Settling In

Posted July 21st, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Family, Military Life

I like to joke that, by now, the stuff that makes up our “house” is sort of like a pop-up tent.  Usually, within a week of getting our boxes of stuff, we’ve got everything unloaded and pictures up on the wall.  I think seven moves since I started with the Air Force and five since we’ve been married means that we’ve learned to do this move thing fast.  So, it makes sense that, upon arrival in Dayton, we painted every wall in the house within the first 36 hours, set up a new playset, pulled out giant bushes from the front garden bed, and cleaned up the yard all before our boxes had even arrived! Gotta get done moving before you can get on with living!

Thank goodness Grammie & Granddad were along to help.  I’m not sure we’d have gotten nearly so much done without Granddad’s expert painting and carpentry advice and Grammie’s superior child-wrangling skills.  By the end of the fourth day in Dayton, we were all ready to cut loose and enjoy some down time.

Settling In (3)

Then, five days after we arrived and put together a newly clean house, freshly painted walls, and clean carpets, it started raining just in time for the moving truck to show up. Figures.

By the end of that night, we were all able to eat on clean plates at the dining room table and sleep in real beds with clean sheets.  Not too shabby.  By the next night, we had made a home-cooked meal and the kids’ rooms had pictures on the walls. We were exhausted, but starting to feel settled.

Grammie and Granddad had to go back home after a couple more days, but we got so much done while they were here to help.  In fact, we cleared out all but two boxes before they left. It sure put us in a good spot to be able to start working on the projects that make a house a home. So, we dug out the toys…


…and hung up the pictures…

…put away the books…

…then mowed the lawn.

And, on the tenth day, we decided the rest could wait and we’d probably better think about living a little.  So we did.

Ahhh.  Home Sweet Home.

A Brief Stop in Kansas

Posted July 17th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Family

We drove away from Las Vegas on July 14.  The trip to Dayton is not a short one, especially when you’re hauling two fidgety kids and a dog. Luckily, our route looked like this:


Turns out there’s a great little spot along I-70 to stop just in the middle of the trip.  It looks like this…

Magical right? After four long years in the desert, McPherson was a green oasis and a welcome respite from the crazy-ness of moving. We were unsure of how long we would be able to stay before our truck driver showed up, but ended up being able to spend two whole days there.  We had no trouble filling them up.

My birthday was on the 15th, so we celebrated with ice cream cake the night we arrived.  It was fabulous…until I was sick out of my mind that night. Miserable way to turn 32.  But, stress and lack of sleep tends to do that to me and I was feeling much better by noon the next day.

Feeling better was good because we had cousins coming to visit! In this military life, photos and moments like these don’t happen very often.  We’re thrilled when they do!

After two nights in Kansas, it was time to get back on the road and finally get to Dayton.  We made room in all the junk in the trunk for a suitcase for Grammie and she was able to come along on the ride.

At this point, it was Dayton or bust!

Leaving Las Vegas

Posted July 14th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Family, Firsts, Kiddos

One of the realities of military life is that, when your family arrives in a new town, you know that the end of that place is just over a few horizons. You live your life in a sort of temporary way – nothing so precious that it’s not possible to walk away from it. But, we spent four years in Vegas and, while many things about it drove us crazy (heat and wind, anyone?), I think we all found that we were surprised by the depth of roots there when it was time to leave.

After a low-key, use-up-the-leftover-pyrotechnics Fourth of July, it was time to really get ready for the movers. Even though someone else packed up all our stuff and did the heavy lifting, we still had to do quite a bit of work to be ready for that process. Pictures, shelves, & curtains had to come down. Holes in walls had to be spackled and touched up. Suitcases had to be packed for the week-long roadtrip looming before us and boxes of essentials readied for arrival at a new home in Dayton. Luckily, I was done with work by this point, so could spend days while the kids were in school getting the house ready. In fact, they were at school while the movers were packing us out, so they arrived home to lots of boxes one day.

Turns out, an obstacle course of boxes was a pretty great way to spend an afternoon on the plasma car.

Although, I will admit that an obstacle course of boxes is a less-than-restful way to find your way to bed at night.

And, since there wasn’t much to do in the house in the evenings with no stuff and all that time to work during the day, we made sure to get a few Las Vegas highlights checked off our list.  We didn’t spend much time on the strip in our four years, so the kids had never seen the Bellagio fountains or the flowers there, so we went to visit one afternoon before dinner.

Surely the rainbow in the fountains that day was a sign of good things to come?

