CYOA - Day 4 - Wild Berries and Wild Waves

Today was wild!
In every sense of the word!
I always to see exactly where we stayed overnight when the sun comes up.  This morning, we found ourselves among tall pine trees, in a little outlet our car fit in perfectly.  All of us sleep like babies in the car, which has surprised me the most.  I always am the first to wake up.
Dash has traded seats with me, so I sleep on the middle bench and he is on the driver’s seat.
After I wake, I quietly move him back to my bench, and as the kids sleep, I drive.  I love the silence.  I first find a breakfast place to go in and grab them something.  This morning I found a darling bakery that had banana muffins.  I stocked up on four, and drove towards Seattle.
As the kids wake up one by one, they each get their food, and I get their approval or disapproval.
Today, I had good marks.
On our way towards Seattle, it was glorious.  (Not a word I use often — but the perfect description.)  Literally…glorious.  The sunbeams peeked through the trees, and bounced off the lakes we were driving by, that rivaled the prettiest lakes I have ever seen.  I am not a huge fan of pine trees.  I would take a quaking aspen or maple tree any day over a pine.  But today, I saw it differently.  Every mountain looked as if it was covered in fur.  The pine trees were so dense, you couldn’t see a dot of earth on them.  They were absolutely beautiful.  The kids and I oohed and aahed every new turn.  And the best part — you could smell the pine through our vents.  When we opened the windows, we were inhaling extra hard to let the pine scent linger.
On these road trips of ours, we take many, many offshoots.  If anyone sees a road they want to travel down, take it.  We have found that the greatest discoveries are in the hidden places.  And when we are surprised by finding a gem, it is all that much more exciting. Today, we took several roads and among other things, we found incredible wildflowers.  Navy was constantly looking up the wildflowers in her “Wildflowers of the North East” book, and on today’s drive, we found 3 new species to this trip.  Navy is my wildflower girl.  (Pippi is my moss girl.)
As we approached Seattle, it was amazing weather!  I knew the kids wouldn’t totally know where to go in the big city, so I did a few minutes of research for something I thought they would love today.  But on our way, we were stopped in our tracks by the coolest thing of the trip so far!!!
It was a 1/2 mile long wall of wild blackberries!  The berries were totally ripe and ready to be picked, so I pulled over, and they kids went to town.
Everyone was in great spirits…
…until Pippi got eaten up by the berry plant!
Good thing Navy got her untangled.
The kid’s fingers and mouths were stained purple, from the juiciest and best-tasting blackberries I have ever had.
Scout’s bounty was impressive — and this is after he had eaten the same amount during picking.
We ended up picking for over an hour and a half.  I am pretty sure my kids would pick a berry wall over a candy store most days.
Only a few miles beyond the berries, I drove by “Wild Waves”.  I kind of manufactured this adventure, but I needed a relaxing day in water.  Basically, I need a Choose Your Own Adventure shower!
When we got there, the kids begged to go in, and I was the hero when I said yes!
My first stop was the cabana rental booth.
Thank goodness I got the last one available!
The day kind of went like this:
The three big kids got to run around together for two rides at a time.  They would come back to the cabana and check in, and head out again.  The park was pretty small, and they were in and out about every 25 minutes.  After a few times, I would get up and go to a ride or two with them, and head back to the shade and the lounge chair.  I did this until Scout and Navy made me go on the most psychotic shoot-out slide…then I retired for the day.
Meanwhile, Pippi was my little helper.  She went to go get new ice every few hours.  She retrieved the ketchup when needed.  She would organize and reorganize the cabana.  And she finally napped for a few hours.  When she wanted, we would go to a few slide and rides.  But she was perfectly content just hanging out in her cabana imaginary world next to me.
There were so many great stories from the day, but the two best are:
Dash and Scout had both earned $20 from their hill clomb a few days ago.  When they saw the Skycoaster, they wanted to go on it so badly!  I told them I wouldn’t pay for it, but they said they would pay for themselves.  I thought that was a great idea, and we headed over.  When they got over to it, Scout pulled Dash aside, and had a quiet conference together.  When they came back, Scout and Dash announced that between them, they had enough money to pay for Navy also, so they wanted her to go with them.  She was SO excited, and I was SO proud!
Here they are — all suited up!
And like three bugs in a rug…they soared with the biggest smiles.  When they got off, they were all recounting their adventure, and how Dash was so brave to pull the ripcord.  As the three of them ran off together, I felt so happy to see them as a team.
The three big kids discovered an arcade.  they know I will never give them two cents to waste on games, and dad wasn’t around, so they did what they always do — they scrounged.  Of course they looked under every machine and found a few tokens.  But then they befriended a kid that had pockets full of tokens.  And this kid was the most generous kid ever!  They kept coming back with prizes and tickets, for their new-found friend.  Apparently the parents were there and didn’t care that their boy was spreading the wealth, so I just stayed in the cabana and played dumb.
A bit later, they came in with an ice cream cone.  I asked them how they had it, and they said their friend had bought it, but decided he wanted a different flavor.  They ended up with it, and Pippi was stoked!  She started licking away.  I asked them how the story went down again…and that is when I heard a detail I hadn’t heard previously.
The boy bought a strawberry ice cream cone.  He decided he wanted a different flavor and gave it to his little brother.  His little brother tasted it….did you hear the details….HIS LITTLE BROTHER TASTED IT…and decided he didn’t want it.  And that is how my kids aquired it and gave it to Pippi who was about half way done at this point.
I guess the damage was done.  I should have known when the big kids weren’t devouring the cone.
After a full day in the sun and three nights sleeping in the car, i told the kids that I demanded a hotel bed for the night.  They didn’t like the idea, but I just drove…because they didn’t know I had one last thing up my sleeve.  When we got there, they thought it was weird to knock at the door instead of check in.
But when the biggest FOMO dad answered, they got it.
Micah just couldn’t see us adventuring like this without joining in.
Pippi was probably the happiest to see him, while I was the happiest to see a mattress!

