Saturday, 22 September 2012


The breakfast at Best Western at Pearl (near Jackson, Mississippi, airport) DID have a nice breakfast. They kept it stocked, and made sure we were full before packing it up at the posted closing time. Make your own waffles, yogurt, fresh fruit, some egg-type substance, and sausage and ham, plus cereal, toast, coffee, milk, and juice. The orange juice was disgusting, but the rest was decent.

At Super 8 the cinnamon rolls were nice, but for waffles they had thawed out Eggos. Other than yogurt there was no protein. They also worked hard to keep the counters stocked.

We had let our chickens free-range while we were gone, and when we got back one rooster and his three hens were missing. No sign of foul play, but no sign of the fowls, either. :-( The extra rooster from that pen is still here, but he's very lonely now.  I think we should give him some of the girls from the other pen.

We got everything dry, finally.

Yesterday we had a hot dog roast with two other homeschool, dresses and headcovering families. :-) That was an adventure, with 19 children ages 13 and under together in one place. Each of the mothers had a newborn boy with her, and the men were talking politics and religion, so the children got to have lots of fun playing tag and hide and seek. Ella received the only reportable injury, as she bounced into the business end of a hot dog roaster that William was carrying, and scratched her bottom eyelid.

Today is Riah's birthday. We weren't quite prepared (no balloons, and pink candles), but so far things are going okay. Bob took Riah and Ced fishing this morning while I made the cake and the chicken noodle soup for lunch, and the girls cleaned house. Now they are playing and I'm typing. :-)


(Yes, camping, in Canaan's happy land. - Sorry, inside joke.)

I've had cabin fever for a while. Bob and I got to talking one day about taking a trip out East to see some Fall colors, but Riah overheard us and inputted that he wanted to see the ocean, and we realized the Fall break at Bob's college would almost coincide with Riah's birthday, so we let him have input.  To sum up, we decided to go to Pensacola, Florida. Bob's uncle lives there, and it seemed a reasonable driving distance, and there's a Navy base there with a campground.

Oh, yes.  We went camping. 

I booked the tent site on base (the National Parks website hinted at tent camping at the Fort Pickens site, but the website was SEVERELY lacking in information, so I went with the Navy). I booked a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.  We bought moving blankets at Harbor Freight for $6 each, to use as padding under the sleeping bags (the cheapest made-for-camping pads were $20 each). I looked up things to do in Pensacola, and printed out directions from Google maps. What could go wrong?

Well, our first official stop was at the "Welcome to Louisiana" sign for a photo op; as we posed, Ella stepped in a fire ant pile.  Daniel doesn't like the car seat, so every time he woke up we stopped to feed and change him. We forgot to lock the garage, after Bob bought a lock and specially adapted it to fit. Taryn had to go to WalMart for a personal item that she didn't think to pack. We ran out of tissues. It rained. And rained. And RAINED.

The first day we were 11 hours on the road, what with Daniel and toilets and tissues and gas and dinner. Bob drove from Little Rock to Pine Bluff; I drove the rest of the way, since driving hurts his knee. That put us at our hotel in Jackson at 9:45 pm. We checked in, made our beds, and slept. We stayed at a Best Western because reviews said they had a nice breakfast, and we figured it was worth a little extra. Beds were nice but firm, everything was clean and working except the shower drained slowly. Interestingly, the room A/C actually cut off when it got cool in the room. I've never stayed in a hotel that did that.

The next day we started off by getting lost. Bob found me on the map and cleverly directed me back to the route. Bob drove the last leg of that trip, from Mobile, Alabama, through Pensacola, and onto the base. We finally found the camp site 10 minutes before they closed (only to find out there is a "host" who lives on site and can check you in at anytime). We stopped by the bathhouse and then set up our campsite. Boy! It was hot and humid! It didn't take long to set up the tents, but by the time we did we were all wet, with rivers of sweat down our faces and shirts. It was getting dark fast, so we knew we wouldn't make it to the beach that night.
We went for supper at the Navy Exchange (sort of a mini mall), arriving 20 minutes before they closed. The pizza guy agreed to make us a pie, and Bob and I got all the food that was left at the Chinese place, for a nice discount. But the janitor was putting chairs up on the tables and had turned all the trash bins against the wall so there was no place to throw things away, so we took our food and ate at the smokers' tables outside. While we ate, hundreds of Sailors came up to the NEX to go in, only to find it was locked, and then to stand around and wonder what there was to do here.
From there we went to the base gas station (the one without diesel, as the road to the gas station with diesel had big "NO Unauthorized Personnel" signs up) and got a gallon of milk, a bag of ice, and car floor mats to use as welcome mats for the tents (the whole place was sandy, and we'd noticed other campers had door mats). Then we went 'home' and tried to build a campfire in the dark while fighting of mosquitoes and sweat. I'd read that the lows would be in the lower 60's, so brought blankets and sweats for everyone. We didn't use the blankets, and those who wore their sweats wished they hadn't. It was warm, HUMID, and still all night.

