For the kids' fall break we decided to tackle the heartland of America.  We have been putting this region off because it is so expansive.  At first we were going to rent an RV so the kids could have a little more space to travel our nearly 2000 miles.  However, as I looked at booking RV sights I found that often the RV campgrounds were far from the places we wanted to visit.  Then when we thought about hooking up the electric and sewer late at night, and then needing to drive slowly which would make the drive even longer, we decided to save the RV trip for another time.
 We took off Friday night for 8 days of driving through the Midwest and South.  Starbucks was a must for a our midnight arrival.
 I do a count down to Halloween for the kids each October.  Most days it is just a piece of candy but some days have a scavenger hunt for a bigger prize.  I decided to pack along fun advent treats that related to our trip.  Each morning they had a surprise.  Our first day was going to be our longest drive of 6 hours.  We were headed to Fayetteville, Arkansas to watch the Alabama and Razorbacks game!  Their first treat was Razorbacks gear and a football to play with while we tailgated.  When in Rome, er Arkansas, you have to be a Hog!  Thank you eBay for all of the cheap fan gear.
 As we headed toward Arkansas we had Oklahoma in our sights for lunch.  I made little destination cards and the kids taped them around the car. After each destination we would take it down.
Miami, Oklahoma was the first card.  It is in the right hand corner of Oklahoma.  
For each state I make up a packet with a map of the state, information about when it became a state, the state's population, industry, capitol, official animals and plants of the state, and things that make that state special.  We learned Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state.  Oklahoma also has more miles of Route 66 than any other state.  Miami, Oklahoma was part of the road's beginning and has the longest Main St. on all of Route 66.  It serves as the Gateway to Oklahoma.  Just outside Miami is the last remaining original nine foot wide "Ribbon Road."  Apparently the Oklahoma budget was so tight it could not afford to build the road completely, so rather than covering half of the mileage, they decided to cover half the width.  This historic piece of narrow highway goes for 13 miles on the way to Afton, Oklahoma.  I figured on a road trip of this magnitude, taking a visit to historic Route 66 seemed appropriate.
Oklahoma also has the largest official State Meal.  It consists of chicken fried steak, fired okra, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, girts, corn, strawberries, black eyed peas and pecan pie!  We tried to get as many of the items as we could at Charlie's Chicken.  We knew we weren't in Arizona any more when our entire tray of food was only $22!  We had a feast to fuel us up for the big game ahead.
While we traveled along Route 66 and tried okra and chicken fired steak for the first time, the most novel thing was seeing all the tornado shelters for sale.  That is definitely not something we see in Arizona.
Since we were going to be spending so much time in the car, I borrowed a bunch of movies from the library.  I tried to pick ones for each state.  Twister was perfect for Oklahoma!  The kids were mesmerized.  For in between movies we always compile a driving tract of music and include upbeat songs, favorites, and songs about the states were are visiting.  Carrie Underwood, who happens to be from Oklahoma, sings Blown Away, which tied nicely into all the tornado shelters we saw.  Oklahoma got the short end of the stick on this trip, maybe one day we will try to do Oklahoma and Texas in a little more in depth.  But it was time to roll out to get to the big game in Arkansas!

7th Grade Volleyball

Karlie made the middle school volleyball team again this year.  Karlie loves playing volleyball!
I think I love watching Karlie play volleyball even more than she likes to play it. :)
 Karlie has a lot of sparkle and is always cheering her teammates on.  I think that encouragement led the team picking her as captain for their tournament.
Karlie is a good all around player but likes to dig in the back the best.  This year she tried out the libero position as a defensive specialist.  She is eager to keep working on her serve and sets.  I love it that she wears the same lucky 13 that I wore.
It was a great season and I loved watching her play.  I am hoping for many more seasons of bleacher back aches.

Top 40 Under 40

At the end of September Max was recognized with an award for being one of the top 40 pathologist under 40 years old in the nation!  We got to go to Las Vegas for the award.  The most common remark Max's peers have said was that they were not surprised he was in the top 40 but that he was still under 40 with all he has accomplished!
 We were assuming the ceremony would take all evening but when we learned it would be over by 7, we decided we had to live it up while in Las Vegas!  Pitbull was performing and there were still tickets available.  So we figured that is about as Vegas as we can get.
The show was very Vegas indeed.  We must be getting old or prude because at times it seemed a little over the top even for Vegas.  We had fun dancing and watching Pitbull run around and jazz up the crowd.  But after a long day we could barely keep our eyes open even with music blasting and nearly naked ladies dancing around.  We had dreams of going clubbing after the show and really staying up past our bedtime of 9 pm.  :)  However, were fast asleep by midnight.  We might be under 40 but I think we got to bed more like 80.  I am so proud of Max.  He puts everything he has into being a wonderful husband and father, clearly he does so at work too.  I can't wait to see what he does in the next 40.