CYOA - Day 3 - Vale, Oregon

After last nights nightmare drive, I was so excited to wake up to a peaceful sunrise.  The kids were still sleeping, so I quietly drove down the hill to get to Boise.  When I got there, I ran into a Whole Foods for blueberry muffins and some shampoo and conditioner.  This whole sleeping in the car thing has its advantages…AND DISADVANTAGES!  Like getting properly clean being high on that list!
Look at the kids making due when the sun starts waking them up!
I know the kids get to choose these adventures, but I started driving to Vale, Oregon because I knew they would love to have Vale on their adventure.
Because it is on the Oregon Trail?
Because Lexi is serving her mission in Vale!
It was perfect, because Lexi was going to take one of my coats that was at Tristen’s house, but she never got it.  So with the coat in hand…we sought out to get it to her.
We got Lexi’s mailing address from Angi, and headed over.  We found the apartment, and knocked.
No answer.
I then said…”Okay guys…we need to be sleuths.  Where would a sister missionary go on a Monday morning?”
They thought and thought.  The first suggestion was to drive the streets to see if we could find two girls on bikes.  Then someone said, “Let’s go to the church.”
We agreed that someone there might have the missionaries phone number.
We drove on to the church, and walked around to see if any of the doors happened to be open.  The kids went one way, I went the other.  All of a sudden, I heard “Mom..Mom!!!”  I looked over, and there was Lexi!!!
My kids had caught her on her P Day at the church.
They were all so excited to see her, and so happy we found her!
It was such a fun morning.  We chatted with her for about 20 minutes, and hugged her goodbye.
AS we drove off, I announced to the kids that we were all filthy, and we needed to find a way to get clean!  We looked up a local reservoir , and drove 10 minutes to it.
Navy said Bully Creek Reservoir was named after Scout!
We all jumped in, lathered up, and got ourselves back to some sort of clean.
I think we would have stayed for hours, but there were prickly bushes we had to avoid, so we only spent an hour at Scout…I mean Bully Creek.
I stopped at a bank on our way out, and the kids created a storage unit for our car.  I was so impressed with their ingenuity.  I loved it, but couldn’t see out the back– so I ended up vetoing it.
Our drive was fun today.  We stopped at random towns with parks and rivers.  When Dash (or anyone else) was naughty in the car, I made the offender run.  Dash got a hill run for extra naughtiness.
Our favorite town stop was Baker City, Oregon.  There were fruit trees everywhere, darling parks, a perfect river through town, and an incredibly delicious homemade sandwich and ice cream shop.  As we drove by any fruit trees, the kids always wanted to pick a snack.  This apple tree was incredible.  At first I told them no because it was in front of someone’s house.  But there was so much ripe fruit, and plenty that had fallen to the ground, that when they begged, I told them to go ask.  There was nobody home, so my kids took the liberty of grabbing just one apple that was way too high to reach.  They jumped and jumped, to no avail.  Then they used teamwork.  Navy created a bench with her body, and Scout jumped off of it.  Apple picked!
Just as they were coming to the car, a lady (the neighbor) came towards us with a rake.  I was humiliated.  But she said, “The only things that eat those apples are the deer!  Please pick as many as you’d like.”  She then proceeded to help them get a ton down with the rake.
One thing we have all noticed on this CYOA trip, is how kind everyone is.  Literally everyone thinks our trip is awesome, and is helpful and nice.  We keep talking about it in the car, and repeatedly decide that we want to be that same way.
We drove north again.  They wanted to head into Washington.  Their ultimate goal is to get to the coast, and drive south along the Pacific Ocean.  So Washington…here we come.

