Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not Enough Time

82 hours of driving.

It sounds like a long time.  Especially when you're confined in an RV with 5 people:  two teen girls, a ten year old boy and two parents.  Sounds like a recipe for disaster, but like the rest of life, the time together went much too quickly.  

Our first campfire in Laird River Hot Springs, BC Canada
We had never driven an RV before, and that first day driving from Forest City, Iowa to Missoula, MT started off anxiously as my husband learned from experience how to handle a 28 foot vehicle that filled almost the entire lane.  Within an hour he was driving comfortably.  It took me a little longer to feel comfortable driving the behemoth but eventually I did too.

It took us seven full days to drive from Iowa to Alaska, 3575 miles (about 510 mi/day).  Before the trip, we had planned to fill the driving time and the hours in the evening after we stopped with journaling, family video logs, playing card games and guitar, reading, talking and writing a collaborative book which we had brainstormed.  We did do some of that but many nights, by the time we had done some sightseeing and eaten our campsite dinner, we collapsed from exhaustion.

There was a lot of singing while driving.  We blasted all the kids' favorite bands like Pink, Cold Play, My Chemical Romance, and One Direction.  It's one of the best sights of a trip to see your kids singing their hearts out together.

The drive itself was amazing.  Once we got into the Canadian Rockies, around every bend was a breathtaking view.  So I took too many photos that of course could never capture the reality of the immense beauty, but it made me feel better to try.

Our first bear we saw was a huge thrill.  It was a big black bear grazing on the hillside near the road.  We pulled the RV over and watched it until it wandered back into the woods.  He didn't seem to even care we were there.  We saw a total of 16 bears, 3 of which were grizzlies, but all from the safety of our giant vehicle. Interestingly, all but one of those bears we saw in Canada.

 In Alaska, we saw two moose, some Dall sheep, lots of Bald Ealges, seals, and sea otters.  We also had the privilege of witnessing a humpback whale breaching not more than 100 yards from our boat on a wildlife cruise.

View from Homer Spit
I think my favorite Alaskan towns were Homer Spit and Juneau, but I loved everyplace we went, which also included Valdez, Seward, Anchorage and Ketchikan.

We were able to see a number of glaciers whose compacted ice reflected an intense blue color.  Many times I felt like a character in a fantasy world seeing landscapes that my mind did not think possible. Unfortunately, most of the glaciers are retreating rapidly and many had signs marking where the glaciers had been in previous years.  By the time our kids have their own children and journey back to Alaska, there
may not be many glaciers left.  

Aialik Glacier, Kenai Peninsula, AK

At the airport, when the kids figured out we were going on a cruise

Maybe the best part of the trip was the surprise.

We hadn't told the kids that for the last week we were getting on a Princess Cruise ship heading to Vancouver.  We also didn't tell them that their Grandma and Grandpa McKendry were meeting us on the ship.  But Grandma and Grandpa had a surprise of their own for us.  They brought with them my parents as well!  We were all surprised and thrilled!  It was great to end our trip with the whole family together.

Dinner on the cruise together :)

Three weeks have never gone so fast.

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer so far!

Kathy :)

And don't forget to head over to the WRiTE Club at DL Hammons.  The bouts have begun and there have already been some great pieces.

Glacier Bay

Friday, May 30, 2014

WRiTE Club Deadline

I'm still having a great time driving around Alaska with my family, but I wanted to make sure I helped get the word out on WRiTE Club.  The deadline for submission is midnight on May 31st...tomorrow, so get your writing sample in!

 It's a lot of fun, a great way to get your work critiqued, and it's all anonymous so don't be shy!

For all the details head on over to DL Hammons blog, (he's the genius behind WRiTE Club) and check it out.

My two favorite boys on the beach in Homer Spit, AK

Have a great weekend and don't forget to enter WRiTE Club!

Kathy :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We Made It!

We made it to Alaska two days ago!

 It took us a seven full days to drive from the Winnebago factory in Forest City, Iowa to Alaska. It was an amazing drive!

I had no idea how well we would do in a 280 square foot RV with five people, two of which are teenage girls, but I'm happy to report that we are still a family of five.  My husband's limitless humor helped to smooth over the few rough spots we hit.

On the docks in Valdez, AK

Yesterday we enjoyed the sights of Valdez, AK a little town of about 4000 people on Prince William Sound.  It is surrounded by snow capped mountains on one side and the sea on the other.  It's like a tiny cold New England town mixed with Hawaii's mountains and rain forests and is absolutely stunning.

Sunrise on the ferry

Then we took a 5 1/2 hour ferry boat ride through Prince William Sound to Whittier, where we got off and drove to Homer Spit, AK on the Kenai peninsula. :)

We have seen a number of bears, but I'm happy to report that we haven't had to use the bear survival tips yet because we've only seen them from the car, not when we're out walking. I think the kids are so noisy they scare everything away! :)

Here are a couple more pictures:  
Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefield, Canada

First Campfire, Liard River Hot Springs, B.C., Canada 

Hope all is going well with you!  I'll be back intermittently as time and internet permits.  Until then have a great week!

Kathy :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Big Day

Mother's Day weekend was great!