After three days of packing and truck loading (and a final job interview for me…talk about a stress-filled week!), it was time for the final load of boxes to drive away. This was our first move where we had kids who would know what was going on.  When we left Edwards, Ava was six months old and her source of stability was, simply, us. Both kids were leaving the only home they’d ever known and that had the potential to be pretty disruptive. So, we talked about it a lot and talked about what would happen with our stuff and how it would get to our new house. That’s all pretty abstract, though, so we thought it might help to watch the truck drive away.

That day was a day of big goodbyes. It was the kids’ last day at school – a place that they both loved and full of people who loved them. Thankfully, the kids did fine, but the teachers and I were sort of a blubbering mess. It took me so long to feel comfortable leaving my kids in daycare.  Bright Horizons was truly a blessing of love and comfort for all of us.

With Ms. Nettie, the only teacher who had them both and was still there when we left.

Last day of school cupcakes to share with her class.

We got home just in time to watch the last few boxes go on the truck and see it all drive away. But, like with all military moves, the departing family never does it alone. Of course, the Hoffmans were there to help us crazy-wave to our truck as it drove around the corner.

Just four Air Force kiddos, taking it all in stride.

I can’t even begin to describe the grody bums and feet we cleaned because of their perch. Some things about Vegas are NOT missed. ;)

And, because there’s been no major moment in the last six years for which the Hoffmans have not been present, they were even there for our last meal in our house – even though it was only in the generous spirit of the meal they provided.

The next morning was Matt’s final out appointment at work, so the kids and I took it kind of easy first thing in the morning and camped out in our now-empty home. (Thank goodness for wi-fi!! Never, ever disconnect that until the day after you’ve left a house.)

Then, to make it painfully obvious how much we would miss them, Sarah came over to deliver a vacuum cleaner and take my kids for the day. And, for her effort, Noah randomly threw up on her while they snuggled after nap. She didn’t even bat an eye. Seriously. Is there anything that says friendship better than that?

We shared one last awesome Caspers/Hoffman family night with some take-out PF Changs and fun and then it was time for one last crazy-wave to say good bye.

In spite of all it’s challenges (and maybe my best effort to the contrary), Vegas has forever become a place that will feel like home when we visit. And, as always, the people were the hardest to let go. It’s such a strange and wonderful life we lead. Off to the next great adventure!

Grand Canyon 2012

Posted May 16th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos, Whoozy

Even though we’d lived within 400 miles of a natural wonder for four years, we didn’t get around to visiting until a month before our PCS. (That’s the way it goes, right?) We were so fortunate to make our first trip to the Grand Canyon with Grammie & Grandad, who were also on their first trip.  We all met at a McDonalds in Williams, AZ, and then drove into the park together. Of course, when we got to the sign to make it official, we had to stop for a photo opportunity!

From there, we headed straight to the visitor’s center to pick up some maps (Whoozers was demanding one since we wouldn’t give up the one we were navigating the car with) and to get our first view of that big hole in the ground. Let’s just say…it definitely delivered a “wow” moment. They weren’t kidding when it was named “Grand.”

We were fortunate to be staying in one of the in-park lodges with an adjoining room to Grammie & Grandad.  Oh, the luxury of adjoining rooms!  Easy access to hand kids off one direction or the other so everyone has a chance to shower, a place to hang out after bedtime and, most importantly, double the space for kids to run amuck during the short time we spend inside on this trip. Such a great thing!

After we got the lay of the land from the visitor center, we watched a short movie about the history of the canyon and then went to check in at our room. We got settled, grabbed some dinner and then headed out to watch our first sunset. Because we had heard a few horror stories and were extremely paranoid, Ava spent her visit to the Grand Canyon on a leash. We wouldn’t normally go for something like that but we figured better safe than sorry. Whoozers was mostly cooperative when we explained that we just wanted to keep her safe.  But, when we got out of the van to head to the lookout point, she cracked us all up by saying, “OK, who’s going to walk me like a dog?”

The next morning, Grammie and Grandad went to watch the sunrise while the rest of us caught up on some sleep.  Then, we headed for a wonderful breakfast at a historic lodge before our big hike down Angel Trail.

Let’s be honest, there’s not a bad view of the Canyon.  Even the little spot right outside of the restaurant was a scenic vista!

