotted off using all fours, so I'm hoping that that fact, and the lack of damage to my bumper, means that he would be fine--and much more wary of roads and vehicles! (Okay, I guess hitting a bear is kind of a big event!)

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This fellow was having a snack beside main street in Jasper as we were leaving. This is right through our van's side window!

The boys finished their swimming lessons yesterday, with Jude and Noah both passing to Levels 5 and 4 respectively. Jabin gets to repeat Level 1 for the third time, but not for lack of effort. Considering he actually had a fear of putting his head underwater at the beginning of this school year, he's doing alright. Once he lets himself relax a little more, he'll just take off with the swimming. For now, he's enjoying the journey.

Which is exactly what I've been doing for the last three weeks. I have to admit, though, I am really looking forward to next week--no schedule, and hopefully the heat wave we've been experiencing this week will have slackened. (I'd only wish for a little slackening--'tis hard to keep the tin can I live in below 30 degrees when it is 35C+ outside. However, summer is usually so short here, I don't want to complain about the heat too much!)

What a great start to summer.

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Fiddle River, AB

Scenes from a Holiday

I have been away from home for nearly two weeks now, kids in tow, van full of our portable school, watching the transition from winter to spring from the perspective of various farmyards not our own.

The plan was to come and help Candace out around the house as soon as she called to say she was in labour with her fourth baby, and stay for two weeks. As plans progressed, it turned out my mother was supposed to be in Red Deer area around the same time for a few days, and we were looking forward to a brief rendezvous. However, with Candace being increasingly overdue, and Mom's schedule moving up a week, I ended up coming down several days before Candace had the baby to hang out with Mom at my uncle and aunt's near Lacombe. There we stayed until Hannah was born last Thursday--me recovering from a nasty cold (brought on by the late nights prepping for the trip) and the boys spending their non-school time playing UNO with my grandparents (who live in the same yard), snowmobiling with my uncle, playing with the animals, splashing in the mud, and reading through Uncle Darrell's copious stash of Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes comic books.

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In between the incessant rounds of snowmobiling that Jabin kept urging him to, Uncle Darrell joined them and the comic books on the couch.

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Come to think of it, that was one of the favourite activities for my brother and me at this particular uncle and aunt's when we were children.
I don't know if there could have been a much better place for me to "convalesce"--I can't remember the last time the boys were so quiet, and read so much, that many days in a row.

More updates on the trip to come...

Summer Getaway

It wasn't anything grand--just a weekend visiting the folks' at our home stomping grounds. But it was good. There was lots of driving, of course, but also lots of visiting, including all of both Jason's and my living grandparents. There was family gossip and tea and food and trampolines and Koda (yes, he came with us).

My Grandma's raspberries:


Thanks to a trustworthy neighbour, my chickens and garden were all in wonderful condition when I got home, too.

What a great weekend.

And the Rain came tumbling down... and turned into snow.

Well, this has got to be a record for "blog-rest" for me! It's been a busy month. Fortunately, right at the beginning of it, my mom split the cost of a new camera with me, so I can give you a quick pictorial overview.

At the beginning of the month, I took the boys and headed down to Sylvan, leaving Jason in charge of the chicks. The boys got to stay with my mother-in-law while I flew with my dad and brother to L.A. to see these two do this:

I enjoyed hanging out with many of my extended family, catching a few rays of California sun, along with some much-needed R&R.

When I got home, it was only a day later before I was to receive 55 new poultry (2 of them an adult breeding pair of Crevecouer chickens), without the space to put them anywhere! I had not managed to get my first chicken tractor done before leaving, but after three days of work, and some help, it was finally finished.

Jude and Jabin with Lotsa Babies!

So, my life has been filled with lots of work related to chickens, trying to shelter them, feed them, and keep them alive. My new babies were dropping like flies for a few days there, until I figured out that I had too much salt in their feed.

Anyhoo, despite being rather eventful on my end, this post about my month is going to be rather short.

I'm just thankful I got most of my garden in last Sunday, before this last week of rain--which turned into snow today. I really hope my oldest chicks (outside in the chicken tractor) survive this little "May blizzard" we are having.

I guess we'll see. I certainly don't have anywhere else to put them!

My favourite brother EVER!

New Family Tradition?

This weekend, our family went camping for the second time since having children. The first time was almost exactly a year ago, when we went for a whirlwind, 2-night trip to Writing-On-Stone Provincial park, a mere 18-hour drive from here. (However, it is only a 1/2-hour drive from the border, and the main purpose of the trip was to try and get our work visas for the U.S.)

