About ceciliaandhersisters

I am a mountain girl from northeastern Tennessee happily wedded to a water boy from northwestern Michigan, the pinky part. Together we have 3 girls, a Jeep Wrangler (my dream car since birth), and a 36 foot RV. We are living our American dream, taking pictures and telling funny stories along the way. Now find yourself a porch swing, salted peanuts in the shell and nice cold glass of sweet tea. Let me spin you a tale...

TWO HUNDRED FORTY THREE…alaska sick

I woke up to the vibration of our behemoth vehicle thundering down an unfinished gravel road. I wasn’t sure where we were geographically. Physically I realized I was crammed into Cecilia’s bunk. Abby’s analogy homework pops into my mind in moments like these: wooden chair is to pinched sciatica as bottom bunk is to bulging discs. But giving up the feeling of her little back curled perfectly into my torso with our arms intertwined isn’t something I’m ready to surrender just yet. Plus waking up to a pile of her freshly washed strawberry hair haphazardly twisted into a bun on the top of her head is always a nice way to wake up.

242 r.jpg

Once I had my wits about me, I remembered we were leaving Whitefish, YT (Yukon Territory). As my eyes focused on Cecilia’s pink panda pajama pants, I watched her little fingers rise and fall resting on her little tummy. I love watching my little inmates sleep. They are all so peaceful and perfect. They have their whole lives ahead of them and somehow, when I look at their little jaggedly square slightly dirty fingernails, I feel secure as a mom they are using their imaginations and creativity to their fullest capacity.

Basically the only thing as a parent I am certain of.

242 u.jpg

We left Homer with heavy hearts and monsoon-like weather on Thursday. It’s better to rip the band aid off  just get up and go rather than to peel it off slowly lingering around looking at everything we will be missing. Abby was making observations all morning long about the dense fog and “Are we sure we want to drive in this kind of weather…it’s raining so hard out and really hard to see with all the fog around” to which Greg replied, “We’ve driven in rain and fog before…we will be extra safe and I know we will be fine.” “She just said out loud what I feel inside”, I remarked. The sideways glance from Greg is an unspoken communication I understand well…his, “I know you don’t want to leave, but this is the plan we’ve mapped out…if we stay, we …” “I know, I know” I answered back with my unspoken glance.

242 s.jpg

Leaving the campground, we headed north one last time so I might grab a picture of the ‘Welcome to Homer’ sign. It took a full 30 minutes of crouching down, walking from side to side to try to find the best angle for my sign. As I examined the evidence, one thing was glaringly obvious…I suck at landscape photography. I just keep telling myself to log in those 10,000 hours and my efforts will eventually pay off. At least that’s what Malcolm Gladwell has lead me to believe.

Currently, we are travelling down the infamous HWY 1 (Alkan Highway) through the Yukon Territory. We breezed through customs yesterday and Cecilia managed to charm the pants off the stoic Canadian border guard. She wouldn’t smile at any of us. But when Cecilia came to the window, climbed over Greg and answered the guards questions, “What’s your name” with her confident, “I’m CC” and the guards’ “How old are you” with “I’m six” shooting the guard with her goofy crooked smile, the guard looked at her and tried to withhold a smile, but melted in the palm of her hand. Cecilia then relayed to the guard, “I have a pee pee sticker chart” and “I’m a big girl” the guard responded with an animated, “Wow, you are a big girl” she gave us back our passports and waved us through. It provided Greg and I with a good chuckle for the rest of the 8 hour trip. If those border guards goal is to not smile and remain neutral, she failed…just like the ones who allowed us into Canada. Their all effective, until Cecilia shows up.

242 t.jpg

We were going to spend a couple of days in Seward but when we arrived, it was pouring rain. The forecast predicted rain for the next four days. The girls have grown out of their wellies, and we just weren’t really feeling it. Plus, I am excited to see my best girlfriend from college and her family in Minnesota as we make our way to Michigan. Even though we aren’t scheduled to arrive for another couple of weeks, I rationalized that running errands and tying up some loose ends for the RV in Minot (Why not, My not) North Dakota would be a great way to spend the next two weeks.

242 q.jpg

Here’s something completely random: When I first heard Kings of Leon back in 2006, I assumed the lead singer was a robust fella who wore button down shirts with fabric gaping open between each button, so his sparse chest and belly hair could get some air. In my mind I just assumed he was kind of greasy and a little dirty with heavy bourbon on his breath. Maybe he had some scratchy corn teeth and always had a cigarette barely hanging onto his lower lip. I always thought of him in month old dirty jeans, well-worn cloudy black combat Doc Martin lace-up boots, along with his ‘devil-may-care’ rock star attitude every time I heard one of their songs.

I maintained this mental picture until Spring of 2014 when I was waiting in the pick-up car line of Abby’s first grade school. I was there early and probably listening to one of their songs on the radio. I googled Kings of Leon…low and behold, Caleb Followill, is neither robust or greasy. My bubble was burst. I still revert back to the picture in my mind, as his voice ABSOLUTELY does not match his face. I want the Milli Vanilli hipster to step aside and reveal the true scratchy vocal lead singer. I was utterly disappointed and desperately wanted him to be this arrogant dirty whale of a man. Until then, I will continue to listen to their overly suggestive lyrics and wailing guitar solos.

