Road Trip Part 3


Esbon’s sister, Gayle, lives in Ruston, Louisiana.  We visited her family once before, in 2007.  Visiting again was one of the main reasons for this whole excursion.  I can’t believe how little and cute the boys looked back then!

2007Trip Road Trip Part 3Gayle and Jim put us up in a hotel for the duration of our visit.  They treated us to everything and we had a great weekend with them.

Pizza Road Trip Part 3Pizza with three of the four Yates boys.  Daniel is a little younger than Bo, James is a little younger than Jonathan, and Mathew is the youngest.  JT, who is a little older than Bo, was at a ball game.

Airsoft Road Trip Part 3Bo, Daniel, and a friend of Daniel’s had a great time playing airsoft at the cousins’ house.  This is apparently a common sight around the neighborhood.  The sheriff lives across the street, and his son has been known to join in the fun.

Reload Road Trip Part 3While Bo and Daniel were running around with their airsoft guns, Jonathan and the other boys were enjoying the trampoline, Jedi style.

Trampoline Road Trip Part 3Jedi1 Road Trip Part 3It looks like James is winning!

Jedi Road Trip Part 3While the boys were battling their cousins, Gayle and Jim drove us to Arcadia to hear some Bluegrass with the North Louisiana Bluegrass Club.

Bluegrass Road Trip Part 3The groups that weren’t on stage performing practiced in back rooms of the Depot Museum.

Bluegrass2 Road Trip Part 3The Depot Museum had some interesting displays on local history.  This is part of an exhibit on Bonnie and Clyde.

DepotMuseum2 Road Trip Part 3Esbon particularly enjoyed this military history display.

DepotMuseum1 Road Trip Part 3

Bird watching is one of my favorite things to do at Gayle’s.  She has a dozen or more feeders in her backyard.  I sat out in the cold for awhile, waiting for the birds to get used to me.  I’d say it was worth it!  Here’s one of several Cardinals.

Cardinal Road Trip Part 3And a red-bellied woodpecker…

Red bellied Woodpecker Road Trip Part 3

We had a great time just hanging out with the family.  This is Esbon and Gayle with Gayle’s youngest grandson, Mathew.

GayleEsbonMatthew Road Trip Part 3We went out for Mexican on our last evening.  Gayle’s daughter Linda and her four boys joined us.  The boys watched the movie “I, Spy” in Spanish while they ate.  Wow, that’s a lot of growing boys!

Family Road Trip Part 3It was a beautiful weekend with family.  We didn’t get to see everyone since some of the older cousins are already in college, but everyone had a great time.  I hope we’ll get back again soon!

Lowthers Road Trip Part 3And with that it’s time to head back west!

Road Trip, Continued…

Part 2: Texas!

Okay, it’s time to get back to Texas!

Flags Road Trip, Continued...We went to church in San Antonio with my friend Teri from college.  After church we went to Mamacita’s Restaurant for some delicious Tex-Mex.  We all enjoyed the food, and the singing animatronic Davy Crockett.

Mamacitas1 Road Trip, Continued...After lunch, Teri showed us around her neighborhood and treated us to yummy muffins at the Central Market.  Then we all went to the Alamo together, even though it was rainy.

AlamoBoys Road Trip, Continued...We enjoyed walking around the grounds and viewing the short film and exhibits in the Long Barrack Museum.  The boys liked the cannons in the Cavalry Courtyard and the Gift Shop the best.  This was a “school” field trip of course, even though it was Sunday.

JCCannon Road Trip, Continued...By the afternoon the weather had cleared up a bit, but it was time for us to move on to our next stop.  We bid Teri farewell and headed north.

Teri Road Trip, Continued...Our next stop was New Braunfels, where we spent the night at another college friend’s house.  We had a brief visit with Kristen and Mike before everyone had to get to bed.  The next morning I enjoyed some girl time with Kristen, her mom, and her daughter, while Esbon and the boys slept in.  Mike and their two boys had to get up and go to work/school.  This visit wasn’t nearly long enough and I can’t wait until we get the chance to see them again!