This time, it took us less than an hour to get there. We were going to a hunting camp in the middle of the bush not too far north of here, owned by my Mom and Mike. And by "middle-of-the-bush," I mean the last five miles of the trip are off-road. On the way out there, Jabin rode in front of Mom on the (borrowed) quad. Jude and Noah rode in the back of Jason's truck with all the gear. They thought that was pretty cool.

Jason got stuck in a bog. The kids thought that was pretty cool, too. (Jason didn't.)
Well, except for the part about the mosquitoes trying to eat us alive while Jason was trying to dig the truck out.

Note to self: Don't go off-roading without a shovel anymore. Oh, and get new tires.

We were really stuck!

Fortunately, where we got stuck was only about a mile from camp, so we ferried everyone in on the quad, as well as the stuff, and got busy with the serious business of roasting weiners and marshmallows.

The next day, Jason's friend Brian came out and rescued the truck with his Jeep. Then he and his grandson stayed for yet more weenies and 'mallows.

Going camping at an established permanent camp is a little like going to the Camping Hilton. It could have been even moreso like that, had we started up the generator and had power, hot water (including a shower!) and a full kitchen. However, it was warm. We didn't know the particulars about getting the generator started. And it's kind of fun heating all your water and doing all your cooking over the campfire.

Signature Jabin-grin:

The main lodge. There is a full kitchen, dining area and sitting area on the first floor, and four beds in the loft. Noah is peeking out through the screen door. What is difficult to see in this photo are the scratch marks and scrapes on the right-hand side of the window frame, caused by bears. What's impossible to see are the muddy bear paw- and nose-prints on the window, made as it was trying to peer in. I cleaned those off on Saturday.

About a half-mile walk from the camp, up a cut-line, is a pond where the beavers have been very busy. All of the felled trees in this photo were their handiwork ("toothiwork?") There was one rather large tree laying there, stripped completely clean of it's bark. Pretty amazing that the little critters have that much skill, patience, and jaw strength.

On the way home, Jabin was a little tired of walking, so we took turns packing him.

These beaver-tooth marks are the only mars I could see on the stripped-clean log, and they were on the end, close to the water. It almost looks like they couldn't get a good enough grip to drag the thing away!

The boys hanging out and eating trail mix while waiting for Sunday morning breakfast. No, Noah is not intentionally flipping the bird!

One little serendipity I discovered this weekend: Eggs in pancakes are optional. I found this out, 'cause I forgot them.

One more thing: you can easily make your own (healthy!) pancake mix by pre-mixing the dry ingredients, then only bringing your eggs, milk, and oil. (Or, apparently, just the milk and oil!) Then you don't have to worry about those nasty e-mail chain letters warning about toxic reactions to the molds in packaged pancake mix! Since you can't soak your flour using a mix, though, it's probably best to limit consumption of this variety. However, it's a handy time-saver for a weekend trip!

In general, we all had a good time. However, the kids were a little bored for parts of it, and I think Jason was, too. I'm thinking it will be a good thing if we go out there on a regular basis--it can help train our kids to entertain themselves without the use of an electronic device! Yes, we will bring a soccer ball or a frisbee next time (Mommy wasn't thinking about that when she was packing--but at least I brought a deck of cards!). We are also thinking of doing some whittling crafts, etc. Now that we know what's out there, it will help us pack better for the next time out.

And I'm hoping that the "next time out" will be no more than a couple of weeks in the future! 'Cause to me, camping=family fun.

Now, if only I could convince Jason of that!

Un-Brief Again

Dad and I were enjoying our traditional Scrabble game on the Friday night--it was getting later, and we were definitely doing more talking than playing, but we had a lot to catch up on. Around 10:30, the front door slammed and there in the dark entrance stood a mysterious man in black. Well, until he spoke, anyway.

Jason had surprised me by driving down to Sylvan Lake to meet us! It is no exaggeration to say I flipped out, squealing across the distance from the table to the door. It was the best surprise, ever.

We spent the weekend hanging out as a family, doing the traditional Easter Sunday Eat-N-Dash between relatives' places, and then Jason had to leave to be back at work by Monday morning. The kids and I spent the rest of the week visiting the friends we could actually get ahold of (including Chris and Tegan K., who just had their first baby!) We stopped in on Thursday night at my friend-since-childhood Kristy's home in Edmonton, dealt with a flat tire before leaving the city on Friday, stopped in St. Albert to pick up my new seeds for my new garden at Hole's Greenhouse, and were in Peace River by bedtime! Whoo-ee, did I really cover that whole week in one paragraph?!