CYOA - Day 2 - Twin Falls/Sun Valley

I will have to admit that out of every camping spot I’ve ever had in my life, under the Twin Falls Temple takes the top spot.  The kids all slept like babies.  And I got to watch the sun rise behind the temple.  By the time all of the kids woke up, we were all pretty happy with our first day of CYOA.
Day two started out with a quick stopover to Target, where we brushed our teeth and washed our faces for church.  I was thinking the kids would be bummed on getting cleaned up at Target, but they thought it added to the adventure.   We got some breakfast in the food aisles, grabbed our church clothes out of the trunk…and headed to our three hours of church.
Don’t let this picture deceive you.  They were awful!
This picture is a bit more telling of their behavior.
This was during the prayer…but was also a frozen moment of the wrestling that was taking place right before the prayer.
While at church, the kids asked around and heard that Twin Falls was the “Niagara of the West”, and was just a few minutes away.  We were literally in flat country, so we were a bit perplexed.  But we drove, and started going down a crevice, and we couldn’t believe Twin Falls!
It was awesome!  The falls were massive, powerful, and a huge surprise to us!
Thanks locals.
The kids wanted to head north to the Ice Cave the lady at the gas station had told us about.  We drove…and in the middle of nowhere — we saw the sign that said C A V E.
We turned in.
We drove up to the sketchiest place ever.  It looked like an old ghost town with a bunch of peacocks running around.  We walked into the “shop” (a run down building that housed every taxidermy animal you could think of — including two headed chickens).  There was a homeless-looking man (the son of the now-deceased owners) ready to take our payment.  I thought it was all a little odd, and when I saw that he was watching a Netflix show about a perfect murder, I got the creeps.  The kids really wanted to head into the cave, so we decided we were just going to make the whole thing fast.
There were dead rats, it was pitch black, and at the end there was a sign that talked about how this cave has housed moonshiners, runaway slaves and murderers.  I looked at the kids and said, “Kids…we are just a mom and four kids.  This is creeping me out so badly!  Walk fast, and let’s get the heck out of here.”  As we rushed out, I kept recreating the perfect opening scene to a horror movie in my mind, and this was it!!!
We jammed out of there.
As we drove away, we all started asking where the ice was?  And the lady was so right about the City of Rocks…how could she be so wrong about the cave?  About ten minutes later, we came upon a huge sign that read  “I C E   C A V E S!”  Are you kidding me!!!  We went in to their front shop and it was great!  We told them we had mistaken the other cave for theirs, and they said it happens all of the time, and smirked as they asked if we liked it.  They said the original owners were great, but ever since the son took over, it had gotten really sketchy.
We ditched out on caves all together, and just got out of creepy dodge.
The kids were divided in where to go next, but we ended up heading to Sun Valley, Idaho.
The town was idyllic.  It was bustling with people, the perfect weather, and a beautiful setting.  A lady in a sports shop told us about the opening night of the symphony at the base of the ski mountain.  Obviously we headed there next.  I dropped Scout and Navy off to get spots for us.  I was so proud of my little mini me children, as they got the second to the front spots with our blankets.  We hung there for a bit, but decided to go to the back, where all of the children were playing during the symphony.
Soccer, headstands, and goofing off while Beethoven was playing in the background.
It might have been a perfect moment in our lives.
I asked the kids what we wanted to do next.  We could stay, or drive on.  They chose to drive on.
We drove up and over the mountain ridge of Sun Valley, and came over to see the most glorious valley below.
It was so breathtaking, we had to get out to see and admire the scenery.
Have I mentioned that the kids and I are having such a good time…I hope it never ends!
As we drove on, we got to a place called Smiley Creek.  Right before we pulled in, we saw a gang of Raccoons!  Pippi has had a weird obsession with raccoons lately, so we were all beside ourselves with her good fortune!  We drove around to see them three times because we were all freaking out so much!  Pippi was love drunk after the event, and just kept saying, “Never in my life!”  She didn’t finish the sentence, which made it all that much funnier.  We tried to stay in Smiley Creek’s teepee, but they were booked.  As was EVERY SINGLE OTHER PLACE FOR TWO HOURS!  WE saw so many great towns to stop in, but there was nowhere!  So we drove.
As it got dark, I pulled over to make everyone’s “spot” comfy.  What became a tradition on the drive was everyone getting comfy (with seat belts still on), we would say family prayer, I would drive on while listening to this year’s primary CD, and the kids would gradually fall asleep one by one.  It was perfect.
But this night…even though those elements were perfect, the drive was psychotic.  I came face to face with a wild goat and her baby, many deer, a cow, two fox, several raccoons and about four narrow detours over the course of three grueling hours.  There were more hairpin turns than I can count, the fog was crazy thick in some spots, the animal hazards were frightening, and I literally white knuckled it the whole way.  It was literally exhausting.  I drove about 30 mph most of the way, because I just kept thinking about my precious cargo in the back.  I only encountered a few cars the entire way, so when I started seeing other cars, it was a relief.  I finally pulled up a dirt road, and stopped the car.  At that moment, I was so grateful for a trusty car, for a safe drive and for cell phone reception so I could tell Micah all about it.  After retelling my crazy night, I unbuckled each of the kids, created my own spot, and passed out until morning light.