Kristen Road Trip, Continued...By midday we were back on the road and heading for Austin.  Esbon went to the University of Texas in Austin so we drove around the campus a little.  Then we spent some time running around at Zilker Park before looking for a hotel for the night.

ZilkerParkJC Road Trip, Continued...The boys had fun climbing on this rock formation.

ZilkerParkBoys Road Trip, Continued...Esbon got this shot of the Austin skyline from atop the formation.

Austin Road Trip, Continued...We ended up at the Super 8 Austin North.  It was one of the nicest Super 8s I’ve ever stayed in.  The hot breakfast was delicious, and they even had Texas shaped waffles.

The next day we met my cousin Fanya, and her new husband, Patrick, for lunch.  They treated us to delicious burgers and onion rings at the Shady Grove Restaurant.

FanyaPatrick Road Trip, Continued...After lunch we headed north again.  The boys were happily surprised to stop at an In N’ Out Burger for dinner before we arrived late at our friend Mary’s house in Clarksville.  We spent several days visiting with Mary and relaxing in this quiet northeast Texas town.  The boys were happy to have access to tv and the internet for awhile.  We got to meet Mary’s grandson, Samuel, while we were there, but we missed seeing the rest of the family.

Samuel Road Trip, Continued...On Friday morning we left Clarksville, and Texas, behind us and drove east, but you’ll have to catch the next post to find out where we went next.

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Road Trip!

Part 1: Portland to Kerrville

We took February off and drove to Louisiana to visit Esbon’s sister, Gayle, and her family.  Along the way we saw lots of other friends and family across the south.  I know I’m a little late getting these up, but I wanted to share our travel log anyway.  We drove about 6000 miles in a month, so I’ll break this up into several posts.

The first few days of our trip were mostly driving.  We got a fairly good start on the 1st, and headed for Medford, OR.  We visited with my good friend, Emily, for over an hour over lunch.

001Purdy1 Road Trip!We had a good drive south into California.  It was overcast and cool – perfect driving weather.  There were some interesting clouds over Mt. Shasta.  Esbon got this shot while I was driving.

002ShastaEsbon Road Trip!Our first stop in the Golden State is always at the In N’ Out Burger in Redding.  This was our favorite fast food restaurant for years and it’s equal doesn’t exist in Oregon.  (Sorry Burgerville lovers, not even close!)

003InnOut Road Trip!We arrived in Vallejo, CA a little after 9 pm.  Our friends, David and Trudy put us up for the night.  The boys stayed up late playing with their friends while we caught up with ours.  It was hard to get going the next morning, and it was nearly lunch time when we finally dragged the kids away from the computers.

004BrasuresOutbound Road Trip!We had planned to have a picnic lunch on day 2, but we forgot to buy bread while we were in town and couldn’t find any at the truck stops along I-5.  We snacked in the car for lunch and treated ourselves to ice cream later in the afternoon.  We dined in La Verne, outside of L.A., and then took a short detour to drive by my old house.  It was too dark for pictures, but fun to show the kids where I lived for a few years in my youth.  We pulled into the Motel 6 in Indio before 9 pm, so we made pretty good time over all for the day.

Friday brought another later than planned start (we’re not great at getting going early) and pretty good driving weather.  We enjoyed watching gas prices fall as we traveled east – from $3.65 in Indio to $3.37 somewhere in Arizona.  Crossing Arizona and New Mexico was pretty uneventful.  We saw a few oases and lots of cacti, but not much else.

005Oasis Road Trip!

006Cacti1 Road Trip!We took a lot of these pictures out the window while the car was moving.  Our goal was to make time during this leg of the trip so we didn’t stop much.  This is much easier now that the boys are old enough to entertain themselves.  They’ve got their movies, handheld games, and phones to play on or watch.  We sometimes make them run laps around the van when we do stop, to make sure they get a little exercise.