Unfortunately, we had managed to collect a couple of nasty souvenirs on the way--one was the cold my brother had, which was first contracted by Noah, and worked through the four of us until I finally got it. It was hitting me hard on that final stretch from Edmonton on Friday the 17th. Also, that night, all three of the boys threw up. It was exciting. Whatever strange virus they had was never violent--in fact, after the initial puking, they ate almost normally, had mostly-normal energy, and no fever. But they took turns for almost two weeks (Noah being the longest-hit) throwing up in the morning, hardly eating breakfast and having the runs, but then playing hard all day and eating fine the rest of the night. It was the weirdest thing. I have no idea where they got it from--it didn't hit me, or any of the kids we have been staying with for two weeks. My friend Robin said her kids were doing the same thing at the same time, but we didn't even see them until we had been up here a week! So, you folks that we stayed with along the way--do you have any ideas?

All right, I'm gonna wrap this up here. It's frustrating being so behind on my blog--I've had stuff to blog about the last couple of weeks, but wanted to finish this first, so the whole idea got skipped. Anyhoo, we have been staying with our friends the Gregorys. We keep thinking we are going to get to move over to Magnussons' (our semi-permanent residence for the next undefined "while") in "just a few days," but the basement-finishing is taking longer than we all thought. Jacob and Erin have been SO awesome, and our kids all get along really well, so we have been enjoying it here, not feeling like we are quite wearing out our welcome yet.

Spring has been finding it's way up to Peace River. We left it in the dust somewhere around Calgary, but although it's progress may have been slow, it was at least steady. I am getting antsy to get my garden started, but have not yet got all my materials together. Since I won't be "moving" tomorrow, perhaps I will work on rounding up dirt and wood and stuff to make my raised beds, instead.

I am also getting antsy to start doing school again. I have seven weeks of teaching left, and I don't want to be having to do it during the few short summer weeks that we actually get here. Unfortunately, although I was able to find my basic teaching supplies, I do not know where in the C-Can I buried the most important thing--my planning binder. I am hoping it will turn up once we are able to start taking stuff out of there and moving it to Magnussons', so I actually have "elbow room" to dig a little deeper amongst the boxes.

Although we are supposedly living with him (Jason came to stay with us at Gregorys' until we can all officially move together), we have still hardly seen Jason. He has been working late on the basement every night, sanding what has been mudded the day before. Last night, we actually got a family night as there was not much to do over there, so we went out to dinner and went swimming. That was lots of fun--the kids were in heaven!

Soccer also starts Monday, so we will be all kinds of busy this upcoming week. And in other news, Jacob has the first two seasons of "Heroes" here--we started watching it last Sunday night, and are already half-way through Season 1. It is SO. GOOD. And addicting. We should maybe have spent more hours sleeping and less hours wondering "what will happen next?" in the past week, but did I mention that it's SO. GOOD?

So, there you have it. The briefing is over, and this blog can resume regularly scheduled programming.

How have you been keeping, friends?

The Un-Brief

The problem with not posting for so long, when one has so much to write about, is that one doesn't know where to start.

Given the amount of content I have to cover, this briefing is going to be anything but.

We are safe and sound in Peace River, having arrived on Friday. Currently, we are staying with our friends the Gregorys, while Jason and Darryl work like Great White Dustmen to finish taping, mudding, sanding, and painting the Magnussons' basement. Hopefully we will be able to occupy it after this upcoming weekend. For now, we are still living out of a suitcase.

Here is the rundown of what happened on our holiday:

Days 1-4:
We drove for two days along I-40 (through north Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona), finally getting to spend two whole nights in the same place at Flagstaff, Arizona. Along the way, we drove through a nasty blizzard in New Mexico--the most snow we had seen all winter, up to that point. After passing a nasty--and most definitely fatal--accident scene involving an SUV and a semi truck, we had pretty much decided to stop at the next town, but before we got there we drove out of the storm and the roads dried up, so we kept going.

The day in Arizona was spent going up to the Grand Canyon. I have tons of great photos of that day, but I am borrowing a computer, so I may have to photo-blog them a little later. All I can say is, photos don't do it justice, anyway. If you ever get a chance to go there, do it. Nothing comes close to standing in the presence of such awesome terrestrial beauty. We also saw the IMAX film of the Grand Canyon, and that was really cool, too.