242 p.jpg

So, we are heading back to the lower 48. I have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The feeling of my stomach doing somersaults because I’ve left such an incredible place.  Hey if something amazing happens in Homer, Alaska, and I’m not there to witness it, will it still a. happen and b. still be wonderful…even if I’m not there to experience it? Yes, I know the answer and I think that’s why my stomach is doing somersaults. 

I think I am Alaska sick.

 

 

Advertisements

TWO HUNDRED FORTY TWO…my new two favorite words

Homer, Alaska.

 

242 aae.jpg

 

“Make sure you visit a grocery store before we head out to Homer because it’s so remote there, they may not have a grocery store. So in other words, shop for the week” Greg warned me before we left Palmer. So naturally I went buck wild and spent a ridiculous amount of money on enough groceries to get us through the week because “Homer isn’t like anything we will ever experience in our lifetime” according to Greg.

 

I was going to be a smart ass and take a picture of the enormous Safeway in town, but let’s just say, the people who live in Homer, Alaska…aren’t “roughing” it as Greg had warned me about. My studious researcher husband claims he was, “misinformed”. “What year was the article you were referring to published?” I ask…to which he responds, “Hey what is that? A Moose??” A successful Subject aversion. I decided to let it go.

 

 img_8691

 

The feelings I had when we first visited Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockport, Freeport, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine; Montpelier, Burlington, and Newport, Vermont; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Hatteras, North Carolina; Mt Shasta, CA are equal, if not more intense, to Homer, Alaska.

 

242 az.jpg
242 aaa 1.jpg242 aab.jpg242 ar.jpg242 ax.jpg

 

Once Greg finished work on Friday, we explored the fishing village of Homer. We walked along the docks, loosing ourselves in the hypnotic glossy blue ripples in the pacific, all the life happening in the streets, families meeting up with their friends for dinner, watched fishing tours bring in their latest salmon, Halibut, or trout catch so they could hang them up in the center of town, watching the boats bob up and down on the choppy waters of the docks, observing a little group of teenage girls giggling together as their boy group tags behind rolling their eyes, and individuals walking their loyal canine companions through town.  After yelping the best seafood places, we made our way into Captain Patties Fish House. I would have taken a picture but it had begun to rain…maybe next time.

 

242 aak.jpg

 

242 aaf.jpg

 

242 aaj.jpg

 

242 aah.jpg

 

Trust me when I tell you, if you ever find yourself in Homer, RUN don’t walk, I repeat RUN to Captain Patties.

 

I was thinking about getting their Salmon special, because I love salmon…but Greg usurped me and told me to trust him. He ordered the three-pounder fresh Alaskan King Crab, the price of which was a three digit number for the one dish. Within a fifteen minute time period, our waitress told us to take a look out the window and see if the King Crab their fisherman just caught was to our liking. I wonder what would have happened had I said no. I shutter to think. I looked at the damn thing and couldn’t believe how big it was. We can eat all that? Between the two of us?

 

I’ve seen the romance movies out there where the wife wants to be romanced…wined, dined, dancing, and surprised with flowers, candy, and expensive jewelry, which is perfectly fine. My idea of a romantic date night is a night of amazing food, great music, surrounded by people I love, and a nice cold glass of chardonnay or two…In other words, Friday was my idea of a perfect date night. And adding to the list of things that are romantic to me, we were in Homer, Alaska…eating dinner at a restaurant with a fabulous water view.

 

When my time comes, if I can choose how to exit this world, I choose that night, with those people plus a few more, in that restaurant, with that view, that meal, and that goofy classic easy listening 70’s rock in the background.242 f.jpg242 e.jpg242 g.jpg

 

242 h.jpg

 

I went to bed Friday night feeling all the feels. I thanked Greg for being who he is and allowing me to be who I am, and for everything he does for this family, all the love he gives to his girls, and for being such a great best friend. I ran over to the girls and kissed their chocolate stained faces and told them who much they mean to me and how happy I am that I get to be their mother. Then I don’t know what happened but I must have passed out once my body hit the bed because when I awoke Saturday morning, my ears were ringing, the sun was way to bright, the sound of the toilet flushing almost put me over the edge, and I was still wearing my clothes from the night before along with my puffer vest. Needless to say the gratuitous feeling I had the night before was long gone. Vanished. Into thin air. POOF. See ya later happy girl, run along now!!

 

242 aa.jpg242 y.jpgAfter my second cup of caffeinated coffee that morning Saturday, August 12th, we greeted the morning in Homer with a trip to one of their small inlets. We wanted to give the girls an opportunity to fish in the fishing capital of the world. Just kidding. I made that last part up. But it should be called the fishing capital of the world, if it’s not. The inlet we found leads into Kachamek Bay and boasts of large salmon and another fish which I forgot the name of… because really, to me there is no competing with salmon.

 

6176737168_img_1587What do Homerians do on Saturday mornings you ask? Well, let me tell you, a lot of them can be found at the inlets with their families teaching their little toddlers to bait their own hook, catch, and release fish that are bigger than they are and probably just as heavy.

