Training for the Pools in Phoenix and California

We plan to do lots of swimming in pools during our month-long trip coming up. Pools in Phoenix when we stay with friends. A pool at a hotel in San Diego. Pam & Phil’s pool in Roseville in Northern California. We’re leaving snow to go to these places that are at or nearly at 100 degrees! We’ll need lots of pool time.

A couple of Sundays ago friends here in Rice Lake, Wisconsin had a pool party. Though there was snow on the ground and it was raining that day, Fiona enjoyed three hours at an indoor, heated pool. She had a blast! Guess she was ‘training’ for the pools in Phoenix and California. :) We’re all looking forward to more swimming.

fiona swims at the indoor pool in rice lake

A Playground for Fiona and Morning Glory for Sue

We’re currently staying in St. Paul Minnesota in a nearly 100-year old home. Right outside the window are morning glories. I’ve loved morning glories since I was a kid and always hoped to have some of my own. Now I do for a few weeks while house sitting.

morning glories

Diagonally right across the way is a playground. So guess where Fiona will be spending her P.E. time? And it’s great that there’s a Trader Joe’s only a few blocks away!


Grandma Mumsie and Fiona in Rice Lake Wisconsin

Our visit here in Rice Lake is about to come to an end. Sunday morning we leave for St. Paul for our 3-week house sitting job. Fiona has enjoyed her visit with her grandma Mumsie, as we call Joel’s mom. She’s also loved coming back to The Rice Lake Public Library. Yesterday she had fun with the American Girls Book club here. She got to make a craft – a glass vase with colored sand glued to the outside. Not we have to find a safe way to transport it without it getting broken.

Last Monday Fiona and I went over to the lake and she got to wade in it quite a bit. Grandma came out in her electric wheelchair and we all stopped for a visit in the local book store. Yes, we’re a family of avid readers!

School has also started for Fiona. She’s now in second grade and the homeschool program through the school district here is great. We have lots of fun school work to keep us busy.

I’m really looking forward to our 3 weeks in St. Paul and then spending the winter back in New Jersey. More on that later…

Visit to the Golden Care Center in South Dakota

Today while visiting my friend in Mimi and her family in South Dakota, we visited the care center for the elderly where Joel got to play his music for an hour. Mimi and her family go once a month to visit with the residents and usually they do a craft or something. So this was a special treat.
Joel singing and playing music

The lady front and center seemed to really enjoy it and commented afterward to me that it was nice to have something different for the hour. Another lady told Joel they have a mandolin maker as a resident as well.

residents in the care center

Fiona loves visiting Mimi and her family since there are three little girls to play with. They also have four brothers. They usually stay up quite late at night playing and giggling.

Mimi's children

Of course last night Fiona decided to stay up ALL night! And she did. Though the other children took turns sleeping. She woke one of them up at 2 am to get a drink of water! Mimi and her children haven’t yet said we can’t come back. Fiona crashed for about an hour during our visit to the care center. I’m working hard to keep her awake now till after dinner so she will sleep tonight.

Fiona crashed sleeping

Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster Colorado

Fiona loves butterflies. She doesn’t necessarily want them flying around her though. We enjoyed our visit to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster Colorado this past weekend. Thanks to our friend Dorothy, a school teacher in the Denver area, we had complimentary tickets.

When you first enter the pavilion there’s a section about bugs. There are scorpions and even a tarantula you can pet. My mom would have loved that! Fiona was not at all interested. She did enter that section but then was almost too afraid to leave. We didn’t spend much time in that room.

Off to the aquatic section. No, still not brave enough to pet the starfish. Neat to look at though. Oh, the gift shop. We’ll go there at the end. The butterflies were beautiful. Though why they have to fly around and startle Fiona, she’ll never understand. The turtle started charging for us. But we managed to get away.

The most fun for Fiona was the section where the kids could take off their shoes and play, learn as they walked through a ‘maze’ and then pretend to ‘fly’ like a butterfly by hanging on to a zip line, raising your feet and pushing off. Yes, Fiona did that! Amazing!


More photos of it all can be on our page.

Sunday we went to the Molly Brown Museum in Denver. That was interesting. We all learned more about Molly and the Titanic. Thank you Dorothy for our complimentary tickets!

Max and Maddie the Mini Australian Shepherds

This past weekend we stayed overnight in Colorado Springs with Couch Surfers Chris and John Orsborn. They have two one-year old mini Australian Shepherds, Max and Maddie (sisters). They greeted us warmly as we came in. Fiona’s been a bit nervous about dogs but she finally got down with them and before long was right at home, as you can see. We’re quite familiar with this type of dog as Joel’s sister Lynn has been raising them for years.