Since our bellies were full and we were full of energy, we geared up and struck out down the Bright Angel trail.  This is one of the trails folks who are hiking the whole Canyon would use to reach the bottom.  We only intended to go a little ways down before turning around and heading back out.  We were carrying a baby on one back, had a pre-schooler on a leash, and a woman deathly afraid of heights along for the ride.  Needless to say, we took our trip pretty slowly and were careful not to push too far.

This was about as far as Grammie got before she turned back to go enjoy the Canyon from the safe space of a large window. Grandad walked her back and we kept on moving downhill for a ways.  Then, we found this….

It’s a very valid warning about the dangers of hiking the canyon unprepared.  However, signs like that are just begging to be mocked. Exhibit A…

Eventually, Grandad caught up to us on the trail and we climbed down a bit more before turning around.  The path back up was more of a mental journey than a physical one, as we had a very tired preschooler on our hands.  But, she was able to press through and make it back to the top.

Do you see Grandad in that photo?  Look at the clearing in the middle…he’s wearing a yellow shirt.  Didn’t seem like that far, but photos don’t lie!

Of course, when we were done, we all felt a little like this…

We grabbed some well-earned lunch back at the top of the canyon and then spent the rest of the afternoon attending the necessary lectures to earn Ava her Junior Ranger badge. We learned about California Condors and did a few activities in here Junior Ranger book. The swearing in ceremony was so cute!

And then, it was time for another sunset at yet another lookout point.

The next morning, Matt and I went to check out the sunrise while the kids slept safely in the room (hooray for adjoining rooms!). It was gorgeous and I think there are some photos somewhere, but I don’t have them ready for this post. Because we’d exerted ourselves so much the day before, we were all running a little low on energy and decided to take a bus tour out to one of the edges of the Canyon.  We got off the bus at several stops to take a ton of photos and look for Condors (we actually saw three on this trip!).

Even though this was a bus tour, we still ended up doing quite a bit of walking.  First, we felt like this…

And then, we ended up feeling like this…

So, it was time to take a break and just sit and look out at the very edge of the world.

The bus ride back to civilization was crowded and we had a couple of squirrly kids on our hands.

So when we got back to the hotel, we figured a little “off leash” time was in order.  And, by, did they ever love that.  Some previous resident of the hotel had set up an amazing fallen-log fort and it was just what these safety-confined children needed.

After that, it was one more sunset, one more breakfast and then a last look at a piece of majestic American terrain.

We piled back into the van and headed for home. We were so glad to share this experience with Grammie and Grandad and don’t know how we would have managed without them.  Now we can consider that major item on our American West bucket list checked!

A Day Out with Thomas

Posted May 11th, 2012 by Sally and filed in Adventures, Doozy, Family, Firsts, Kiddos

Even though our house had been turned topsy-turvy with illness for the week preceding, we had tickets to go see Thomas the Train and we weren’t about to let a little flu bug keep us away. (Truthfully, we thought we’d beaten the illness only to come home and find that Noah’s temperature was 102 after  he cooled off.)

No matter how one is feeling, a day with trains is always counted as a good one in our house.  And a day with Thomas the Train? Well, that’s pretty spectacular.

The whole thing is set up with crafts and games and, of course, a Thomas Toy tent, and it’s basically a commercialization-phobe’s worst nightmare.  But, we didn’t do too bad with that stuff and only walked away with a commemorative train car for Noah and an “Emily” engine for Ava to add to our growing train car stash.  Gotta love easy-to-please kids.

We had time to kill before our train ride, so we poked around in the display trains in the rail yard.

Dude wanted nothing to do with wearing the engineer’s hat I had gotten for him. Oh, the lost photo op!

So, what they do for the Thomas Day Out is put the Thomas “engine” at the front of the regular train and put the real engine at the back to push.  It was pretty cute and just the right length of train ride for us.

When the ride was over, we got to see Sir Topham Hatt.  Ava was thrilled to wait in line, but wanted nothing to do with him when he showed up. Doozers seemed like he was going to be really friendly, but then bailed and wanted to be held by Mommy to get his photo taken. (Add train characters to the Santa Claus, Easter bunny phobias!)

The Southern Nevada Railroad group was running a garden steam train for folks to ride for free also.  So, Matt and the kids took a whirl.

We finished up our visit watching Thomas come back into the station with the last run of the day.

We ended the outing (the first over 100 degree day this spring) with a trip to DQ to cool off.

But, lest you think our time with trains ended when we left Boulder City, think again.  We went right home and put our new toys to work.

We ended the night with a cheese & crackers dinner while we watched a Thomas show.  A great day and a fun time exploring one of Noah’s favorite things!