 

242 ap.jpg

 

They also walk up and down the fish markets picking out fresh fish for their party they’ve likely been planning for weeks. I saw two young girls who couldn’t have been more than 10 and 12 wearing their wellies everyone wears their wellies, and shorts cause 58 degrees in Alaska to the natives is a warm day, a box of pizza, and bopping onto their little boat parked in the local marina.

 

242 ah.jpgI saw the whole story playing out in my head: the two young girls whom I pretended were Abby and Phoebe planned a night of co-babysitting little Cecilia while Greg and I had a date night out. They went into town like they do every Friday, to pick up pizza and other goodies, hopped back into their little single motor cold tin fishing boat and headed home so the parents could get an early start.

 

Back to reality, I watched as they nodded hello to Abby, then me, hopped in their boat, untied their lines from the dock cleats, used their little size 5 wellies to kick away from the dock, started their engine, and motored across the bay where the lights from their windows welcomed them home.242 ae.jpg

 

242 ag.jpgIt’s a dangerous sign when I start picturing all of us living in an area. Playing out little scenarios about living on an island not reachable by cars is quite charming. So you have to park on the mainland and use your boat to take you back and forth. Big deal. I could do that. I could totally see Abby and Phoebe taking the boat out to meet up with friends to go fishing and have lunch together at The Little Mermaid Cafe, where we would have a running tab…and somehow, Abby has been putting her friends orders on the Spranger tab too. We didn’t find that last part out until the owner of the cutest cafe you’ve ever seen and yes that’s the real name by the way, called me up and hinted at our oldest child’s generous spirit. Clearly, I can get lost in the deep corridors of dreamworld.

 

242 av.jpg242 aq.jpg

Being in Homer reminds me of the first time I visited Mackinac Island in Michigan, which by the way, had the same effect on me. The island is like 8 miles long and doesn’t allow motorized vehicles of any kind. It has horses and buggies, bicycles…and a fairy if you need something on the mainland. But the cute quaint picture perfect little town just romances me into all the big possibilities of a small existence. I love the idea of small intimate towns. The sense of community is so appealing to me.

 

242 ao.jpgI can see us in the fall starting school on the island. I can teach Kindergarten my absolute favorite grade to teach at the little elementary school so the girls and I get to walk to and from school every day. Greg will come and have lunch with us every Friday…and on the weekends, when we eat out and go to the movies, we say hello to everyone we pass…because when you live on an island that is 8 miles long, there aren’t many people you don’t know.

 

242 ab.jpgI have been in a dreamy haze since I’ve been here in Homer specifically. Beauty in my surroundings has the power to take me to all the places I’ve ever been that have had some kind of hold on me…or transformed me in some special way.

 

242 an.jpgJust like the rest of Alaska, the colors in Homer seem to be more vivid. And forget 50 shades of Grey…here they have 50 Shades of Blue. The ocean is a completely different glassy navy blue color but, it is absolutely clear…cold no doubt, but you can see all the way to the bottom. And in different angles the water can also look green. The sky has about 20 different blues all in the same sky just peeking out from behind the cotton candy clouds. The farther the mountain is away from you, the deeper the blue shade gets. so that takes up about 5 to 10 shades right there. I swear, flowers are more colorful here too. Everything is so crisp and specific. I said to Greg the other day half jokingly that maybe because it’s not sunny all the time, things here don’t really ever fade.242 b.jpgOn our way back to the RV, after our fishing excursion, I was enamoured with my surroundings while CC was singing…something, Abby talking about a wolf sanctuary in FL where the wolves are trained to safely be around people and Phoebe who is talking to the air about unicorns, rainbows and her intense dislike for all things Hannah Montana, Greg was talking about going to a fishing store so he can get the girls better fishing equipment and I’m sitting in the car, floating above my body watching and taking in all the chaos. And then the poking and bickering between the girls in the backseat begins.

 

242 au.jpg
What would normally drive me to the brink of insanity, left me completely unphased. Why, you ask? Because it’s sunny, beautiful, chilly and dammit all, we are in HOMER, ALASKA.
242 am.jpg

 

H O M E R

 

 

A L A S K A!

TWO HUNDRED FORTY ONE…6 year assessment

Cecilia Rae

241 vv.jpg

 It took me forty years to make it to Alaska and just a few weeks ago we celebrated Cecilia’s 6th birthday in Fairbanks.

For her birthday we took her to the kid friendly Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. We spent a couple of hours watching her run around enticing her sisters to chase her up the stairs, down the slide, and through the small plastic tunnels. We pushed her on the toddler swings and she jumped over cracks in the sidewalk until she finally sauntered over to us and asked for, “Book time mommy?” which is CC talk for “I’m ready for a nap now”. For dinner, we let the girls do CC’s favorite activity of making pizza bagels for dinner, followed by cupcakes, ice cream, and of course presents. Just a typical birthday.

241 a.jpg

I’ve been taking stock of our lives lately and trying to really absorb who we all are in this time in our life. We are closing in on the end of yet another year. Once we pass July 29th, her birthday, we round the corner to all the holidays and birthdays that follow. It’s inevitable decent on our roller coaster-like existence.