The next day we had our breakfast of cereal, got into our swimsuits, and walked down to the beach. Sugar-white sand, as advertised. Nobody on the beach. Clean... We set up our umbrella and lawn chair (for feeding Daniel), and the stroller so that Daniel was in the shade. Bob waded out to test the undertow. Finding everything satisfactory, he called the children out to him. They were all too scared to go! There is a sort of ledge right at the edge of the water, so if you are in, you're in to your waist. But it stayed at waist level for a long ways after that. Anyway, we got the children in, and then we had fun. Elijah wouldn't swim, but played in the sand, so we took turns staying with him while the others swam. Some learned to snorkel, some learned to float, and we all got nice and salty. We stayed almost 3 hours, and then went back to camp, stopping to rinse off on the way. Bob called his uncle, who agreed to meet us at Joe Patti's fish market (the second most popular attraction in the area). So we dressed and headed into town. We toured the market and then drove out to Gulf Breeze for lunch at a Mexican place. After lunch we went to Uncle's house where he showed off his tropical garden (while Bob took Riah back to the restaurant to get his camera). He has bananas, satsumas, lemons, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, and blueberries. We visited for a while, then headed toward camp. Stopped at Walmart for a new lantern and some supper and bottled water. Made a nice campfire, ate, and went to bed early. Uncle gave us some waterproof spray to coat our tents with, and I got that on about 15 minutes before it started to rain.

That night I got a little spray on my face, but everything else stayed dry. The next morning it was rainy, but everyone we had talked to told us that Florida had frequent, short showers - just keep going and it will clear up in a minute. So, we decided to go to the barrier island, and check out the National Seashore at the Fort Pickens site (which I'd read was nice empty beaches, and Bob thought Uncle said was a good place to spot dolphins - Cedwryck was especially excited about getting to see a dolphin). We realized that the road to the park was lined with parking spaces and paths out to the ocean, so thought we could save $8 and just go there. The waves were boisterous, and when Bob checked, there was a decent undertow. He let each child go to him in the water, one at a time, but no one wanted to let go of him, as they could feel the pull of the current. By the time they'd all gone in, his knee hurt from bracing against the surf. No dolphins in sight, of course, so we went on to the National Park. We drove all the way to the end of the island, walked out on the little fishing pier (which actually points into the bay rather than the gulf), and stopped at the visitor center on our way home. No mention of dolphins anywhere. Lots of ants on the sidewalk. Bought a pirate map in the gift shop. We had a con-fab, and the one thing everyone wanted (more than dolphins on the Pensacola Beach pier, more than the Naval Aviation Museum, more than ANYthing) was to go swimming again. We thought the beach near our camp was nicer than the one on the island, so decided to go back there. Storm clouds gathered. Back at camp we headed to the ocean as the storm really picked up. It hurt to stand there, with the rain and sand pelting my  legs. Bob and some children got into the water briefly, but the waves were nearly as high as they had been on the gulf, and I couldn't lay Daniel down because of the rain. As it really started pouring we made a run for the bathhouse. We sat on the bench in the shelter of the bathhouse for a while, realizing that even if we could get dry and changed, it was too late to go the the museum anyway. In a break in the rain, Bob brought the van up to the bathhouse, where we unloaded it under the overhang, and began sorting and packing within the shelter of the laundry room there. He was worried about the state of our camp. So the next rain break he and I went back to the camp to discover that our tent was completely flooded.  Water standing on the floor; my pillow wet through; a puddle in the baby bed... So we started packing.  We squeezed out the blankets and sleeping bags as much as we could, but when we folded up the tent it held all the water inside.  I spread a tarp in the back of the van, and we started layering the stuff, wettest on the bottom. Then back to the bathhouse, where Taryn had folded all our newly-dried clothes, to shove in the rest of the stuff and people. And away we went. We made it to the far side of Mobile before stopping for supper, and then into Hattiesburg, Mississippi to spend the night at a Super 8.