The day after we left Flagstaff, we arrived in California at my Uncle Jim and Aunty Julie's house. The last time I was there was in December of 2003--Jude was 13 months old, I was 31 weeks along with Noah, and it was the first year that the big forest fires had swept through southern California, nearly wiping out the mountaintop community my uncle and aunt call "home."

Days 5-8:
We had four wonderful days with them. Jim and Julie are almost like a second set of parents to me, and their daughter, Ashley, like my little sister. She came home from Bible College at Capernwray near London, England, on our second day there. Despite the jet lag, we had a great visit with her, as well. We didn't do anything really "touristy", except visiting the world's most amazing mini-golf course. We also took a wonderful tour of the Mission Inn, with even more great photo ops--which I will have to share with you later!

Days 9 & 10:
After California, it was north on I-5, Seattle-bound. The first night, we drove straight through to Dunsmuir, CA--a really long day, but we were hoping it would buy us enough time the next day to stop in at my uncle and aunt's in Oregon for a quick visit. It did, or at least, we made the time. The visit with Marv and Ruth Anne for supper put us into Seattle at around 1:30 a.m., and unfortunately we missed a lot of pretty scenery by driving through it at night. Oh, well. We didn't allow quite enough time for "rose-smelling" on this trip, apparently.

Days 11 & 12:
Despite my brother having a cold the weekend we were there, Logan was a wonderful host and tour-guide. He only lives about 10 blocks from downtown Seattle, and both the Saturday and the Sunday we walked down to Pike Place Market and enjoyed the sights. On the Saturday, we decided to visit the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair. That was really really cool, and really gave you a good feel for the landscape thereabouts. There was a bit of coastal haze that day, but we still got a decent view of the Sound.

On the way there, we passed a glass-making shop. They had a class in session when we stopped there, and they let us watch. The artist made an urn-like vase out of clear glass, with two handles on the edge. It was very cool to watch him shape it in the furnace and with a blow torch, and to cut soft glass with a pair of scissors! They had some truly stunning work on display by students, and available to purchase in the store.

We finished our outing by having a snack at what Logan thought might be the "original Starbucks." After placing our order, I asked the barista if it was, indeed, the birthplace of the coffee cult, and she said that no, they had only been open for three and a half weeks! We missed the original by a block and a half. So instead, we ate at the newest Starbucks in Seattle! The next day, we found the original, took a photo of the sign, walked in and saw that it was standing-room-only with Asian tourists; therefore, we decided to go home for supper.

On the Sunday, we ventured out again, this time to the Seattle Aquarium. A very kind lady in line with us at the Space Needle had given us a couple of ticket books they would not finish using, which gave us one adult and one child free admission to the Aquarium. Before we went in, we grabbed a snack from the World's Most Expensive Bakery on the wharf. (Just before this, we had been in a souvenir shop with cute little mugs that looked like they had been sliced in half vertically, bearing the slogan "Seattle was so expensive, I could only afford half a cup." After the bakery, I knew why!) I felt a little more justified in my $2.50 muffins and $1.79 cookies after we actually got down to eating them, though--the muffins were at least twice the normal size, and the cookies were 3-4 times the normal size. Oatmeal-raisin cookies were nearly elevated to "meal" status--it took us ten minutes to eat one! (One each. You got that, right?)

Sadly, there were many things left undone in Seattle. Logan had wanted to take me to the public library, where they have a really cool music room. We didn't see the zoo, and we didn't really eat in any of the restaurants there. Good to know that there is still stuff on the itinerary for next time!

Days 13 & 14:
We got away from Seattle in the early afternoon on Monday, which put us significantly behind schedule for our planned 10-hour drive to Mike's Montana ranch. Since going there would add roughly six hours to our round-trip, we ended up staying at a hotel that night, too, and meeting up with Mike at the border the next afternoon. Apparently, all the snow-birds were making a dash for home before Easter, because the line-up was about two hours long (for those familiar with the Coutts-Sweetgrass border crossing, they were to the top of the hill when you first come in view of the crossing).

The border was relatively painless--they accepted my lists of goods point-blank, without even opening up the shipping container, so that was a blessing. The only hassle came in that I didn't know that I was supposed to fax up paperwork to export my vehicle from the US at least 72 hours in advance. In fact, it hadn't even occurred to me to export it at all! But even in that, we were blessed, because although I had to go back through the U.S. side, then the Canadian side, and wait in line-ups several times, the U.S. Border Guard just processed my export paperwork without complaint, and we eventually got free of the border by about 9 p.m.--only four and a half hours after coming in site of it. (We did stop at the rest stop on the Montana side to eat supper while we waited for the line to go down a little.)

