Snow White and Rose Red

Once upon a time there was a red mini-van. It was pretty, in it's own mini-vanish way, and although it had a few issues, it was reliable. Well, for the most part, anyway. Once in a while, it would go on strike, complaining about the number of miles it had to cover, saying it was old before it's time, but as long as it was regularly oiled and washed, it was pretty content.

That is, until it hit a deer in March. Since that time, it drove around like a one-eyed monster, without even the decency of a patch to cover the hollow socket where its headlight used to be. It tried to ignore the stares of the SUVs, and the pointing antennae of the young Smart cars, but every time it had to dash downtown, it's ego became a little more bruised.

Finally, it got to go to the plastic surgeon. The doctor promised it would have a new headlight, new fender and hood, and come out looking better than before!

However, it seems that Li'l Red had had one blow too many: just as it was going to get cleaned up after surgery so it could go home, it's heart gave out. Apparently, this particular species has the fuel tank as part of the fuel pump assembly, and this made the repair significantly more expensive. Li'l Red also had transmission issues which we had been putting off repairing, since the van was not even worth the cost of the repair.

Alas, for Li'l Red, there was not to be a happy ending. This final blow for the red van was the final straw for our pocket book, and we decided to purchase a newer vehicle instead of pouring more moola down the "older-vehicle" drain.

The news of the Pontiac's demise came to us last Tuesday morning. I spent the morning researching makes and models on the internet, and the afternoon test-driving vans from the two dealerships in town that actually had some. By the next morning, the craziness was in full swing: Mom and Mike were bringing the body of his recently-deceased mother up to Montana by Friday night for her memorial and burial. Thus, they suggested that we save money by purchasing a vehicle State-side which they would bring with them, and then we would meet them in Montana to pick it up.

While a twenty-hour-one-way jaunt with three little kids has a certain amount of interest if you get a chance to stay and relax on the other side, there was one more wrench to factor in to the calculations: My year-end piano recital was scheduled for Sunday at 4:00 p.m. This meant that there would be little-to-no relaxation as part of the trip.

Nevertheless, somehow, everything came together. We chose our van from an Arkansas dealership on-line, then had Mike check into it closer before purchasing it. We pulled out of Peace River at an unprecedentedly-early 10:00 a.m. on Thursday morning, driving down to Sylvan Lake and staying at my Dad's place that night. The next day, we set more records by managing to leave shortly after 9:00. We had no trouble at the border, and I had managed to bring most of our food with us, which saved us time and money. (We only ate out three times on the entire four-day trip!)

Unfortunately, it was raining almost the entire trip, so there were no energy-releasing stops in the park along the way, and by the time we reached the ranch in Montana at 9:30 that night, we had one boy sleeping and two ready to bounce through the roof!

The next day was a little more interesting, and we unfortunately did not leave the ranch until about 10:30 in the morning. We also had a longer wait at the border on the way up. But, eventually, we made it back to Sylvan Lake (at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday), where we crashed for a few hours before hitting the road again, with one more passenger in tow--my brother opted to come and stay the week with us, which was an added bonus to our little trip.

By Sunday, we were all tired of being in the vehicle, and even the novelty of the new van was wearing thin with the kids. Jabin kept saying "I 'tuck! I 'tuck, Mom!"

"You're stuck in your car seat?"


"Yeah, me too, buddy."

We made it back to Peace River by 2:30--just enough time to prepare for the recital with the extra set of hands Logan provided. And that night, we all had the best. sleep. ever.


Jude obviously had a lot of time to think on this trip. Here are a few of the interesting things that came out of his mouth on the road:

"Dad, did you pick your nose as a kid?" (He asked me the same question yesterday.)


"Dad, why did you decide to be a computer fixer?..."

"I think I'll be a computer fixer when I grow up."

"You don't want to be a cowboy anymore?" Jason asked.

"No, I've changed my mind. But I've got to choose! There are so many things!" (Where did he get the idea that this is something he needs to get started on? I certainly haven't been asking him!)

Logan, with a comment that was so far over Jude's head that it was in orbit, remarked, "And remember, whatever you decide today, you're stuck with it for life!"


"Mom, what do you do for a job?"

"We don't have time to answer that, buddy." (For the record, I eventually told him a few of my official titles.)


"Mom, what was I doing when I was a baby?"

This is not the first time he has asked this question. I think he must keep hoping the answer will change from "Poop, eat, cry, and sleep!"


As we waited in line at the border, Noah looked over at the side of the building and started exclaiming, "A robot! A robot!" We glanced over and there was a gas meter with a rectangular digital readout like the face of a calculator, towards the top of a squarish box with various pipes, hoses and wires protruding out of it. While we conceded that it looked somewhat like a robot, we could not convince the boy that it was, in fact, not one. Oh, well. Gotta love the imagination on the kid!

The end result of the weekend is that we now are driving a pretty white Dodge Grand Caravan that is the newest vehicle Jason or I have ever owned--only a 2006. I LOVE it! If only the darn price of gas wasn't so high, I would just drive around to enjoy it.

But since it is, we'll just have to enjoy Snow White in moderation. And bid adieu to Li'l Rose Red.

The End.