We stopped at about 8:30 in Lordsburg, NM on Friday night.  We had planned to get a little farther than that, but I forgot to factor in the time changes as we crossed time zones.  We settled into the Econolodge and watched some tv before calling it a night.

Saturday was another uneventful day of driving.  We filled up the gas tank at $3.09/gallon – the lowest price we saw on the whole trip.  We crossed the border into Texas around mid-morning.

006Texas Road Trip!We stopped at a rest area for a picnic.  These birds were flitting about the pathways and bushes beside the parking area.

007TXBirds Road Trip!We were able to make up some of our lost time on I-10 east of El Paso.  The speed limit jumped up to 80 mph!  Yes, I said 80 mph!

00880MPH Road Trip!I shot this out the window going, yes, 80 mph.  We did make up some time on Saturday but didn’t get quite as far as we hoped.  We stopped around 7:30 pm, at the Days Inn in Kerrville, TX.  Then we got pizza to go and had a pizza and movie night at the motel.

At this point, we were done with our first big driving push.  We covered about 2000 miles in 4 days.  In the next post I’ll share the rest of our visit in Texas.  Happy driving!


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Birding Field Trip

It was a cold and foggy morning…

Actually, it really was cold and foggy, but we went to the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge anyway.  The weather forecast indicated that the fog would lift by mid morning or so.  It was wrong.  We enjoyed the hike along the mile trail even though it was so foggy that the geese kept taking off and disappearing before we could get the camera focused on them.  We saw quite a few birds and got some exercise.

c8bf1627e5cbbfc Birding Field Trip

This is how foggy it was when we got there around 9:45.  We visited the Wildlife Center, which opens at 10 am, a few days ago when it was too rainy to hike, so we started right out on the nature trail.

f59ab01398a1cac Birding Field Trip

Bo was only interested in hiking, not in looking for birds, so he set a fast pace.  I told him to stay within view, which with the fog, wasn’t very far ahead.  I gave them an assignment to photograph at least three kinds of birds so he did do some bird watching, but not much.

50146a3bbd49fc7 Birding Field Trip

There were water drops on all the branches.  We stopped several times to take pictures of them.  I should bring my film camera and my macro lens next time so I can get even closer!

The first birds we saw were geese.  They kept taking off from the marsh and flying around in formation, startled by various things.  We saw them from a distance and lost them in the fog before we could get any good pictures.

77f6c7144c80df6 Birding Field Trip

Next we saw a dozen or so of these.  I think they’re sparrows.  (Bird identification is not one of my talents, but I’m learning.)  They were on the ground when we came around a corner and startled them.  The gravel trail made it a little hard to sneak up on anything.  We got a few shots from a distance before the noise we made startled them into the brambles.  Jonathan and I stood quietly by until they started to come back so we could get a few more shots.

8ed2177f1a08827 Birding Field Trip

As you can see, we were dressed for the weather.  It was about 34 degrees when we got there, and I don’t think it warmed up much.

fd5ea59bf8cb053 Birding Field Trip

This is part of the view from the wetlands observation deck at the end of the trail.  We saw lots of ducks, mostly Mallards and Northern Pintails.  I definitely need a longer zoom lens so I can closer pictures.  The kids put their cameras away and got out the binoculars when we got to the viewpoint, so they got a good look at the different birds.

822ae7746553a06 Birding Field Trip

The winter trees were very interesting to photograph as well.

7f1c87905e734ab Birding Field Trip

These are more ducks from the wetlands viewpoint.

We saw several other kinds of birds on the way back, but they were too far away and moved around too fast to get any good pictures.  I think we saw a few Brown Creepers and some Black-capped Chickadees, but I didn’t get a good enough look to be sure.

43650fee81b2986 Birding Field Trip

The fog lifted a little before we left around 11:45, but it was still cold and overcast.  We met a couple of volunteers when we got back who asked if we had seen the screech owl.  They told us where it usually hangs out, so we’ll look for it next time we visit.