As of today, Tuesday the 7th of August 2017, this is where Cecilia is in her life…

241 h.jpg

She wears her heart on her sleeve. When it’s raining outside and we are playing alligator in the RV AND I’m on the floor growling and acting like a wild…alligator, she backs herself into a corner and begins to cry. On a normal day if we make a ‘mean’ or ‘scary’ face in her general direction, it automatically brings tears to her eyes. Of course, we all immediately stop what we’re doing and come to her rescue.

But that’s not to say she is sweet and sensitive all the time. She most definitely has her days and issues just like any toddler. If you’re sitting near her during mealtime and attempt to swipe a cracker or other form of carbohydrate, prepare yourself for both a verbal and physical assault. And let me tell you, for a six-year-old, her slaps will leave a mark.

With that being said, if she hurts you on accident, be ready for some serious hug time and a good fifteen minute period of her looking into your eyes, while holding your face in her tiny little hands, and a litany of apologetic, “I’m so sorry Mommy…are you ok…I love you mommy, I’m so sorry…my poor sweetie, you didn’t deserve that” rhetoric. She embodies sincerity and empathy. If I didn’t know and wanted to learn how to issue an authentic apology, I would observe Cecilia for a day.

241 d.jpg

She will follow you around just waiting for you to bestow a “job” on her and when she completes the job, will bask in the glory if you brag about how well she did. And when she calls attention to others in the room so they can observe her hard work in action, the smile it brings her when you notice, is worth everything.

241 k.jpg

241 m.jpg

She loves reading books with someone who appreciates a good cuddle. And if you’re laying down with her and you see her little hand stretching out to touch your eye, just allow her to run her forefinger on your lashes. She won’t poke you in the eye, she just wants to touch your lashes.

241 r.jpg

She listens better and follows direction better if it’s given outside among the grass, trees, wind, and clouds. She loves loves loves to swim.

As soon as she opens her eyes in the morning, she hops out of bed with a happy heart ready to bestow kisses on the first person she sees. She thrives on routine. If she sees you crying, she will part the ocean to come and give you comfort. If she feels she is competing for your attention, she will up the cuteness factor tenfold. When she dances she loves to swing her little hips back and forth. When it’s nighttime before we put her pajamas on, she does this thing where she grabs the strands of hair that have fallen in the front with both hands and tosses them behind her back. Totally cute. And she does it every time. Such a girly girl.

241 g.jpg

She loves to play with play-doh. Her favorite thing to eat for breakfast is cinnamon raisin bagels. Her favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And don’t even think about skipping Friday night pizza time where she competes with her sisters for winning one of the coveted three categories for best pizza: 1. most creative pizza 2. most yummiest pizza 3. funniest looking pizza. She needed help with her pizza in the beginning, but will swipe your hand away if you come anywhere near her pizza today. She is perfecting her pizza-making craft and she doesn’t want any help from those who don’t share her vision.

 She wants to be independent in the grocery store and walk alongside the cart, but she will just up and wander away if you aren’t paying attention.

241 p.jpg

She gives two physical signs when she’s tired. The first of which involves putting her thumb in her mouth and raising her other hand to her face so she can touch her eyelashes. The second is when she clicks her jaw open and makes a yawning sound. If we’re in public it’s particularly intriguing to strangers who will openly stare at her and then turn to me with a look of, “why are you taking her out of the house?” To which I smile at them and give her a kiss and engage her in conversation.

241 n.jpg

241 f.jpg241 o.jpg

You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Cecilia does. She makes use of that phrase when asking for…damn near anything. If you’re not on her timeline be  prepared for, “Mommy, I want ice water please…Ice water please, Mommy…Mommy, water with ice please…Mommy…Mommy, please ice water…Can I have water with ice please” and on and on it goes until she has her plastic cup with lid and straw in her little hands. She will check to make sure the ice is in there as well….so if you think you might get something past her watchful eye, think again.

241 s b.jpg

Her baby years are long gone. With all of our children, I cherished those years where our days were filled with cuddling, nursing, staring into each others eyes, and celebrating the tiniest of milestones. My words cannot pay homage to the absolute joy I feel as a mother. It is without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever had: meal planning, clothes washing, house cleaning, school prep, are they getting enough sleep questions, when was the last time one of them had a good bowel movement, the constant worry deep within about whether I am good enough, am I doing enough, will they be happy and productive members of society, do they feel good about themselves, are they kind to others, are they getting enough outside time, how much is this lifestyle choice going to cost them in therapy bills when they reach adulthood, are they polite, are Abby and Phoebe getting enough one on one time with me or their daddy, do I spend too much time with Cecilia, have they all bathed, do they feel safe, do they know they are loved…the list goes on.

On the other hand, it is without a doubt the best most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

My mom asked me one time when I was pregnant with Phoebe, “Are you ever afraid that you won’t love the second one as much as the first one?” I didn’t even think about it…the answer was as clear to me then as it is today, “I have so much love to give…I love being a mother and I can’t wait to have more babies.”