CYOA - Day 1 - City of Rocks, Idaho

We drove away from Tristen’s house today to Choose Our Own Adventure!  (More like the kid’s adventure!)
They chose north, and I drove.
We decided that signs along the roadside could give them great clues about what was around them, so when they started seeing signs for “City of Rocks”, the kids said…”Follow Those Signs!”
We followed them off the road for ten minutes, when we decided to get some snacks and fill up.  When we were there, I told them the drill.  They needed to talk to the locals, and ask them for the tips and tricks of their area.  Scout and Dash headed in, where Scout headed up the conversation.  He was talking to the lady behind the counter, and said, “Hi there.  We are heading to The City of Rocks.  Is it cool?  And is there anything else to look for while we are out there?”  She inquired a little more and when she heard what we were doing, she spouted off tons of great stuff.  She told them all about the City of Rocks and some Ice Caves north of us.  She was awesome, and a perfect first local to engage with.  Dash didn’t do a ton of the talking, but he watched how it worked and was taking mental notes.
When we got to the City of Rocks, it was beautiful.  There was also a huge group of people who had just finished rock climbing.  The kids in that group were all playing Ultimate Frisbee.  Scout and Dash watched for a while, and soon enough, they were given positions in the game.
At one point, Dash ran back to me to excitedly tell me, “Mom…Mom!!!  I asked a local, and know the next thing we need to do!”  I knew he was watching…
After Ultimate Frisbee, we headed to the rocks.  Apparently, this place is known in the rock climbing community, and has famous rocks to climb.  The kids and I found a great area where they could climb and explore.
After climbing for a few hours, Dash directed us to Thermal Pools his local buddy told him about.
We drove about a mile away, and the dusty and filthy kids jumped in the perfectly warm pools.
And then Dash ran and bombed in another of their pools.  This one was perfectly hot.  When he came up, he was screaming over how hot it was!  Scout, who had inched his way in a few minutes before, and I were dying laughing.
After swimming in the thermal pools (which were a blast), we drove through the rest of The City of Rocks.  It was a 90 minute drive that turned into a 3 hour drive.  The rocks were amazing, and we stopped and watched insane rock climbers, who were everywhere!  Our favorite was Elephant Rock — we were there for a solid 45 minutes oohing and aahing over the rock climbers and their brave routes.
As we drove on, I saw a tall mountain. Since we all had adrenaline pumping through our bodies from watching the rock climbing daredevils, I told the kids that whichever of them could make it to the top in 20 minutes, would get 20 bucks of spending cash on the trip.
All four started.
Within seconds, Pippi was back.
It was too scratchy.
Within minutes, Navy was back.
It was too hard on her burn.
Dash and Scout….they never stopped.
About 10 minutes in, they were what appeared to be close, but based on how small they looked, they were really far.
Another 7 or 8 minutes had gone by, and I started to get a pit in my stomach.
They were so tiny, I couldn’t even find them without my zoom lens.  Thank goodness they were both in bright colors.  But like I said — I had a pit in my stomach.  Scout was determined to make that $20, and I was determined to bring him back to safety.  I honked and honked.  Then I yelled to Scout.  No answer.  I finally reached Dash by yelling, and he was then able to yell to Scout to turn around.  About 20 minutes later, they were both safe and sound in my presence.
Dash’s legs were so beat up, but he was so proud of himself.  He told me he would have made it if I hadn’t called them back.  He then asked if he got any money, and I offered him a penny.
Scout said he was getting really dizzy and having a hard time breathing by the end.  Holy high altitude!!!  He also said he got all the way to a barbed wire fence, and that he was looking for a way around it.  Holy cow am I glad he turned around.  That could have been a bad situation.
In the end, I gave them both $20 spending cash for the trip, because it was all very impressive.
When they got back in the car, I just felt so grateful for all four kids being safe and sound in the car…and we adventured on while we listened to Scout and Dash comparing their stories for an hour!
The kids chose Twin Falls (a big city) for our next stop.
I told them to feel free to doze off as I drove, and that when we got to a hotel, I would wake them up.
The kids were stunned when I mentioned a hotel, and all of them said, “No Way!!!  We want to sleep in the car!”
I knew they got to choose the adventure — but not the sleeping arrangements too!?!
But they begged.
As we drove into Twin Falls, I was a little nervous about where we would all sleep in the car safely.  I told the kids I wasn’t sure where to sleep.  As we got closer, there was a bright white building in the distance, that became the outline of one of our temple steeples as we got closer.  The kids were so excited to see a temple, and all agreed that we would sleep under the Temple, because they were sure we would be safe there.
I almost got choked up, and drove straight to the temple parking lot, where we got out every blanket and pillow we had, and made our spot for the night.
And I am pretty sure Scout and Dash slept the soundest.