We’ll definitely be going back another day (when the weather is better, of course!) and hopefully a few more times in the spring and summer to see different kinds of birds.  Overall, it was a fun field trip, even if it was cold and misty all morning.

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Welcome to 2012!

I must admit, I’ve had something of a struggle these last few weeks.  The run up to 2012, with everyone recapping the big (and not so big) events of 2011 has been a nearly constant reminder to me that I’m not where I wanted to be now, and that I failed to achieve most of the things I hoped to in 2011.  I suppose a lot of people feel this way at the start of a new year.  They wonder if they were just marking time for the past year, or worse, wasting it.

In an attempt to counteract this frustration, I’ve been trying to identify the successes I had last year, to express gratitude for what did go well, and to remember the happy times we had.  So here are some things I’m grateful for (in no particular order).

I’m grateful for God, and that I’ve been raised to know him as a loving Father-Mother who always cares for us, in the good times, and the bad.

I’m grateful that we have had a roof over our heads and food on the table (thanks Mom!) through all this searching for home and employment.

While not having the income a job would provide has been difficult, I’m grateful for the extra time we’ve had as a family.  Esbon has been a wonderful help with school, and taken on most of the housework.  We’ve been able to take days or weekends off to go to the beach or visit friends – mini vacations we wouldn’t have been able to take if Esbon had had a full time job.

I’m grateful for being able to pay our bills each month with the modest income we do have.  Like the Children of Israel and the manna in the wilderness, we always have just enough to meet our obligations.

I’m grateful for our new phones.  We shopped for new phones for months, waiting for the right time, and the right upgrade offer.  When Esbon’s phone died, we decided we would have to take the plunge, even though it meant saying goodbye to the awesome, inexpensive plan we’d had for years.  We got our first smart phones, and even got phones for the boys, and we’re loving them.

I’m grateful that I got to go to my cousin’s wedding in June in New Orleans.  It was a hot, muggy weekend, and Esbon and the boys couldn’t come with me, but I still had a lot of fun.  The wedding was beautiful, and catching up with the rest of the family was priceless.  It was the first time in years I had seen some of them (especially my cousin who currently resides in New Zealand) and the first time I met most of their kids.

There are many other things I’m grateful for, but those are the biggies. I have faith that 2012 will hold many more blessings for us, like a home of our own, the chance to visit Esbon’s sisters in Colorado and Louisiana, continuing success in our homeschool, and maybe even selling my first book.

Yes, 2012 looks promising.  I wish you and yours a blessed new year and success in all your endeavors.

Happy New Year!

a44cba578e604b8 Welcome to 2012!

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We’re Giving Away The Holiday Planner

You have two chances to win a free copy of The Holiday Planner – Boys Will Be Boys Edition.

First, Hal and Melanie Young at Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boys are giving away a copy as part of their Facebook Party to launch their new e-book – We Gather Together: Sanity and Celebration at Thanksgiving.  The party is over but the giveaways will be up until midnight tonight.  (I’m not sure what time zone that is, probably eastern.)  Head on over to their blog to check out all the great freebies and giveaways.

Second, Felice Gerwitz will be giving away a copy during the Ultimate Fall/Christmas Expo.  The live sessions are this Thursday and Friday.  All the details are on her website.  Grab your ticket today to access all the pre-recorded sessions and join us live in the chat room for some inspiring fellowship!  I’ve been listening to the Ultimate Homeschool Expos for a couple of years now and always find just the right inspiration, and occasionally the kick in the pants, that I need.  I hope you’ll join us!

One last thing, Felice has created an awesome, Mega Prize, including past Expo sets and more.  Be sure to enter before November 30th!


