Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Phoenix is offering many New Year's Eve festivities tonight. But, after much debate, Jim and I decided to keep it low key and spend the evening at home. It makes me nervous to even consider driving with the kids in the car on a night such as this.

Lisa is coming over and we are planning an evening of boardgames, Wii playing, and snack munching.

The kids are already looking sleepy after 2 hours of romping in the pool this afternoon. I bet Shane does not make it past 10p. Sophie will hold out as long as possible and Savannah is adamant about staying up to ring in the New Year.

I hope everyone has a wonderful evening, and stays safe. Have a Happy New Year!!!

Love from Arizona.....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Mess

First, I want to thank everyone for the lovely cards and gifts that were sent our way. The only thing that could have been better would have been to have everyone here with us.

Now that the Christmas has passed, and I have spent enough days ignoring the mess, I have chosen today as my get organized and clean day. I have the task of going through all the toys, separating old from new, broken and missing parts, and toys no longer played with. All though we have been here only 2 and a half months we have managed to accumulate many new objects.

We are planning on Savannah taking home a suitcase of items we no longer need, but still want to own. Hopefully, Mom and Dad won't mind housing them for us? :) Savannah is eagerly anticipating her trip back home. She is planning trips to see her friends, spend a day at school, play in a game with her old indoor soccer team, and spend time with her Grandparents. Jim and I are happy to allow her to go, but are not looking forward to having her gone so long. We will miss her! Not to mention the anxiety I am experiencing with her having to fly for the first time all alone. I am praying for good weather and a safe flight!

While Savannah is in IL much will stay the same in AZ. Savannah will still be expected to do her school work while away. I have her in an on-line school that involves 2 hours of Language Arts, 1 hour of Math, and 1/2 hour of science that she will need to spend time on daily. While she is away, I will be looking forward to our first Arizona visitor. Jill is flying in on the 22ND of January and will stay over the weekend. Lisa and I are looking forward to taking her shopping for wedding "stuff".

Jim and I will be renewing our lease this week. It looks like we will be staying in Arizona until the end of March. We will then drive past Las Vegas, see the Arches National Park in Utah, stay for a few days in Boise, ID with the Jones, before we land in the lovely state of Washington.

Once in Washington we will began making our plans for Alaska. We are looking into taking a ferry to Alaska instead of hauling the van and U-haul through Canada. Anyone have any experience with the ferry systems?

Well, like I said before...this is my cleaning day. Now that I have managed to avoid it for the past hour, I guess it is time to get busy.

Love from Arizona.....

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Days of Holidays

We've celebrated the Christmas day. Going to a local church for service Christmas eve. Waking early to greet the children's frenzied mania over beautifully wrapped packages from Santa. Swimming in the pool for a break. Exploring all the new gadgets and toys, playing with games, losing and finding key pieces of contraptions. The day was filled with many new experiences for our family. The ham, corn and twice baked sweet potatoes were delightful.

We were able to talk to our families back home, receiving and giving blessings of good health to all our friends and family. Traci and I feel fortunate to have all the great relationships we have with people. Everyone has been so supportive of our efforts on this adventure.
Friday it was back to work for Dad and the rest of the family continued their study of all the things they received on Christmas. Friday evening we all played the Wii for several hours.

Saturday we woke and went to Papago park for a hike. The local park system is impressive. There are many activities available to do within an hours drive. We hiked a little, Savannah and Sophie grumbled a little. There was a visit from two jack rabbits along the trail. Sophie ended with a stomach ache which led to a hurried drive home for some relief.

Latest news is we'll be here through the end of March then up to the northwest. Savannah has trip home for ten days coming in January. She has a new soccer team which practices this Monday in Tempe. Traci and I are having a little challenge trying to figure out how I can get back from Ak Chin while she's in Tempe.