Since we left there so late and I was so tired from a few short nights (including only four hours sleep the night before), I knew I would not make it all the way to Calgary that night, which was another four hour drive. I did not want to call up my husband's uncle and aunt in Lethbridge (only 1 1/2 hours) and impose on them at that late hour on a weeknight, either--while they may have been okay with it, I knew that between getting ready for bed and "catching up", I would not be able to hold out and stay alert, and didn't want to have to zip out the door before they left for work, either. So, we stayed in one final hotel on the trip, and I got a glorious nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Days 15-17:
On Wednesday, April 8, I arrived at my Uncle Stan and Aunty Deb's house in Calgary, after a leisurely drive and some time spent playing in the park. We celebrated Passover Seder with them--a day early, but on the day that Messiah celebrated it with his disciples. This was my first Seder, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While it was not necessarily the traditional version, it was still yummy, with enough tradition to at least understand the significance of the different Passover rituals.

The next day, I went to visit my friend Vicki in Calgary, and we just had so much fun hanging out, I couldn't leave! It just kept getting later and later, then we ended up staying the night. She had the boys make their own pizzas for lunch, and they were so darn proud of those pizzas--it was a big hit! There was time spent in the park, and after the kids were in bed, we enjoyed a glass (or two) of home-made white wine while visiting--and Facebooking. :-)

On the Friday, I finally made it up to my dad's in Sylvan Lake. I was very glad to be able to empty the van thoroughly so I could re-organize and regroup, knowing that I wouldn't have to load it again for at least five days. Little did I know the surprise that awaited me that night...

And it's going to be a surprise for you, too, in my next post. (It's already taken three days for me to get this far on the current post, so I think I'll just publish and finish this story later.)

Happy weekend, friends!

Life Is A Highway

Well, the Great American Roadtrip has continued unabated for a week and a half, now. It is still another 13 days until we will see Jason in Peace River, and I believe we are now most definitely at the point of "counting sleeps."

We have been seeing a lot of interesting places and fellowshipping with some of our favourite people, but every step of the way we have wished he was with us. Sigh. So, to help us feel like he was involved, I have taken the liberty of transporting him there.

In the Watchtower at the Grand Canyon's South Rim.

Great view, honey! I know it was windy that day, but did you really need the parka?

At California's coolest mini-golf course, Castle Park. Again, Jason seemed to be a little chilly. Also, he lost his feet.

Wish you were here.

Celebration Time, Come On!

We stepped up onto the wrap-around porch of our bed and breakfast and traveled back in time: 120 years back, to be exact. The ornate Victorian mansion was beyond anything I had expected or dreamed. Inside we were greeted with an intricately-decorated Christmas tree and all kinds of decorations that looked like they had teleported out of the pages of Romantic Homes. The air was filled with the homy aroma of cinnamon (that started to make my nose run, actually, so it was probably a scented candle), and the inviting presence of Debra, our gracious hostess. She asked for our breakfast preferences, then gave us the grand tour: the ladies' parlour (with the 120-year-old Steinway and an open invitation to play on it), the gentleman's parlour (complete with a stuffed fox eating a quail, and a couple of stuffed pheasants on the wall above the fireplace), the dining room--already laid for breakfast, under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria--and tomorrow we get to see some of the guest rooms in the house (besides ours).

Five years. It has been almost that long since Jason and I have had a romantic getaway. I was 35 weeks pregnant with Noah, and we decided to use up a hotel certificate I had earned for all my hard work selling kitchen tools with The Pampered Chef for a weekend getaway to Banff--a much-needed respite before adding a new baby to the mix. It was the end of January, but we had a blast anyway. Banff is still a wonderful place to visit, even in the middle of winter, even on a tight budget. Jason splurged on a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and some new lingerie and a cozy robe, which were waiting for us when we got into the hotel.

For souvenirs, we got some good memories--and I got hit with food poisoning on our way home. Between all the road-side pit-stops so I could empty my stomach, we somehow managed to pick up Jude from my uncle and aunt's in Calgary and get all the way back to Red Deer, but by then I was dehydrated enough that I was beginning to have contractions. So, I got to spend the night in the maternity ward at the hospital, being re-hydrated by I.V. The contractions eased off, and I was able to go home the next day. Just another day in the life.