The children liked it there, but I was a little frustrated about the rate. Anyway, the beds were soft and dry. Tuesday morning we tried to eat the whole breakfast bar, and were finally back on the road by 9:30. Bob drove through Jackson (not quite as scary in the daytime, but still very big-city with all the highways merging and exiting, and part roller-coaster ride with the terrible state of the road), Then I took over and made it up to Little Rock before Bob got nervous about me driving in town. He got us up to Conway, where we had supper, and then I took it to Ozark, where we got fuel. It was getting dark, and I guess Bob was nervous again, because he wanted to drive on home. We made it home at 10:30pm. Phew!

Monday, 10 September 2012


It's times like this I wish I could REALLY write, instead of just throw words on the screen. oh, well.

We are planning to take a little trip - camping - to the coast. Haven't seen the ocean in two years, you know.  Bob had the brilliant idea of letting Serenity the dog stay at MIL's house while we were away. She has a large fenced yard, two big dogs, and it would be nicer than a kennel. So, every so often when we go into Springdale we will take Serenity with us and drop her off at MIL's for a few hours, to get used to it.

Friday was one of those times.  Serenity was excited to go with us in the car, as always. I leashed her and took her around to the gate; she was pulling the whole way. Once in the gate I let her go and she ran around to the back porch, where the other dogs were barking through the patio door.  I cheered her on, glad she appeared comfortable there. When I turned to leave she followed me back to the gate, and jumped up on the fence with her front feet. This worried me a little... When I went back to the car, she went around the house to the fence on the other side, closer to the driveway. Last time we left her, she had stayed in that spot almost the whole time, so I felt like things were okay. She again jumped up on the fence, and Bob began to worry. Then she paced around a little and looked very pretty and classic German Shepherd. We waited a little bit to see if she would try to get out, but she went back to the porch, and I saw the neighbor's dog come out to say hi (she'd played with it a while last visit), so I figured it was okay. Anyway, we figured the more we hung around the more she'd want to get out after us. So we went shopping.

A new Cabella's sporting goods store opened in Rogers last week, and we wanted to check it out. It's HUGE! (Like Bass Pro Shops). After a couple of hours we left and were on our way to WalMart when MIL called Bob's cell phone. Serenity had got out of the fence, hit by a car, and was being transported to the nearest vet.

We arrived at the vet to find a wet and damaged dog on a table, wrapped in blankets to dry and warm her (it had been raining). They hadn't begun an exam yet, and talked briefly about the options. We said to sedate her and take x-rays. She wasn't moving anything at the time; they said she hadn't moved her back legs at all.  When I started talking she lifted her ears up, so I know she was aware that we were there. We got the children in and settled before another storm broke. They gave Serenity a shot, and took an x-ray of her back and of her pelvis., then called us back to look. I knew when the nurse called us that it was bad news. She was holding back tears as she showed us the x-ray that showed Serenity's back was broken. There was nothing to be done but say good-bye.

The children came in one at a time and petted her or said "bye" or looked at the x-ray (all except Taryn). The oldest three cried quite a bit, as did I, MIL, and MIL's friend who had been on her way over for supper and stopped by the vet. Soon it was all over.  We requested the body, to be buried at home, and they bagged it for us; Bob loaded it in the van and covered the bag with a tarp we had.

wow. I keep getting mental images of her standing in the middle of the highway, hurt and confused.  I try to comfort myself by thinking that she couldn't feel anything because of the broken back Don't correct me if I'm wrong. 

The children were surprisingly hungry, so we went on to eat, then finished our shopping, arriving home about 10:30. Saturday morning we had a funeral in the field, burying her next to Tiger.

We are mostly okay, but occasionally it will hit me or Riah that she's gone.

I'd like to believe that she's wrestling with Tiger once again, now that they are both beyond our world of pain.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Can't remember

I know there were things I wanted to write about this week, but I don't remember much of what they were.

Yep, I'm still averaging 6 hours sleep per night.