Beating The Back To School Blues

I am pretty sure I hate going back to school more than the kids do.  Now its back to being the homework and hurry up and go nag.  I have a hard time getting back in the swing of school.  This year we definitely hung on to summer as long as possible in an attempt to beat the back to school blues.
There is no better way to forget about school than being on the lake in a boat with your buddies while country music is blaring in the background.  We always have so much fun wake surfing, water skiing, and tubing with Bill, Aimee and the kids.
Every August we celebrate the kids' summer reading accomplishments by going to a back to school Benihana bash.
This is their favorite place to go for special occasions and we always have a fun and memorable night.
Luckily summer doesn't actually end here in the desert until about Halloween, so we have plenty of hot weekend days to play by the pool and try to forget about school on Monday.  With the Olympics on this August we had many swim races, synchronized swimming, and Micheal Phelps dreamers.
The first month of school our church has a youth RACE.  They have four teams and the kids compete each week for points to see what team can win the RACE.  Hailey and Karlie were on the Black Lions with their friends.  
They get so pumped up and excited.  Every Saturday night the girls would get together to do their make up and get ready for the RACE.  The Black Lions dominated and won!  The RACE helped ease the pain of not being able to hang with friends all the time due to school.
We can always eat our feelings and try to push the back-to-school blues away with the various National Food Days.  Hailey was having a hard day at school and was thrilled to find a peach pie waiting for her on National Peach Pie Day.
National Waffle Day seems like a good excuse for breakfast for dinner and lots of whipped cream.
National Salami Day led to this masterpiece by chef Max.  We have officially reached polishing off an entire sandwich.  It will be crazy to start making two of these!
The kids decided to fill the bath tub with pillows and make it into a couch to hang out with Max and me while we got ready to go to a function.  I love my little gang so much.  You can see why I have a serious case of back to school blues.  Luckily the kids are setting a good example for their mother and we are making it one day at a time.  With their positive attitude I can face making lunches every morning and nagging every night to do their homework, chores and go to bed.  I can practice my math too.  Only 240 days until schools out! :)

Date With Each Kid

With school starting back up and all the crazy hustle and bustle that goes along with it, we decided to take each one of the kids on a special date with Mom and Dad.  Having four kids makes it difficult to find time to carve out one to one time.  But it is so nice for us and them when we make it happen.  They each got to choose something they would like to do with us.  I love how different each one was.
 Hank is a big football fan and thought it would be fun to go to a Cardinals game.  I am a Groupon lover and got some very special nose bleed seats at a preseason game.  :) I couldn't believe what a deal they were, and then it became clear when we got there.  We were in the Oakland Raiders section about 10 seats from the tippy top!  Hank didn't care.  He was all about the treats.  At half time he was falling asleep (we were too) so we decided to call it a day.  He loved seeing Larry Fitzgerald and it was a good experience.  We learned watching football at home on the couch is way better!
 Karlie might grow up to be an engineer.  She loves puzzles, electronics, and science.  She wanted to do an Escape The Room date.  You are given clues to unlock a series of keys and more clues until you find the key to let you out of the room.  There are many different themes and you have an hour to solve it.  Max and I had done one with our friends and failed to get out of the room.  We were with some very smart people and still failed.  Karlie is very determined and we warned her not to get her hopes up that we would escape the room.  She researched all the different themes and watched the bookings carefully to find the time least likely to have any other participants because she wanted to do it with just us.  We booked it on a Sunday afternoon and only had 2 other people in the room with us.  Karlie took the lead in the game and we managed to break the code and escape with the treasure!!  Queen Anne's Revenge has a only a 24% escape rate.  Karlie was thrilled!
 For Hailey's date of course art would be worked into it.  We went to Brush Bar where over two hours you follow the artist in creating your own masterpiece.  No one could believe Hailey was 15 and numerous people came to admire her painting and took pictures of it.  Her clouds actually looked like desert sunset clouds where mine looked like someone spilled Peto-Bismol all over my painting. :)  While the painting was fun, it was more fun for me to watch Hailey shine.  She is so comfortable with adults and really has that creative passion of an artist.  She is growing into a wonderful woman that makes us so proud.  It was a great night and she still had time to go out with her friends when we got back.
Our final date was with Kaitlin.  She loves watching the Diamondbacks with Daddy.  She especially loves Goldie.  She knew she wanted to go to a Dbacks game on her date.  We had so much fun pigging out on Sonoran Dogs, Churrodogs, and whole peanuts.  Due to Hank's nut allergy Kaitlin had never cracked peanuts and eaten them.  It was a real treat.  The Dbacks have not had the best season so we feel pretty lucky that we were at a game where they won 13-2!  On Sundays after the game the kids get to run the bases and Kaitlin decided to race the two boys in front of us.  She had a big old smile as she hit home before them. :) We had a wonderful day at the ballpark.  Taking each of the kids on date was a home run for sure.