Quirkle is an interesting game of tiles placed in rows. The row have to either have the same color or shape to be counted as played correctly. Traci and I quickly fell in love with the game!
The late nights with the holiday and the long days full of all the new stimuli have been wearing some nerves thin. We did have the comfort of pumpkin pie to help bring us relief.

The family needs some more sleep this weekend. Even Shane has complained of a sore back, maybe from the Wii.

Weather broke into sunshine today from cloudy, rainy days for the past few days. While we were outside it was a little chilly in the shade, only up in the 50's. We're expecting frost in the valley tonight.

Good sleeping weather.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Title was inspired by the Christmas carol that is blaring in my ear compliments of Savannah. The gloomy overcast sky of yesterday has made way for sporadic fluffy clouds and blue sky. There are storm warnings for the higher altitude, but clear skies in the valley. The temperature will hold steady in the low 60's for the rest of the week. We stand out in our short sleeves and occasional shorts. Native Arizonians bundle themselves in winter coats, scarves, gloves,hats, and boots. I smirked at one woman in the post office yesterday morning whom I thought was slightly overdressed for the weather....

The children have spent the day finishing some schooling, and watching Christmas shows. We made it outdoors and while I sat on the sidelines shivering in the cool breeze, the children splashed and swam in the pool. The water temperature is 85 degrees so as long as they stayed under the water they stayed warm. One woman came out and asked if she could take a picture of them. She wanted to send it to her family back East to show what the children in Arizona are doing in December.

After a swim and shower, we got busy in the kitchen. We decided to make Russian Tea Cakes for Santa. Everyone pitched in and soon we were covered in powdered sugar. You can imagine how much Sophie enjoyed that!

Shane just came over to snuggle next to me. He smells so good. Just like a cookie!
Sophie is lamenting over the presents, "I want to open these up! I just can't take it anymore!" And Savannah is busy IMing her friends back in Illinois. I am eagerly awaiting my wonderful husband to arrive home from work so I can head out to the shops in search of "one more" gift.

Stay warm!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ever Do We Deserve This Kindness?

The packages rolled in again today. This time from friends and family back home. A great surprise was the wonderful package from the S family. They have sent us a little taste of St Louis. As though we hadn't spent every night pining away for our blessed homeland now we have a cozy reminder of the place we call home. Thank you.

We retrieved the packages, actually Savannah assaulted the front office, upon our return from another adventure into the Phoenix mountain park system. Today we visited the climbs of Piestewa Peak. This lively climb takes you up to the 2600 ft peak. The summit trail gains over 1200 feet in elevation over almost a mile and a quarter hike, this was the trail we chose to follow.
The original name for the rock was Squaw peak, renamed recently for a fallen Native American soldier from the Iraq war. Lori Ann Piestewa was the first Native American woman to die in combat in the military, also the first woman to die during the conflict in Iraq. Those are two terrifically horrible firsts, pray for her family.
We started the day with some confusion and dim motivation. The children were split about the hike. The eldest child decided the hike was not an activity she would like to participate in. The father attempted to coax and encourage her involvement and her brain was stuck on not going. She was 'old enough to stay home' she told the father, 'by herself!' The father knew she had been in the house most of the week with very little action in the great outdoors, the first part of the week rained for three days. The father had made this a priority, they would be outside today! Preparations for the hike were well underway when sabotage set in sourced from the eldest child. She began eroding the camaraderie within the siblings, turning one against another, pushing the right way to grieve the poor youngsters. The father finally drew the line clearly. They would stay home and clean the house. The whole day would be spent cleaning, straightening, bringing an immaculate sparkle to the rooms. The eldest daughter would need direct instruction constantly on what to do and how to do it. She pitched in but held up for only a short time until she ran out of the house.
After an hour things had cooled down, apologies all around and the trip was restarted. We reached the park climbed out and began our walk up the hillside. It was beautiful. Some of the views have become favorites now. We had a walk up to the three quarter mile mark. Sophia hung in strong, Shane even ran ahead moving quickly. At the three quarter mile mark Shane went down hard on his knee.