Bob had a beginners photography class in our home on Tuesday. His cousin's wife and her sister came, and two ladies from the Mennonite church.  The cousin's daughter was supposed to come, but couldn't make it, as were another cousin (whose husband got sick), and the cousin's wife's boss (who got a migraine).  Anyrate, it went pretty well and I think they all learned something.  He wants to try a more in-depth series of classes in October.

That morning, Bob was standing on a chair to dust something, and somehow he lost his balance and fell.  Instinctively (he didn't even know he'd done it) he reached out for support, and managed to pull the display cabinet over, too.  It made a big crashing sound, and we just knew all our valuables we shattered. In fact, I was holding my breath expecting the glass cabinet doors to shatter all over Bob and the living room.  The children screamed or cried. Bob rolled away from the (surprising lack of) carnage and demonstrated that he wasn't damaged.  I calmed the little ones down a bit, got Elijah to bed for his nap, and came back to the findings that nothing seemed to be broken, but we didn't have the key to the cabinet.  Bob and Taryn tried several things, and finally managed to pick the lock so we could take all the stuff out, clean the cabinet, and put everything back. Turns out one of the legs was broken off, so we just took off the other legs, too, making the cabinet shorter but more stable.

Daniel weighed in on the Wii on his 1 month birthday at 10.5 pounds. That makes him more or less equivalent to Elijah at birth. Daniel is more stout through the chest, but less fat on the chin and legs.  He hasn't been letting Bob hold him much, but otherwise isn't hard to please.

I was reminded (by a "friend" on Facebook) about the T-Tapp exercise program.  I've had it bookmarked for a couple of years on my laptop; I looked at it some more and made an order. She's supposed to cure knee and back pain as well as help tone and all the other things that exercise will do.  Anyway, it arrived yesterday, and this morning I checked out some of the routines. Looks promising; the hard part of course is actually doing it.

I also made my first ever order from; found it very easy to navigate the site, and appreciate the 97 cent shipping and the ability to pay with Paypal.

We are planning a little trip on our anniversary, which should be a lot of fun if we aren't rained out (planning to camp).

That's all I've got.

Oh, yeah, also a little gripe:
Don't misunderstand me, I am grateful for the military benefits that we enjoy every day. Bob's retirement and disability are enough to keep him at home where he can rest when he needs to.  He's going to school for free, with the occasional bonus pay (I could gripe about the way the pay is handled, but that's not my point today).  We might have been able to scrape together for a community college class, but there's no way we could every pay for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh on our income without the Post 9/11 G I Bill.  There are occasional benefits, like getting to stay on base when we travel (nice apartment for the same price as a cheap hotel), and some people consider the BX and the commissary as benefits, though last time we checked, prices weren't better and convenience was worse there.
Then there's the insurance. Again, I am grateful for the rates (our annual enrollment is lower than some families' monthly premium), and I'm usually very satisfied with the coverage. We've never had a bill rejected by Tricare, or a referral or prescription refused. So it's really a tiny gripe.  When Daniel was born he had a certain amount of a "grace period" that wasn't specified, but I assume is 10 days. So, within a week of his birth, Bob and I drove down to south of Fayetteville to a little National Guard outpost in order to register Daniel on DEERS (Defense something something system) - so the military knows that he is Bob's dependent.  But the office was closed for a week (told you it was a little outpost).  So we came back the day they reopened and had no hassle getting him enrolled in DEERS, in spite of not having his birth certificate back yet (here you have to send off for one in the mail, and wait 4-6 weeks to get it). Then we could sign him up for the insurance. So I dug up the proper forms from the website, printed them, filled them out, and mailed them off (can't enroll online). THEN they sent me a blank form (page 3 of 7) saying I hadn't done that one the first time. So I filled it out again, used another stamp, and waited some more. THEN we finally got his enrollment letter in the mail, with a start date of 1 OCTOBER. Hello?? Don't most doctors require visits at 2 weeks, (some at 1 month) and again at 2 months? He'll be 2 months plus a week before he can go for his first checkup!  If we were doing vaccines his schedule would be all messed up. Never mind if he gets sick! I guess if we were worried about him we could cover an office visit ($150 or so?), but a lot of people can't. We happen to be situated to suffer very little from this stupidity, but it shouldn't be like that to enroll an newborn, and wasn't when we were active duty. So that's my rant for the day. And thank God Daniel is healthy.