This time, we are not squeezing out whatever we can get for free or cheap out of our holiday. If Jason splurged on flowers and slippers before, this time the whole holiday is a splurge. This is by far the most luxurious holiday we have ever had. We are at The Empress of Little Rock--a restored historical mansion with mind-blowing attention to detail. Our room includes a shower spa, a jacuzzi tub where you can sit and watch the fireplace, and had a fruit basket, champagne, and cozy robes waiting for us. The finishing touch were the rose petals strewn over the bed. Upon closer inspection, these turned out to be silk, but still beautiful and fragrant.

Tomorrow, we will be trying to squeeze in a few different "touristy" things, possibly including a tour through the Clinton Presidential Library and the State Museum, but definitely including the play of It's A Wonderful Life tomorrow night. How great is that?

After finding out that we preferred tea over coffee with our breakfast, Debra asked us, "So what are you celebrating?"

With huge grins on both of our faces, the reply was "We're DEBT FREE!"

Definitely a reason to celebrate.

Seein' Places I Might Never See Again...

Just a little update from the road. We are now a little over half-way through our trip, and enjoying a little R'n'R at my Uncle Pete's and Aunty Lin's in Minnesota. (These are the parents of the Clint my brother recently posted about.) By the time we arrived here last night, we were SO ready for the break. Originally, we thought Jason was going to have to keep toodling on today, but through a strange set of circumstances, the Lord blessed us with an extra day with the U-haul, so he is enjoying a day with us here before he leaves tomorrow--all of our worldly possessions on his back like a snail's.

Believe it or not, we managed to fit all of said possessions into a 17-foot truck. They are stacked in there so tightly that the border guard promptly changed his mind about making Jason open the door to inspect it after it was only open a few feet. I guess he didn't want to have a big mess all over the pavement at midnight. It ought to be kind of interesting when we open it up to unload, though. (I say "we" loosely--I won't actually be there, as I am taking a few extra days up here in Minnesota before heading southwards.)

So. I haven't checked my e-mails. This is a dial-up connection, so I think I won't. That can just wait.

The drive has gone okay so far. The boys have all been taking turns riding with Daddy in the truck, so that has helped them stay entertained. Oh, and the DVD player has been working like a charm! I think Noah is tired of traveling, though. He has asked me several times over yesterday and today if we can go home. Boy, is that ever a tough question to answer right now. You know, with us being homeless and all.

Our last few days in Alberta are mostly a blur with strong emotions attached to them. I was so tired and sleep-deprived and stressed, but also overwhelmed with gratitude at the amount of people that took several days out of their lives to come and help us pack, clean, load, and prepare. Wow. We would not have been able to do everything on time without them. Especially Amanda, who spearheaded and organized the efforts to help us out.

We have been enjoying a good visit so far, and are loving that our butts are UN-conforming from the shape of a vehicle seat. I am looking forward to seeing my cousin Gina later on today, and meeting her husband Jamin and two girls for the first time. (We ought to have some fun, tongue-twisting moments tonight: "Jason! I mean, Jabin! No, I mean, Jamin!" Yikes.)

Well, I'm getting kicked off the internet so someone can use the phone. I'll post again next week!

Here's The Deal, Sparky...

We listed our house in the second week of July, asking kind of a middle-to-high-road price for our house size and location. Then we waited. And waited. Jason started to get a little worried that the house wouldn't sell, and I said, "Don't worry about it. If it's meant to happen, it will."

By August, we still had not had any showings, so we dropped our price significantly. We were hoping to sell by the end of the month, so that we could be moving no later than mid-September. "The market's been flooded," we were told, and with 108 properties on the market, we wondered if we even had a chance.

We waited for about another week, and then it suddenly seemed as if Peace River had, collectively, decided it was time to shop for houses. For the next two weeks, we had showings every day or two, sometimes more than one a day, but no offers. I was too tired from all the cleaning to be worried, but Jason was getting increasingly doubtful.

Finally, we had an Open House, after which we were told that one couple was interested enough to go through the house twice. That was on a Thursday. But by Sunday, there were still no offers.

That was when I began to doubt. See, we had always put our plan to move to Arkansas in the Lord's hands, and He seemed to be opening the doors. But if this door didn't open, we couldn't go. Not only that, even if we weren't moving to Arkansas, we needed to sell our house anyway, because another winter in this huge beast would bury us, especially considering I had already given up all of my students. So if we didn't sell the house, and ended up staying here, Jason was talking about taking a second job by the end of September.