This was precipitated by a tussle with the father. The father insisted Shane drink some water but Shane refused. He could make it up this mountain without water. After coercing him to take a sip her ran off tripping on the craggy up shoots of rock and landing on his knees. Tears streamed down his cheeks more from humiliation than pain. His knees did take quite beating, bruising right in front of our eyes. He got up and we moved off the trail where we could enjoy our reward. We had packed some of Aunt Stacey's fudge to provide incentive to reaching the summit. The kids expressed a strong desire to turn around and we sat to eat. Sophia stood stating she wanted to press on to the top but the other children were finished with climbing. Any further walking was inviting more dissent in the ranks, so we ate, banked and headed for the bottom.
The down hike was riddled with questions from Shane regarding the third Harry Potter movie he had viewed the night before. 'Why did Professor Lupin have that look on his face and hold his belly when he turned into a werewolf?' 'I thought he was a nice werewolf, are all werewolves bad?' 'When does he turn into a werewolf? Only when the moon is full or all the time?' 'Then why did he have to take medication all the time?' Etc. Between trying not to squelch his habit of curious questioning and lofting Sophia on my arm it was entertaining at the least.
Traci came home from a night with Lisa around seven pm. The frozen lasagna cooked for 35 minutes in the microwave and came out cold in the middle. The father retrieved some milk from the store. Then the Saturday was over.
More presents under the tree.

The excitement here is palpable.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Waiting for Packages

I have had my week broken up by the daily knocking on the door by the UPS man. He jokes and says, "If it were not for you, I'd be out of a job." All though there are plenty of places to shop here, (the mall is 2 blocks away) I have found that the best deals have been found on Especially with the free shipping deals!

The children are excitedly awaiting the packages from Grandma and Grandpa. I am hoping to visit the Post Office tomorrow to send off the last of our presents. I was told a certain item would be in my hands by the 12th. But, alas, it has yet to arrive. Hopefully, it will show tomorrow. I want to make certain everyone has their gifts by Christmas.

Tonight, we went to Savannah's play at Eagleridge Enrichment Center. It was short, sweet, and filled with good music. Savannah did a wonderful job singing. She was quite expressive on stage. (Sorry, we forgot to bring the camera.) We have been very impressed with the school. In fact, Savannah and Shane will be taking a few on-line classes through the program starting in January. They offer, Language Arts, Science, Math, and Social Studies. Shane will be taking Science and Language Arts. And, Savannah will be taking Math, Language Arts, and Science. The curriculum is free and we will have the benefits of having an on-line teacher to assist us. It is a program that uses both on-line and workbook activities. The children have been busy the last two days taking pre-assessment tests to see where they should be placed. We will pick up the books tomorrow. Tomorrow is their last day of school until Jan 5th. Another nice feature is that Savannah will be able to do her schoolwork easily while she is visiting Illinois.

Well, I have a small tot whom is having a hard time falling asleep. I must go, but I send out lots of love and hugs to all my family and friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The nine dollars a head were spent well. The Phoenix zoo was lit up with reds greens whites yellows oranges. People everywhere. Any extra activity was four dollars a head. We saw three animals, one otter, four zebras, and one elephant secluding in the shadows. The gift shop was open. Santa was visited. The free zoo concept is honored now in this family.
Earlier we went to two of the Chandler area parks. They have nice parks around here. The weather was sunny and bright. Kids ran around climbing, chasing, jumping. We headed home and prepared for our zoo trip.
We slept in until about nine a.m. Slowly and casually getting around to catching the day time activities. Coffee was welcomed while phone calls from friends rolled in. As a family we put the Christmas cards together for mailing. We decided to get out and enjoy the weather at the local park. This turned out to be the highlight of the day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Marking Time

There is nothing going for the next couple of weeks. The kids are getting into some state of relaxed homeyness that feels nice. We have somewhat of a routine during the week and on the weekends we run all over. This weekend to the zoo but nothing further planned.