Of course that goes back to the time when we were convinced we would have around five kids. Even though we face tough days and have days where we are constantly looking at the clock only to find three minutes has crawled by, I wouldn’t change our lives for anything. There’s no one else I want to be, there’s no place else I want to be, and there’s no one else I would want to be with. I feel so happy, thankful, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

241 b.jpgUsually around this time of year, right before our roller coaster reaches the summit and inches over the little hill for the final descent to the new year, I become a gooey mess. It all starts with this little girls birthday.

TWO HUNDRED FORTY…Aquamanning in Fairbanks

Living in such a small space with the same people day in and day out you find out so much about yourself.

For instance last night I learned that when I vomit, I sound like Aquaman. At least that’s what Greg tells me. I’m sure it’s true. He never exaggerates and isn’t dramatic at all. I must point out my sarcasm in the sentence above, just in case you thought I was being serious.

After eating at a restaurant I came home and didn’t feel well. Two hours later I was heaving over the toilet while Greg was standing in the doorway totally concerned saying, “I can’t believe your really puking right now. Are you ok? Can I do anything for you?” I mumbled something about a cold wet wash cloth and two minutes later he’s at my side with a sopping wet cold dish towel.

“That’ll do” I told him.

A few minutes go by and I can see him out of the corner of my eye. I know that look. He wants to tell me something, but he’s trying to gauge whether I’m too vulnerable for a little jest. Once I tell him, I’m totally fine and that I hope think it’s just a one-time thing he begins to tread lightly with, “I’ve never known anyone to sound like that when they throw up. Are you sure your ok? I mean, did you throw up a lung or a kidney?” To which I encouragingly reply, “What do I sound like when I throw up?” “Honestly, you won’t get mad?” He waits for my head nod and continues with, “You sound exactly like Aquaman.” From here on out, anytime I use the phrase, “I Aquamanned last night’ or ” I did my best impersonation of Aquaman last night” you can be 100% certain I am referring to vomiting.

And with that, I bring you highlights from our 6 day visit in Fairbanks.

Beginning in high school I dreamt about living in Alaska. Sometimes I replaced Alaska with Colorado just because it seemed more accessible. My sophmore year of highschool, I met a friend at sleep-away tennis camp who was from Colorado. She was a lot of fun and had really wild long curly blond hair. Right then I knew Colorado must be a totally cool place.

I’ve never met anyone from Alaska. I watched Continental Divide with Blair Brown and John Belushi a gazillion times so I felt completely prepared to handle anything Alaska might throw at me. Never mind the small fact that the film took place in Wyoming.

At this moment in time, Fairbanks is a jumping off point. A great place to settle down for a couple of days while we figure out the path we want to take. Our plan is to travel down to the coast, Cooper Landing, Seward, and Valdez. I’m enamoured with small quaint coastal towns. On our first RV journey, I was anxious to see if coastal Maine and Vermont were as amazing as the picture books described. Of course, being in both Maine and Vermont, it put the picture books to shame. I was in complete awe of their way of life and the absolute stunning beauty that surrounded them. I can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the quaint Alaskan coastal towns and see how these individuals live.


So while Fairbanks isn’t necessarily an end destination for us, it did allow us to recoup from our mega road trip, celebrate Cecilia’s 6th Birthday which I plan to write about in the next post, and get an idea of what our next couple of weeks might look like.

I was correct too by the way…I only Aquamanned once last night! Thank goodness. I absolutely loathe aquamanning!!

Here we come Seward!

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY NINE…buffalo, moose, and bears oh my

1,390 miles

14 hours per day

For 96 hours (a total of 4 days in case your like me and suck at math)

On Highway 2

That’s right friends we made it

A L A S K A

The final frontier

If you want to go back and re-read the introduction from beginning to end with your best Will Arnett vocal impersonation I encourage you to do so. I just did it in my head and I must say, It sounded amazing. And one more thing, when you read the line “The final frontier” make sure to use your lower register and move your eyebrows up and down in a really sinister way… just try it. It really helps in getting the message across.

Hmm where to begin. Do I start with the 4 days driving on half gravelled/half paved spine crushing roads. Should I open with a bragadocious piece of information about my finishing 3 audible thrillers within four days. Maybe I should begin with how overly enthusiastic we were when the trip began and how our attitudes for adventure quickly waned by the end of the second day. Or maybe, just maybe, I start with the end of the story where we were all willing to give Cecilia her own Tobagon complete with a group of Alaskan Huskies so that when she yelled, her directions would not only be welcome, but expected.

I guess it doesn’t really matter where I begin, as long as I accurately convey that 1,390 miles of half paved/half gravelled spine crushing roads will test the patience of even the most enthusiastic of road trippers and potentially jam your vertebrae together to pinch a large collection of nerves. We put in 12 sometimes 14 hour days on highway number 2 and it was every bit as treacherous and beautiful as they say.

239a.jpg

Along the way we had lessons in Science everywhere we looked, with all the wildlife roaming free around this vast landscape. We saw moose, buffalo, and many many bears. It was something to see these animals up close. It was intimidating to see how big they were and we were in an RV…which sits up pretty high.  The girls were enamoured with the animals facial expressions. We thoroughly entertained ourselves with made-up inner dialogues of each group:

Abby suggested the moose needed to cross the road to meet up with other moose peeps for their journey to camp…moose guarding camp of course.