The next day, we had a noon showing. The same couple looked at it again around supper time. Then they gave us an offer before bedtime.

The day after, they accepted our counter-offer, and we had another showing that gave us a back-up offer. The following day, that couple accepted our counter-offer.

So. We now have two accepted offers on our house. Both are for the same amount of money, for only $5000 less than our current asking price. Both for the same possession date. The financing condition on the first offer has been cleared, and their house inspection is on Monday, which is the only other condition, so I guess we'll know about that one pretty soon.

With the offers in hand, and a moving date on the horizon, with a 4-day weekend for Jason coming up, we took the time to go for one Final Hurrah to visit family and friends around Sylvan Lake and Red Deer on Labour Day weekend. While we weren't able to catch up with everyone (I mean, c'mon, like our friends are going to avoid making plans just in case any of their friends call them at the very last second to get together? Right.) we did get together with our old friends Chad and Renée M., and Candace V. (I got to see baby Zoe for the first time!), as well as my brother and Dad, my grandparents and Uncle Darrell and Auntie Joy, and Jason's entire family. It was a busy weekend, and it feels like all we did was go from this place to eat, to that place to eat, and then we did... guess what? More eating. By Monday, on the way home, we were stuffed, and felt kind of icky from a rather high percentage of our diet being fast or processed food for the weekend.

It was worth it, though. But I'm glad the feasting didn't last any longer. Tuesday, I made a wonderful vegetable broth soup to start getting our bodies back on track. Within a few days, we felt pretty good again.

Despite the fact that I am now packing, and changing addresses, and taking care of a million little last-minute things that need to be done when moving, especially a move of this magnitude, I also started school with the boys on Tuesday. We are only doing half-days right now, as I really don't have the time to do a full day of school with everything else on the to-do list. However, we are still managing to work on the three R's every day, as well as some other "fun" stuff incorporating science, art, social studies, etc. We are doing a unit study on the character trait of Attentiveness, and our current topic is the five senses, starting with hearing. On Thursday, we "made" an ear, using blankets for the ear canal, a jar of water for the vestibule, with socks wound up or attached to the jar for the cochlea and semi-circular canals. The kids got to climb through the ear, telling me where they were in it and what each part did, banging on a metal lid with a maraca for the hammer and anvil, and basically "being" sound all the way from the ear flap to the nerve (skipping rope) that went to the brain. This is only one example of the cool ways this curriculum incorporates learning and makes it "real" to the kids. So fun!

So, as I sit here typing, we are about two weeks away from our moving date. I have several boxes packed and stacked around the house, but plenty more to go. Chances are, my blogging rate is going to go down now that school has started again (as evidence is already suggesting), and then during the move I will be taking a hiatus. However, for now, I'll try to keep capturing memories with words as much as I have time for.

Thank you to all of you who have been praying for us during this time of transition, and who continue to do so. Your prayers are felt and appreciated.

The serious and the silly.

The boys and I got to ride in my Uncle Darrell's milk truck around the block--a first for them, and something I hadn't done since I was a girl.

I asked Uncle Darrell if they drink the milk from the truck or buy it from the store.

"We buy it from the store to avoid the 'appearance of impropriety,'" he said.

"Too bad. The stuff in the truck is probably way better for you," I replied.

"Oh, I know it is," he affirmed.

My boys and Candace's two oldest girls checking out the chickens. Noah got the biggest kick out of chasing them around the yard. Candace is raising several exotic breeds, as you can see.

The happy Winters family.

All of the traveling left Jabin a little sleepy the day after we got home!

On The Road Again

We've been doing a lot of traveling so far this summer.

Jason is on another road trip this weekend, but I opted on staying home with the kids this time. However, last weekend we were down in Sylvan Lake, staying at my dad's house. I got to visit my aunt and uncle and cousin, and grab some of my grandparents' photo albums for the masochistic scrapbooking-of-the-family-history project I volunteered for this summer.

I had a slight moment of panic the first day when I realized that my camera case had popped open. Remember the last time you used this? And you dropped it? Twice? Yeah. That. Shoot. Fortunately, I rustled around in my brother's room (he wasn't there, being on a wild and woolly vacation through Seattle at the time) and found a teensy-tiny screwdriver and fixed it. However, it meant I did not get any photos of my uncle and aunt, or any of the time at my Dad's. BUT! We hit the beach for a couple of hours before heading home, where I got some really great pics. Here are just a few:

"Boys! Give each other a hug!"
Is it just me, or does this hug not look particularly enjoyable? :-)

"Yook, Mom, yook!"