Our Trip By The Numbers

  • 2 adults, 3 kids
  • 21 days total
  • 9 travel days
  • 56 hours of driving
  • 11 cities: Edmonton, Dallas, Memphis, Nashville, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Ft. Worth, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Whitecourt, Red Deer
  • 4 Hotel stays (all of which had swimming pools, but we only had time to use two of them)
  • 1 performance
  • 3 quads, multiple uses
  • 2 Scrabble games
  • 1 turkey dinner (not on Christmas!)
  • Many friends and family members
  • 1 continued New Year's tradition (of the seven years of our marriage, we have rung in the New Year with Mark and Colleen for at least three, possibly four of them now--kind of amazing, considering we have always lived long distances apart)
  • 3 job opportunities
  • 1 zoo
  • 1 gorgeous light-filled experience
  • Lots of great memories
  • 5 people happy to be home again

Noah and Jude in a light pavilion at the University of Arkansas's Christmas Light Display, Garvan Gardens

More Garvan Gardens

Jabin and Grandma Laurel on the quad

Jude and Noah checking out the lions at the zoo

Jabin checking out I-don't-remember-what

"Mr. Map"

A couple crazy kids

A couple more crazy kids

From the Heart of Country Music

Nashville is a ten-hour drive or so from Mena. When you've got three little boys, two of which have questionable bladder control, it is eleven and a half. When you decide to sacrifice your own sleep to drive through the night so that you don't have to stop for your children's needs as often, it is only a little over eight.

We spent less than twenty-four hours in the city known as "The Heart of Country Music." I so wish we could have spent a week there. The city is old, and has a lot of character. And! It is all about music! It felt like coming home.

We arrived late on Friday, had brunch with Jason's friend Devin and his daughter on Saturday, then hit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum before starting home. It was amazing. I didn't drive along Music Row, but I peeked down it as we drove by it.

There was something very cool about knowing I was sleeping in the same city that many of my musical heroes call home or have frequented. I felt a deep connection to the names and faces of the musicians I read about in the museum. The experience was almost spiritual.

Besides this, though, there were a few other highlights I would like to mention:

One of our leg-stretching stops on the way there was at the Memphis Visitor's Center (I believe it is called the B.B. King and Elvis Presley Welcome Center). This is a beautiful place, just on the north-west side of the Mississippi River, with lots of long sidewalks and green space, as well as a beautiful building with larger-than-life statues of its two namesakes.

It was a gorgeous day in Memphis, though slightly overcast--the temperature was a slightly breezy 20°C. We were strolling along the river bank, reading the historical bits on various pedestals along the way, when we approached three homeless people sitting on a bench on the grass opposite the riverbank. Jason and Jude were up ahead, already stopping to read the sign opposite the bench, while Jabin, Noah and I were coming up.

They were seemingly harmless, but somewhat intoxicated, and the older lady was lamenting the way someone had treated her in a rather loudish voice. The old dark-skinned man on the left side of the bench had a white scraggly beard and was missing all his front teeth--but this didn't matter to Noah. Before I could react, before I could say anything, he had gone right up to him and given him the biggest hug ever. Then he crawled right into his lap and jabbered away at him. The man was a little difficult to understand, himself, but he was obviously tickled pink. Jabin, with a grin that would shadow the sun (if it were shining), stood in line waiting his turn, and followed his brother's suit as soon as the man's lap had been vacated.

Jason and I watched the whole event with chagrin. How wonderful that children can love so unreservedly, so unconditionally. How sad that we, as adults, have to teach them to put restraints on behaviours such as this because it isn't safe. How can we teach them to show the love of Jesus, just as they were doing, without putting themselves in danger?

Maybe the real lesson here is not for the children, but for the adults--loving is a dangerous thing to do. But it's the only way to do it.

On the way out of Memphis, we passed by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Jason said to Jude, "Look, there's your hospital!" Jude was positively delighted, and really took it to heart, too! He went on about that for a good five or ten minutes!

"Does everyone have a hospital? Do you have hospital, Dad? Maybe when I'm older, I'll get to go to my hospital! Maybe I'll let you come, too!" And on and on he went. Eventually, I had to make sure he understood that it wasn't really "his" hospital, it was just named after the same Jude in the Bible that we had named him after. It didn't seem to matter much--he was just as excited about seeing "his" hospital on the way home!

We left Nashville to come home at around 4:30 on Saturday, and finally pulled into Mom and Mike's yard around 12:45 a.m. that night. We transferred the sleeping children as quickly and quietly as we could, packed in our bags, and were getting ready to nod off at last within about fifteen or twenty minutes. After I climbed into bed, Jason and I exchanged about five words wishing each other a good night, etc. From around the corner, where the boys were sleeping, Jabin said, "Qiet!"

The funniest thing about this is that Jabin is the one we usually have to shush about fifteen times to get to go to sleep--the little noise-maker usually talks himself to sleep! Jason and I muffled our laughs with our pillows, and finally entered blissful Neverland.

B.B. King

The other "King"

The egg says "Memphis: Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock'N'Roll"

This is Johnny Cash's actual guitar, that he used for most of his career. It was only one of many legendary instruments in the museum.

In the centre of the Hall of Fame.