Groups of buffalo looking to change-up their scenery would begrudgingly follow the leader of the pack. According to both Phoebe and Abby their dialogue went as follows:

Buffalo number 24 says to Buffalo Number 25 all the way in the back of the pack, “Do you know why Fred is going back this way?”

Buffalo Number 25 answers, “Fred pooped his pants and needs new underwear.” But it doesn’t end there, continue to repeat the poop line six or seven times and with every proclamation as if on cue, high-pitched giggling ensues.

We ran into some luck and actually saw a buffalo pooping on the side of the road, so that was the highlight of the day. Who am I kidding, it was the highlight of the entire trip…for the girls.

Both girls agreed the buffalo were heading to the nearest mall…for the Buffalo underwear…don’t want to be caught with turtle tracks in your undies!! The conversation went on for a lot longer than I care to record here. You should feel secure in knowing hours of “belly gas”  conversation which led to both topics of  belching and the always popular farting were discussed at length. Or more like ad nauseam. I hope with all of the “issues” those poor buffalo were afflicted with, they have finally recouped from their flatulent bellies. Fingers crossed on that one folks. Fingers crossed!

Of course all along our journey we saw several families of mamma bears and their baby cubs going scavenging and foraging for the upcoming school year. “They are hoping to find new satchels, computers, and shoes” that was my contribution. Not quite as exciting and scandalous as gaseous buffalo and camp-bound moose, but by the fourth day I wasn’t overly concerned about my creative responses. I just wanted to get the BLEEP out of the asylum on wheels.

Greg even swears he saw a reindeer with big fuzzy antlers which my friend Elena and I have named Boots. Unfortunately my friend Elena isn’t with us on our journey, but I pretend she is by texting her every five minutes to give her updates on our tremendously exciting lives. She’s super jealous.

Just kidding. She’s not jealous.

239c.jpg

For the first two days of our journey Thursday and Friday, I drove the entire time just because it was a workday for the hubs. So he used one of his many audible tokens to give me a 13.5 hour audio crime thriller by Author Gillian Flynn called Dark Places. This is the same author who wrote Gone Girl.

From the moment the book began to four hours later, I took my first bathroom break, which is unheard of for me. I’m usually an every two-hour potty break kind of girl. I drink a lot of water.

A LOT OF WATER.

Needless to say, I finished the 13 hour book just as we were pulling into our first stop-over on our very first day. I was dumbfounded for an hour or so, still completely enveloped in the world created by the author. I then promptly begged Greg to get the authors third book Sharp Edges.

The next day, Friday, 9 hours came and went and just like that. All the characters I had become so invested in, were gone. Poof. Into thin air. Never to materialize into the film going on in my mind. I had to shake these characters off. I was too tightly wrapped up in their world. I was too affected. Too emotionally involved. Attached. Invested.

It was time for a third crime book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The summer of 1999, after graduating from my undergrad program, I moved to New York. I was terribly lonely and subletting a room with fellow classmates from previous years. I stole In Cold Blood from my roommate Jonathan, and read it on my subway commute to midtown everyday…because reading crime novels is a great way to lift your spirits. I wanted another book like Gillian Flynn’s previous two. So this is the book I picked. Let me just say, it was creepy in the summer of 99 and it was creepy this past Sunday when I finished the 14 hour book in one day.

In between listening to books, Greg and I would pause to solve all of the worlds problems and try our very best to ignore the screaming, whining, crying jags from the girls.

239d.jpg

After the first 14 hours of driving on Thursday Cecilia was over all the cool coloring books, crafting supplies, small fun little toys, and little books we had bought specifically for this trip.

Abby and Phoebe are old enough to switch from one activity to another but Cecilia really likes it when I am at her beck and call sit with and show her how to use the stickers and color in her coloring books, when I read books to her, and finally when I play with her.

I love getting her started on all activities…but then I am ready to let her play/practice on her own. She was not down with that philosophy…at all…and would frequently yell loudly voice her protestations.

And after the second day of her declarations, we were all over it. Honestly, I am surprised I still have hair. BUT, we made it.

We are in ALASKA.

I’ve waited my whole young adult life to visit this land. I keep pinching myself, it’s so hard to believe. I’ve built it up so much in my mind…what the trees would look like, the crisp weather, the fresh smell of that crisp cool weather, the sound of nature, miles upon miles of untouched non-homogenized lands, and of course the people who call this unspoiled state home.

As soon as my spine heals, I am going to soak up everything Alaska has to offer. I want to experience everything. But not if it’s dangerous. No danger here folks. If the bears, buffalo, and Moose could just sort of…I don’t know…maybe hang out around the perimeter while the Spranger’s are here…that would be great. Totally awesome. Seriously, completely awesome.

239e.jpg

 

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY EIGHT…ADD = Awkward & Abrupt

I don’t know what I ate last night but I woke up at 4 am ready to take on the world. My ADD is in full effect. I woke up thinking about our upcoming trip to Alaska, a collie dog, Cecilia’s birthday which is ten days away, new shoes, a new computer because my computer and I are in a huge fight right now…the list goes on.