Not because of Mother's Day though.  It was because my son had his first rock gig at a local bar.  He and his band, The Screamin' Demons, played three songs on Saturday and Sunday:  Dirty Deeds by AC/DC, Money Maker by the Black Keys, and Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.  They had such a good time performing and we thoroughly enjoyed watching!  Their band has three guitarists, two singer/keyboard players, and a drummer.  They are all ten and under! I couldn't believe that they could play so well at that age!

This was my son's first time in front of a crowd and he was nervous, but as soon as the music started he just got into the music and loved it.  Here is a short clip of them playing Money Maker.  My son is the one in the orange and black striped shirt, between the two singers.
(The bass player is an assistant teacher.)

What did you get to do this weekend?  I hope you got to enjoy some beautiful weather.

We leave for Alaska in 4 days!!!!  If our internet access is good enough I might blog a little on the way, otherwise I'll be back in June.

Kathy :)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope you had a wonderful day. You deserve it for all the hard work and love you give to your families. Cherish every moment.

As I thought about all the wonderful moments I’ve had as a mom I tried to pinpoint one that stood out as the most special or heartwarming.  I couldn’t think of one.  There isn’t just one.  Having three kids 17, 15, and 9 has given me a whole life of wonder.  

From the moment Jessica was born 17 years ago, to yesterday watching Ryan at his first guitar concert and everything in between.
Watching each of them take their first steps.
Teaching Alyssa how to bake.
Teaching them all how to read.
Teaching the girls to figure skate.
Having Ryan climb into my lap to show me some new game on the iPad.
Watching them all grow into beautiful, amazing people.

Not everything has been happy.  There have been plenty of roadblocks along the way. Sickness, injury, frustration, and heartbreak are also part of the journey.  Together we forged ahead and grew.

Scary moments, sad moments and joyous moments are all part of my motherhood memories that I cherish.
But maybe the most wonderful moments of all, are those deliciously sweet times when my three children are talking and laughing together totally oblivious of my observations.  When their pure love for each other shines like the brightest of stars, telling me that even when I’m gone they will stick together and make new memories of their own.      

Kathy :)

Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mom who taught me everything I know about motherhood and encouraged me to always follow my dreams!

If you want to join in on Dropcam's campaign to share your stories of being a mom contact,  Tiffany at tpham(@)dropcam(.)com.  They will be sharing their favorite MOMeries

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zucchinis and Zen

Count-down: 17 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

I can’t believe today is already the last day!  The Challenge went so fast this year! 

I have a hard time with “Z”.  I always want my last post to be really good, but “Z” words often don’t fit too well with my themes.  Last night my son, who’s nine, was trying to help me come up with a good “Z” word.  It was getting late because I’m a procrastinator and we started rattling off all the “Z” words we could think of.  Finally, he blurted out, “zucchini”.  I told him zucchinis didn’t have anything to do with Alaska.  He thought for a moment and told me we needed to take a zucchini with us on our trip, then we’ll have one in Alaska and I can write about it.  

Amid bursts of laughter we thought about drawing sharpie eyes on the zucchini and dressing him in a hat and sunglasses.  We would name him Zorba the Zucchini.  I told Ryan he might not make it through airport security.

My actual “Z” word, I decided is Zen.  I’ve only attempted meditation a few times, but I feel like our long drive will be a sort of meditative experience.  There will be long stretches of looking inside myself while my eyes focus on the constancy of the road.  I can let go of the everyday stressors and concentrate on breathing. On Being.  

Being not an individual, but a part of something bigger;  a family, a mountain valley, a speck in this grand universe.

Thanks for stopping by each day to read my posts! I had a great time this year and I learned so much from everybody. I want to thank Arlee for creating this wonderful A-Z Challenge! And thanks to all the co-hosts and helpers who help to make it run smoothly.  I know it takes a lot of time and effort. You guys/gals are awesome!  

Kathy :)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Count-down:  18 days until departure for Alaskan Adventure!

My 15 year old daughter explained its meaning, “You Only Live Once”, because I’m not up on all the hip language of today.  She said driving to Alaska is definitely a YOLO moment.  Being the nerd I am, I looked up the term anyway.  It is similar to expressions such as Carpe Diem.  But, I was surprised to see it has negative connotations of taking dumb risks and explaining them away by saying “YOLO, man!”.  

That got me thinking.  What are we humans to do? Should we live as if we’ll die tomorrow, or live as if we’ll never die?  Maybe that is the same thing.  Either way we may take too many risks with our body or money.  Or should we do everything we can to protect ourselves?  That leads to becoming a hermit afraid of everything.

If I only live once, I don’t want either of those scenarios.  It’s not one amazing experience that is important to me.  It is a lifetime of combined experiences, wonderful adventures, painful trials, and quiet moments.  White water rafting together. Losing track of my two year old daughter at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia (we found her five minutes later).  Sitting with my son in my lap. Gazing out the window on a rainy day where the only sunshine is in the golden yellow wings of goldfinch.  Living each day no matter what life throws at me.  

Yes, driving to Alaska is surely a YOLO moment, but I prefer to think of my whole life as one long string of YOLO moments.      

My 9 year old son introduced me to this silly YOLO video from Lonely Island. I hope you enjoy it.

Kathy :)