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Holiday Planner – Boys Will Be Boys Edition

Wow, what a busy couple of weeks it’s been!  I just realized that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away!  Are you ready?  I’m not.  I’ve been so busy working on my 8th National Novel Writing Month project, and on my new ebook – The Holiday Planner – Boys Will Be Boys Edition.

The Holiday Planner is a collection of lists for keeping track of your Thanksgiving & Christmas activities.  It includes forms for recording gifts, cards, addresses, menus, and parties.  There are also journal pages and pages for writing about your family traditions.  Simply print out the pages you want and use them to create a personalized planner/organizer.

I had so much fun going through old pictures to find just the right ones to decorate the planner with.  It’s amazing how fast our kids grow up and it was a nice reminder to take some time to just hang out with them.  While I hope you’ll use some of the pages with my handsome boys on them, I also included pages with blanks instead of pictures so you can add your own little ones to your planner.

The holidays are such a precious season.  I hope this planner will help you stay organized so you can spend more time with your family.  Check it out today!

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Getting Ready for Another School Year

I have really been enjoying the live sessions of the Ultimate Homeschool Expo Back to School Blast this week.  The speakers have been so inspiring and encouraging.  The moms in the chat room have been equally fun and encouraging.  I get so much from these lovely women! 

We’ve heard from veteran homeschoolers whose children are grown and married.  They’ve shared their wisdom and experience as well as their trials and difficulties.  We’ve also heard from homeschool graduates who are just beginning to teach their own little ones at home.  They have shown so much gratitude and respect for their parents and homeschooling.  It is truly encouraging to know that I am not the only homeschooling mom who struggles or whose kids aren’t always motivated to learn. 

All of the speakers have shared wisdom and practical ideas for the coming school year.  They have given me the inspiration (a.k.a. the kick in the pants) that I need as I sit down to plan what my children will be studying in the next few months.  They have given me awesome tools (the great extras you get when you purchase a ticket) for planning and teaching.  I’m looking forward to having some fun with the boys as we begin a new year of school.

There is so much more to come!  I sincerely hope you’ll join us – either for the free, live sessions the rest of this week (the live chat room is a blast!) or by purchasing your ticket to the membership site (or both!).  Click here for all the information on the talks and bonuses you’ll receive with your ticket!  I’ll see you in the chat!

P.S. Act now to get the entire Expo set for half off!  (Sale ends 8-18-11)

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Looking Back

Every journey has stages.  Everyone starts somewhere and travels to somewhere else and sometimes we look back and wonder where we are and how we got here.  Many of us are somewhere in the middle of the journey, having completed the basic stages of life like going to school, getting married, starting a family, and so on.

We are approaching the next stage of our journey and I’ve been looking back on the last eighteen months to see where we’ve been.  These have not been easy months by any means, but by sticking together and applying huge amounts of gratitude and humility we’re getting on.  I suppose we’re a little bit like the Children of Israel who escaped from Egypt to wander in the wilderness.  We have many lessons to learn, just like they did!

Let me give a little background for those of you who don’t know us yet.  I’ll try to give the short version!

In April of 2010 we put all of our belongings into storage and moved out of our townhouse.  The rent was simply too expensive, as are many things in Marin County, California.  Esbon still had his job, and I still had my eight hours a week at the Scout Shop, but we had nowhere to live.  A friend graciously offered us her pool house for two months and we accepted. 

In June we traveled to Oregon for a family wedding and a bit of much needed vacation.  As summer continued we moved from housesitting gig to housesitting gig.  Part of this time Esbon was in California alone, while the kids and I stayed with my mother in Portland. Much of the time we were all sharing one room, with the boys sleeping on the floor. 

Our normal summer activities continued as planned.  Bo went to summer camp with his Boy Scout troop.  Jonathan went to Day Camp where Bo and I served on the staff.  Before we knew it fall was on it’s way and it was time to start school again, and we still didn’t have a place to live.