Because my ADD is in full effect, you’ll have to give me some space to ‘get it all out there’. Most likely this post will not have a cohesive linear flow…it will be choppy. Not that my posts ever have a cohesive linear flow. But, I just wanted to give some context up front.

238 g.jpg

It’s a cool 62 degrees this morning in Minot, North Dakota. We have all of our windows open…all ten of them. We have some fresh cool air breezing through our humble abode and I feel so alive and refreshed.

I cannot believe in one day we will be starting our adventure to Alaska. Since I was in high school I have had an inexplicable intoxication with Alaska. A love affair with a location I have never been too. Most people dream of a tropical island…not me. I dream of frigid, isolated, vast landscape filled with friendly small towns. Clearly I watched too much Northern Exposure when I was a spring chicken. My brother loves Seinfeld, I love Northern Exposure.

I tried to convince my mom to let me drop out of college my junior year so I could work on a fishing boat in the elusive state. I’m glad she didn’t allow me to forgo the amazing education I was lucky to have, especially now that we are going to experience it first hand for a whole month.

I’ve been doing some research and “The land of the midnight sun” is going to blow my mind literally. I’ve always been so curious about the daytime hours in the summer up there. Being in North Dakota, it is hard to become accustomed to the sunset not happening until the 10pm hour. I think the whole going to bed with the sun blaring through our windows is going to be very difficult for the Spranger clan. I’m not sure how Phoebe will be able to wind down with the sun being out until a quarter till 12 am and then rising at the 4 am hour. Thank goodness our rig comes with blackout shades.

My mind is going to explode. I CANNOT WAIT.

And of course, I woke up thinking about Bear.

blog 143o.jpg

Our beloved dog who passed away over a year ago. It really hit us hard.

Phoebe likes to say the blessing before we eat dinner and she always prays for Bear. She always asks for Bear to have a, “New chew toy and some really good food.” It breaks my heart every damn time. I hate to think about getting another dog, to “replace” Bear. No dog could ever live up to the ridiculously high standards he set for us.

blog a 4

But I am ready to open our home and my heart to a new family member. It’s certainly not going to be in the form of a human baby, that ship sailed long ago. But I think I am going through some sort of “Oh Wow I’m out of the baby stage” as a mom. Instead of dealing with those emotions, I want to quickly replace them with a fluffy canine.

155 1.jpg

I find myself lately doing research on different collie types. Growing up, my family always had Golden Retrievers. So naturally, when it was time for Greg and I to adopt our first baby, we met Bear a 6-week-old golden. I know and am so comfortable with the breed. I was 100% confident a Golden would be great with kids. They fit our lifestyle with their love of being outside and being active.

Greg grew up with a mix and later a Sheltie who had the best temperament. So I am expanding our horizons. I always said, “while we’re living our gypsy life, we would not get a dog.” But I truly miss the companionship a dog brings. I miss taking long walks, brushing, throwing toys, and the physical relationship a dog brings.

d (700 of 1)

I think I am finally ready.

And I think Cecilia would absolutely love having the responsibility of all that “taking care of a dog” brings. Seriously. I am not trying to make excuses. She is my little helper. She always helps put the dishes away, helps me put the clothes in the washing machine and then transfer them to the dryer, throw away her trash and even pick up after her sisters. She also thoroughly enjoys slapping dead flies with the fly swatter. She is such a funny little person.

238 d.jpg

Which brings me to my next point, in ten days Cecilia is going to be six years old. I am so excited. I absolutely miss our kids in the infant and toddler stages, but it is awesome being able to get to know and interact with them as they grow. I love the relationships I have with all my girls.

It’s so much fun to talk with Abby and Phoebe about and help them cultivate their interests. They are each so different.

img_7954-1

The older Cecilia gets, the more we can do together. She loves grocery shopping with me. Yesterday, we travelled to a ridiculously expensive health food store. That was redundant wasn’t it…”a ridiculously expensive health food store”…is there any other kind? Anyway, Cecilia demanded to be allowed to put items into the cart and of course when we were in the check-out lane, place the carted items on the belt.

Her eagerness to help always garners affectionate responses from onlookers, which of course I love. She plays it up too…she’s such a little ham. Yesterday, our cashier asked me if it was ok to give Cecilia a “sugar-free” sucker. Cecilia looked at me and then at the cashier and said in her high-pitched voice, “Oh it’s fine” and with excitement showing on her face she reached out her chubby little hand and promptly said, “Mmm, Thank you!”

I also love it when people understand her. It means her speech is becoming more clear. The days where Greg and I interpret for her are fading more quickly. Yet another reason to love the fact she is growing up. We get to have conversations with her.

Like all toddlers, she says the funniest things. Her, “Oh Mommy, you’re okay” “you stop that now” “you are being a bad girl/boy Mommy/Daddy” “Use your fork Phoebe” “Come here Abby, you’re mine, go away Phoebe” “No this is mine, get away”, or just “get away”. I know there are some more nuggets in there I am leaving out, but these are the ones she uses on a regular basis. Coming from Abby or even Phoebe at their current age, it would definitely be offensive, but from the mouth of a five almost six-year-old, it’s the funniest damn thing.