Savannah helped find herself a soccer team to join so we'll see if we can recreate the gopher run out here. I've been working in the Ak Chin clinic all week adding another 45 minute one way commute for Traci on days when Savannah and Shane have school. When I get home from work we usually eat dinner, sometimes take out. Traci has honed her kitchen skills into a fine art. She conjures a magical taste adventure nearly every night with careful attention to nutritional needs and regional cuisine. She is able to fire up a great meal in about 30 minutes. We finish eating and Traci will go out with her friend Lisa while the kids and I begin some evening activity usually involving too much television. I've made a few nights TV free engaging them in games of checkers or uno.

Traci is home more nights than not.

We had a visit from Grandma and Grandpa Townsend via web cam this evening. They are looking well and it was delightful to see a familiar face. Savannah really enjoyed talking with them. Grandpa called on the phone so they could talk and see each other in real time. Friday nights have proven to be Traci's night out with Lisa.
We finished Wall-e and the kids are now in bed, awake, but in bed. Sophia likes to lay out on the couch until she falls asleep. I will gently pick her up and relocate her in her own bed shortly. The kids have been a little wound up and leaves me wondering if it has something to do with the close proximity of the moon.
I made dinner this evening. Not very proud but gave a selection of ham or turkey on wheat bread with apple slices and goldfish crackers all served with an ice cold milk served in glass. Savannah passed. I think she just grazed all night on various things. She definitely finished the apple slices fro the younger one's plates.
It feels like we're just holding up the rhythm of day to day sort of like marking time in the marching band, our feet our moving but we're not headed out anywhere. It's relaxing to not have to run anywhere. I think we'll be like this until after the holidays. Hopefully we'll get some time to spend with Shane's buddy G and his family over the season.

Uncle Tom called to express their "joy" at the gift we bought for grandma Nana. Anne Thomas got on the phone and told me all about the giant Monster in her house. She successfully prompted through her new joke and delivered the punch line expertly. I could hear her moving around, running through the house by her voice in the background. She's full of the antic spirited clan Miller with some strong southern roots. It's difficult to wait to see what her future proves to hold. Mostly getting into some sort of fatigued gibberish now so it's time to make my exit.

I have left a few images of our short foray into Mexico.

It was very interesting. We ended up in the border town across from Douglas Arizona. We were advised by the border patrol to find some of the local bacon wrapped hot dogs.

We found a little wagon and ordered up a few of the dogs. I had mine with everything, the kicker being the green salsa. Tasty! It may have contributed to my aforementioned illness the next day. The kids didn't care for them. Shane peeled off the bacon and Sophia was more interested in the cola. Savannah gave it a fair try but didn't finish it. Traci, after trying my loaded dog, lamented at her inferior less saucy entree. She finished it up.

We visited a few shops and then came back to the U.S.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


It is finally official! Here is a photo of Jill and Kip. They are anticipating an October 2009 wedding.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Special Moments....

The children actually spent an enjoyable evening playing a game of checkers...without bickering!!! I just had to capture the special moment on camera.

Lazy Sunday

Today was enjoyable. It was a lazy day without expectations. We slept in and stayed in our jammies until noon. Then Jim mustered up enough motivation between he and Savannah to go on a 6 mile bike ride around Chandler. While those two were out pedaling, Sophie played games on one computer while I shopped on the other. Our new friend Ryan, along with Baby "K" and son "G" brought our beloved son home around 2p. Shane had spent an action filled night with his buddy, "G" and arrived home with a big hug and an, "I missed you!"

After awhile Jim and I decided to take the kids to the movies to see Disney's new film, Bolt-3D. We headed out into the cold night...yes, cold! The high was only 60 degrees today. We had to wear jackets! I think the warmest it will be this week will only be 72. Anyway...after we spent way too much for tickets we bought some popcorn and headed into the darkened theatre for some Disney magic. The movie was well received by both young and old.