Jabin: "Augh! Augh! Code, Daddy!"
Daddy: "Jabin, look at Mom!"
Like he wanted to do that!
(See Noah recovering under a blanket in the background? The sand and water were really cold.)

Mmm... Ice cream.

So Much Too Blog About, So Little Desire

Blogging has been a bit low on my priority list lately, as you may have noticed. It might have something to do with the sunshine that has been pouring down. Or maybe it's the renovations we are trying to complete in a hurry so we can list our house for sale.

Yes, we're listing our house. But before I tell you why, I need to backtrack a little bit:

On our camping trip, two things happened:

1. We had a lot of fun.
2. We decided to "go to the mattresses" on our finances.

We spent a day at Jason's parents house, so got to catch up a bit with the family, which was nice. Then we headed down to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. It was a perfect weekend for it--lots of sun. We got to test the water-fastness of our new tent when we woke up Sunday morning to a steady downpour. (Of course, inside the tent, it sounded like a hurricane was passing over--so much fun!) We paid an exorbitant rate for an armload of wood so that our kids could have the "full camping experience" - roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. Thank goodness we bought a little propane cookstove for the rest of our cooking--it definitely paid for itself, with wood at that price!

There is a great big sandy beach at the campsite, with a slow, winding, shallow river that we all enjoyed ourselves at for the better part of the afternoon--the water was refreshing in the stifling heat. Jason and I, still toting around our winter-white skin that had barely seen the sun, got pretty impressive burns out of the deal, but after some mild peeling, they have already faded to tans. (Thank goodness I brought an aloe vera leaf!)

My two favourite features were the hoodoos (which you saw Noah walking through in the previous post) and the museum, which told us about how this was a sacred spot to the Blackfoot tribe, thus the "writing-on-stone" part of the park's name. Unfortunately, other than some illegal graffiti, we didn't see any native artwork, as our children were not old enough to go on the 3-kilometre interpretive hike. I would probably have wandered along the trails a little more myself if we would have had more than just a day to spend there. As it was, we just spent some time climbing around in the hoodoos situated in the 500 metres between the campsite and museum.

The week or so before we had left on this trip, Jason had read a book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and asked me to read it, too, which I did while we were driving. (More specifically, during the sections of road while Jason was driving. I know some of you were worried for a second, there. Although he read to me while I was driving, too.)

This book is amazing! What's so amazing about it is not that there are any earth-shattering new principles in it. Dave Ramsey will tell you himself that the stuff in there is all stuff your grandma knows. It's just amazing because he gives you the step-by-step process for an average person, regardless of income, to get out of debt, save for retirement, make smart financial decisions, and have financial security.

We have made significant financial headway over our eight years of marriage, but in a lot of ways, we now realize that we have pussy-footed around. After reading this book, we have figured out that we already have it in our power to be debt-free with a paid-for residence by the end of the summer--thus catapulting us through Dave's first three "Baby Steps."

So, we have been painting and tiling and cleaning like mad to get our house on the market, hopefully by next week. This isn't the most ideal time to list our house (two months ago would have been better, as far as the market is concerned), but it is a lot better than it will be two months down the road. Our plan is that with the money we will make from our house that we will pay off all of our existing debt, have a fully-funded emergency fund, and build a small cottage on our property in the country (read: a garage with a bathroom) that we can live in for a few years until we have saved up the money to build our actual house. It's going to be interesting, but frankly, I am SO. EXCITED. to finally be getting a handle on our finances, and to not be "house-poor" because we are living in a money-sucking black hole, and to saving up money to be able to travel, and to knowing that we are looking after our kids' college educations, and that we will not be part of the 98% that retire in poverty--if they get to retire at all!

Did I mention that this book is amazing? Get it. Seriously.

Here are some photos from our trip:

This hoodoo was seriously high. Noah wanted to stand on it like Jude had done, but we wouldn't let him!

Of course, Jabin had to prove that he could climb up there just like his brothers! Shocked the heck out of me!

Jabin is sitting on a ledge. I'm actually a lot higher than it looks, honest!

HOODOO!... HOODOO!...Hoodoo!...hoodoo...hoodoo

Everyone gets to help clean up!

Happy Birthday, Canada!