This summer was changed from its original blueprint.  Instead of heading back east at the end of July with my family and my mom, I was tied up in Utah helping my dad with some stuff.  Now that everything has been partially tackled, my Dad is in his new place, and his health seems to be getting good, I have ants in my pants!  I want to go adventure!  (Yes — adventure is strictly a verb in this family!)
I have had an idea in my mind for a few years that I want to tackle.  And although this wasn’t on my radar for this summer…I figured — The is no time like the present!!!
So I woke my kids up this morning.
I told them that we needed to be back in Dana Point for school by the 16th.
We packed up and drove to the bookstore.
I bought a map of the western United States and taught them all how to read it.
I said we are going on a “Choose Your Own Adventure” trip…and they got to choose everything!
There was one caveat….
They weren’t allowed to look anything up!  They were only allowed to figure out where to go and what to do… asking the locals!
And with excitement running through our veins…we are heading north!

Head Rush


Random Plaque Testing

This morning I sat my kids down and talked to them all about random drug testing.  I told them that when people are known to do loser things, they get surprise tested to tell important people if they are still losers.  I then told them they were going to be randomly tested.
They were confused.
Then I told them I was pretty confident that none of them were taking drugs, but I was also pretty confident that they were all being a little “loserish” in one aspect of their life.  Then I handed them each a dark purple pill, to expose all of the plaque they left on their teeth after “brushing” just minutes before.
Navy was our best brusher — with only a few minor spots at the gumline.
Pippi has the front tops and bottoms down to a science.  I explained to her that there are also teeth that need attention on the sides of her mouth.
Dash…oh Dash!  I’m glad he had a few clean on the top.  His bottom adult teeth looked like they had been plucked from Barney — the big purple dinosaur’s mouth!
And the biggest embarrassment to our family comes in the form of our oldest child.
Is he kidding?

Visiting Pops

Since we were trekking down to Papa’s place, we decided to make it extra fun by visiting the nearby water park.  Truth be told…I actually went to visit a sick friend, and Tristen took my kids and Blush to Papas.  About an hour into it, she texted this picture, and said there was the hugest hail storm EVER, and the water park was closed fora  few hours for safety purposes.
When I finally got to my dad’s place, the kids were all in his warm dry stuff, while their wet stuff was in the dryer.
For his new place being just a few days old, my kids certainly christened it.
Poor Pops…who couldn’t have seen this type of crazy coming!
I think his face says it all.

It’s Cupcake Time

Rose, Navy and Pippi (surprisingly — all of the girl cousins) were baking up a storm today.
And to make it extra cute, they put a sign out that said, “It’s Cupcake Time”.
Their offerings were impressive.  Almost as impressive as the state they left the kitchen in — spotless!  The boys who were all swimming, devoured these delicacies up!
How fun for Navy to have a girl cousin her age…and the best part is that they totally click!
Lucky them.


Healing is a marvelous thing.  Only a month and a half ago, Navy literally had no skin on the inner part of her current wound.  But somehow…slowly and miraculously, her skin has formed, and covered an open wound the size of a large marble.  We are pretty sure she is going to sport a forever scar.  But I hope when she sees her future scar, she sees a battle wound that she never complained about, a painful mistake she immediately fixed, and a mark that didn’t put one hesitation in her fun-filled summer.
I remember playing a get-to-know-you-game at camp once, where we each had to pick a scar on our body and explain the story behind it.
Navy, you are going to have a great get-to-know-you story.