A decision had to be made.  It was about the hardest thing we’ve ever done as a family (so far), but we knew we couldn’t continue where we were.  So we moved to Portland.  My mother offered to put us up until we could find work and get our own place.  It was hard to leave our friends, our Scout groups, and our jobs.  (Perhaps the hardest thing to leave behind was the mild California weather!)

That was in September of 2010.  Here we sit, in July of 2011, still in my mother’s apartment, still searching for right employment.  Our efforts have turned towards building our own income, since the numerous companies Esbon interviewed with (and dozens more with whom he didn’t even get that far) weren’t interested.

The last year hasn’t been all bad.  We have seen a lot more of my family (except for my brother who still lives in California, though we’ve seen him, too).  The boys are in Scouts and continue to learn and grow.  We’re still homeschooling.  We can now help my sister once in awhile with her little ones.  The sun peeks out from behind the clouds every so often, though not often enough for some!

And we think, and pray, and pray some more, that this wilderness stage of our journey is nearly over.  The promised land seems to be before us and we can see progress ahead, and actual beds and bedrooms for the boys, and a place to call our own.

That’s where we’ve been.  As our options and plans unfold over the next few weeks I’ll share some of what we learned, and are still learning, in the wilderness and more of what we hope to be doing in the next stage of our journey.

Summer Camp

Sunday morning we drove up to Camp Pioneer to drop off Bo and Esbon for a week of Boy Scout camp.  It’s their second year attending resident camp and I’m sure they’re having a great time.  It’s a little strange to be completely out of contact with them though.  The camp they went to last year had cell phone service so Esbon and I talked a few times while they were gone.  I was also able to send them email that the staff printed out and delivered like regular mail.  This camp has neither cell phone service nor email.  I feel so cut off!

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the pictures I took at camp on Sunday.  Enjoy!

First up – the boys with their gear in the parking lot.  Bo was so excited to get his first real pack a few weeks ago and he couldn’t wait to use it.

5c28cfacc119faa Summer Camp

Here’s the group shot of the Troop.  The staff takes this shot of each troop that comes to camp.  Troop 127 has a total of 21 Scouts at camp this week.  That should make for a different experience for Bo and Esbon.  Last year they only had about 6 Scouts in the group!

   9264002b862990c Summer Camp

Next up – the lake with Mt. Jefferson in the background.  The view is truly breathtaking!  You can sort of see part of the waterfront area on the left, and I think there’s a fishing dock or something on the right.

0bee6238250aeee Summer Camp

Unlike the boys, Esbon and some of the other leaders didn’t have backpacking packs to carry all of their gear.  Fortunately for them there were carts to help get gear to their campsite.

21bff89d97eeef7 Summer Camp

The boys are camping in the “Big Fir” campsite.  Most of them are using the small pup tents that were already set up for the week, but one patrol wanted to sleep in the same tent so we brought our big tent that sleeps six for them to use.  I think Bo was planning to set up his own blue tent but he didn’t get it set up before I left.

845bab11c35ec6a Summer Camp

The first order of business after the boys unloaded their gear was to change into their swim trunks and head down to the waterfront for swim checks. 

c1afa394e6d251b Summer Camp

That’s about the last I saw of the boys before I left.  I pretty much said goodbye to Bo before we left the house.  I figured once we got to camp he’d be off with the other Scouts and not want to be seen hugging Mom.  I was right, of course.

Jonathan and I walked around camp a bit more before we left though.  Here’s part of the waterfont.

fc3408b8c106e27 Summer Camp

And the dining hall (one of the most important buildings in camp!)

3ab06b3c07796d1 Summer Camp

That’s about all Jonathan was good for.  I did make him wait a bit longer while I photographed some of the bear grass that grows all over camp though.  (Flower photography is one of my specialties after all!)

c3304b54359a216 Summer Camp

Even though I know they’re having an awesome time at camp, I can’t wait to see them on Saturday when they get back.  It’s just too strange having only half the family here.  I hope Esbon is taking lots of pictures so we can see what they did all week.

Happy Camping!!

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