We headed home and after teeth brushings, story time, and kisses we put our happy, lazy, children to bed. Jim and I stayed up searching the 150 channels for anything worth watching and eventually called it quits.

Before calling it quits though, I received a call from my friend, Jill. She happily announced that she and Kip were officially engaged!! YEAH!!!!!!!! And I am happy and proud to announce I have been asked to be her Matron of Honor. (Hmmmm, does not sound as good as Maid......) and of course, I am honored.

The picture above is of Kip and Jill when they came for a St. Louis visit this past summer.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shane's Pal

It appears Shane has really taken to a new friend. G is the imaginative eight year old son of the W's. He seems to enjoy the same make-believe world Shane does. They spend most of their time running around acting out the sagas created in their heads about cowboys, aliens, wizards and whatever else comes to mind.
Mr. W, G's father, and I hiked with the boys up lookout mountain. Lookout mountain is one of the smaller parks in the Phoenix mountain park system. At 2054 feet it makes for a decent climb but not quite the challenge of Camelback Mountain. Shane brought along his toy six shooter and a fresh reload of caps. He and G went off ahead of us and spent the time swapping the six shooter back and forth. They would shoot imaginary threats out of the air, from behind rocks, and on top of cacti. G released some floating cotton from a bush then proceeded to shoot them all out of the sky. G is about a foot taller than Shane and made it up the rock quicker as he was also very familiar with the terrain. Shane had to stop a few times to take a break and a sip of water but we all made it to the top. The view was a spread of the whole northern valley. We sat on the top for a while watching planes fly overhead and people climbing up from below. We made a quick descent and headed for the W's home where the women had prepared a fine meal of pasta, bread and salad.
After dinner we piled in the car for a short trip in to the city for the Christmas light parade. We let Lisa drive whenever we all go anywhere around Phoenix. She is familiar with the layout of the city and gets around well. We were slowing to a stop in mid traffic and Lisa commented on how far we were from the parade. The vehicle and pedestrian traffic was backed up for several miles. We drifted our way in to a parking spot along the side of a road and dismounted with kids in tow. The W's have an eight month old daughter who was bundled in a stroller. Each available adult grabbed the hand of a corresponding child and we pushed into the crowds, it was about 40 minutes before the scheduled start of the parade.
We arrived at Central Street to find the sidewalks, curbs and lawns were already saturated with people, children, pets, balloons, light sticks, barricades, lawn chairs, hats and horns. We staked a claim on the area between a fence and the sidewalk in front of us there were five rows of awn chairs starting from the edge of the sidewalk into the street. We stood in front of a large bush and the sidewalk was completely blocked in front of us. The only route for foot traffic was behind us between the fence the bush and the sidewalk. People were constantly walking through the bush and pulling the branches back letting them loose to swing out and hit one of us. We tried to move but there was no place to go. It was a mild annoyance and we enjoyed the parade anyway.

The entire two hour parade went by while Shane and G played with their light up necklaces, twisting them to make glasses, whipping them around at each other, attributing them with special powers. Shane would grab my stomach every few minutes and say "this is a poison spell and you're dead" or "this hand makes you freeze in ice". each time I would oblige him and either die from the poison or freeze in position. He would then bring me back to life or unfreeze me. I'm not sure they even saw any of the parade.

E and Traci sat in front of our crowd holding K the eight month old and Sophia our four year old. R noticed E "resting her eyes" at one point during the parade. Eight month olds take their toll.
The only eyes tuned directly into the parade were Sophia's. The parade created the magical experience you can sometimes get from large social observations of holiday events. She was fascinated by all the lights, music, balloons, and people. The colors, sounds and smells drew her in and held her attention for the full two hours. The last to drive by was Santa and Sophia waved with a look of admiring credulous longing. Those last few moments made the previous two hours of being whipped in the back by a thorny bush worthwhile.