Max and Maddie and Fiona
Max and Maddie and Fiona

Petroglyph Monument in Albuquerque Scares Fiona

I decided we needed to get out and see something here in Albuquerque. I chose the Petroglyph Monument as I’d heard the parking fee was only $1 on weekdays and there is no admission charge. I thought it would be an interesting site. Yes, it was hot. But we only needed to be out for a bit. I don’t ever want to push the family to do more than necessary. So we donned hats, sunglasses and lathered on the sunscreen.

Fiona’s Little Tree at The Green House

When Fiona was almost 2 we moved from an apartment to a house. That’s the house she lived in until we started living a nomadic lifestyle a few months ago when she was 6-1/2. So it’s the only place she remembers. It’s her childhood home, even though it was only rented. It’s a pale green and she still refers to ‘the green house’ and how she misses it.

In the front yard is a small tree. We still don’t know what kind it is. It’s grown a bit in the nearly 5 years we lived there. It’s just started to get blossoms again. It will get green leaves and then the branches fall over, nearly touching the ground, much like a willow. Yet I know it’s not a willow.

There’s also a tall magnolia in the front yard. Joel would sometimes pick a magnolia flower and bring it in and the house would smell so nice. Anyhow, the small tree became Fiona’s. She would get pictures taken in front of it and stand under it when she was smaller. It was something special to her.

So when we moved on she really missed the tree. This trip back we had to get a picture or two of her with her tree. Enjoy the pictures!

P.S. If you can identify the tree, please let us know!

Fiona loves her tree!
And the green house

Home With Our Second Family

While we’ve been back ‘home’ in Roseville, we’ve been staying with our second family, the Stephens. We want to thank the Stephens family for their generous hospitality. Let me tell you a bit about them and why we call them our second family.

In 2006 just after Fiona turned 2 mommy ended up in the emergency room. Once the doctors used the special scope down my throat to release the HUGE gallstone that had lodged in the bile duct, I developed neucrotic pancreatitis. Basically my pancreas was killing itself. There’s nothing to be done except not to take in anything orally, not even water, and take lots and LOTS of pain medication.

I won’t go into the whole story here. Suffice it to say that I almost died, lived, had numerous complications including anemia, blood clots and two secondary infections and spent from mid-April to the end of July 2006 in the hospital.

Being only 2, Fiona needed someone to care for her. Our older daughter Rachelle was living with us but finishing high school. Though she became second mommy to Fiona, and they are very, VERY close still, Fiona needed more care than Rachelle was able to give daily. And daddy was spending his time either working or being with mommy at the hospital. Then in stepped the Stephens family.

Beth and Kyle are the parents. At the time their 3 children were 12, 14 and 16 (Molly, Kemmer and Ferrin). The oldest had her license and did lots of babysitting so she was often able to drive to pick up Fiona and babysit her. There were times when Fiona spent days, and most nights, with the Stephens. Once mommy was able to have visitors at the hospital, Beth and Ferrin would often bring Fiona to visit mommy.

Their middle child is their only son. Fiona spent so much time with these kids that we know she has Kemmer’s smile. When he graduated high school a couple of years ago, he gave us his graduation photo. Fiona has it in a frame that she carries everywhere with her. Wherever we are, you can ask, and you’ll get to see a picture of Kemmer.

While we’re here visiting now, Molly is a senior in high school and working part-time. She’s spent a lot of time with Fiona the past couple of weeks. Her dad, Kyle, often lets Fiona pick the cartoon they are all going to watch on TV.

And what can I say about Beth? Thank you Beth for all you’ve done for our family. Beth is the sweetest, kindest person ever. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about how much she did in caring for my little girl when I was so sick. At the time Fiona even called her mommy once in a while. That never bothered me because Beth was a second to our precious little girl.

We aren’t the only ones who think of the Stephens as a second family. We’ve met many who feel the same way because this family has helped so many people. Whenever someone needs a place to stay, the Stephens family opens them with welcome arms. In fact while we’re here, there is another mutual friend who is staying with them as well.

In addition to all of that, when the Stephens found out that we were going to lead a nomadic lifestyle but needed a place to store a few things, they generously offered space to store stuff  at no charge. Anything we don’t have with us in the van as we travel is stored with them.

It sure feels good to be loved by such special people!