238 e.jpg

I tried to figure out a creative segue into the topic of “shoes” but it proved to be too much work for my little ole brain. So I am just going to dive right in…my husband and a dear friend of the family, Laura Brewer, are forever giving me “helpful” ideas about shoes. I am notorious for picking out “clownish” shoes that would look awesome on petite females with an equally petite foot size. My feet are not petite in any way. Finally at the age of 40,  I am figuring out, in fact, I cannot get away with the shoes I really want to wear.

 

Goodbye Keens. Sayonara long-tongued Converse. It was great knowing ya bright pink pointy toed flats. The dark cocoa colored Ugg boots which have provided so much warmth in the colder climates, we almost had it all. I think the goal now, is to draw attention away from my feet. Not with a new “homely style” been there done that, but something a little more subtle and female oriented. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. I am on the lookout for an appropriate shoe in this next phase of my life. When my computer is cooperating and working with me, I am viciously scouring and pinning ideas on Pinterest. I’m close…I can feel it.

238 c.jpg

Which brings me to my final topic this morning…my computer. We have a tumultuous relationship. When I want to use it, it won’t cooperate. When I’m just looking for something to kill the time, it’s always available.

I’ve put so many raw picture files on this hard drive it takes an honest to you know what 45 minutes to boot up and by that time I have completely forgotten why I wanted to use the damn thing in the first place. We have been together for a solid five years now. It’s an Apple…and you know what they say about Apple products…”Once you go MAC, you never go back”.

I’m not quite ready to make the monetary commitment an apple product requires. I just can’t justify spending a small fortune this time of  year. We are end of the year heavy with birthdays and holidays. My bank account charges my brain $2.00 each time I THINK about the following six months.

238 k.jpg

And just like that…I abuptly end this post. It was both fun and therapeutic to get this off my chest. Happy Wednesday…or as we say in the Spranger household, happy camel hump day!

 

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN….don’t mess with me, I’m ebbing

Today almost became the day, where I remove the tops from our jeep, turned up the bass and blasted the Foo Fighters on the car stereo, bought a pack of Marlboro Lights from the closest gas station, put my favorite baseball cap on, and drove 45 miles north from Minot (pronounced ‘my not’), North Dakota until I reached Canada.

ALONE.

237 A.jpg

Yes, I envisioned myself running away from home. It happens once a year, where my sanity is taken to the edge of a Grand Canyonesque drop and dangled off to the side of its highest peak. I don’t smoke, but today I contemplated starting. Just a big fat inhale of nothing but carcinogenic badness and an exhale of Abby’s constant pleads for taking the summer off from school, Phoebe’s inability to concentrate on the most basic task, and Cecilia’s blatant and defiant deafness to my voice…it seemed like running away with my jeep, the tops off, music blaring, cigarette in hand was the better alternative.

237 j.jpg

 

But then Greg would be all alone with the inmates (as I always LOVINGLY refer to my wonderful children). If I could have my druthers, we would be running away together. And in this day-mare (like a nightmare and a daydream all rolled into one) our kids are seen in the last scene relaxing on the ground outside and bragging, “Wow, that was hard! I thought they were never going to leave. Ugh, they put up with so much…my kids will never do this to me!!!” and then they raise their chocolate milks to one another and eat their favorite peanut butter with pickle sandwiches.

The scene ends and lights fade to black.

237 d.jpg

Today was one of those days where I question my decision to not only home school, but live with all five family members in a 300 square foot mini-assylum-on-wheels. What was I thinking? I’m looking in our pathetic manufactured in Thailand bathroom mirror (that distorts my face…and not in a good way) watching myself age rapidly and not even recognizing the person looking back at me.

237 feature 4.jpg

After a shit (pardon my french) morning, I thought we could all use a little break, breath of fresh air, a minute or two in nature to recalibrate our rhythms. Oh, who are we kidding, Mommy needed to recalibrate her sanity. I am referring to myself in 3rd person. I had hopes of taking the kids to the park and taking pictures with my old friend, TANK (aka my Canon) in an effort to bring us all some much-needed peace. Nature always brings me to a good frame of mind.

237 k.jpg

NOT TODAY.

No cooperation from anyone what-so-ever.

The evidence is all around…every picture.

I was on the verge of a Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford moment, in the infamous ‘no more wire coat hangers’ scene in the 1981 classic film Mommy Dearest, when I waved my white flag of surrender high in the air.

  I  brought Cecilia back, set her up at the table with some goldfish crackers, ice water, and her fully charged iPad. I needed a break. I isolated myself in my bedroom, laid down on the bed, cried, and had myself a 30 minute pity party. And within 30 minutes, I was perfectly fine.

237 hh.jpg

Cecilia came into the bedroom, climbed on the bed, sat down on my lower back and bounced up and down for a while, then laid down beside me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Mommy, I need more water, ice, and fishies.” As aggravated and frustrated as I was with all three of our inamtes, they are so damn funny.

Such is life.

237 o.jpg

Ebb and Flow.

Clearly I’m ebbing right now…I am anxiously awaiting the flow.