Rocky Mountain Low

After our day up on Last Dollar road I started to get a headache so I went to bed early.  All through the night my body was so sore and I was thinking to myself, man I have tell the owners that this mattress is terrible.  The whole night I was tossing and turning in pain blaming the bed for my aches and pains.
Max woke up and found Hank downstairs crying with a headache.  He tried fixing him some breakfast to no avail.  They come up to bed with me and Max confessed he felt terrible too.  About 5 minutes later Kaitlin came up crying that her head hurt.  Another 10 minutes brought a crying Karlie. We were all in bed with a fever and body aches.  Hailey eventually woke suffering as well.  We spent the entire day sleeping and fitfully resting while Nana and Pops waited in fear for the terrible headache to start up.
Luckily they never got it!  I think Nana's homemade chicken soup helped us recover quickly.  It sure felt like the flu but only lasted two days.  On the second day, which was the last day of our vacation, even though we were not 100% Max was determined to no waste another vacation day.
I wanted to go to town and get some souvenirs.  At the edge of the town is a beautiful little hike to a waterfall.
After shopping Max was on a mission to hike it.  He was in flip flops and Nana in sandals.  But there was no stopping him. :)
It was a gorgeous hike and under healthy circumstances would have been a perfect way to spend the afternoon.  However the additional exertion left the kids feeling sick again.  We thought maybe some ice cream would boost them up.  When Hank declined any ice cream I knew he was certainly sick!
We got home and he was out.  The rest of us were pretty wiped too.  Max was concerned how he was going to drive for 8 hours the next day.
Another night of night sweats and we mostly cleared the virus.  Being sick stinks, being sick on vacation really stinks!
Over eight hours the change in landscape is so dramatic and beautiful.  I just love the road to Telluride, but this time I really loved the road home.  Until next time Telluride.

Rocky Mountain High

One of our favorite things to do in Telluride is to drive to the top of Last Dollar road and shoot clays.
The views are incredible and unlike anywhere I have ver been.
You really feel like you are on top of the world.
This year was much busier than past years and we did not want to disturb the peace for all the other people coming to see the views.
So we had a picnic and really soaked up the views while listening to the Aspen leaves whisper.
Finally when all the people had cleared we took our shots.
I love to do some red necking with my cowboy!!
He is a great and safe teacher.
All of our kids have a healthy respect for guns and how dangerous they are.
Max is very rigid when it comes to gun safety.  Everyone wears ear and eye protection.  However, it appears shirts are optional.  :)
 Max always puts out a firing line that no one except the shooters can cross.  We feel strongly in educating the kids about the safety of guns so if they ever come across one at a friends they know what to do.  Get away and get the parents!  But we also want them to experience the thrill and fun of blowing stuff up!
The weather was glorious, the picnic perfect, and the shooting fun.  We had a natural Rocky Mountain high for sure.
Little did we know that heading down the hill would be the beginning of our Telluride decline in more than one way.  It started with a flat tire on a 4 wheel drive trail.  Not the best places to change a flat tire.  Max managed to find a relatively flat spot to change it.  The kids loved the spot and enjoyed playing in the Aspen grove.
We thought our troubles were over after the flat.  Boy were we wrong.


For our final vacation of the summer we took off for Telluride.
No one is ever happy about the 6am departure for our eight hour drive, however everyone is thrilled to get there and take our celebratory arrival gondola ride.

 There is just something special about those rides.
 Little and big kids alike love the peaceful ride up the mountain.
 We were treated to a porcupine  walking along the trail next to us.  The wild flowers were in full bloom.  Telluride is full of beauty everywhere you look.
 The one thing the kids really wanted to do more of this year was fishing.  
So on our first day we returned to Alta Lakes and had a back up plan to go to the stocked kids fishing pond in town if they didn't catch anything.
It was a day unlike any time we have been fishing!  The kids were reeling them in left and right.

Hailey felt sorry for the fish.
 It is such a gorgeous lake.
 The fish were literally jumping out of the water!
 The kids each pulled in three rainbow trout ranging in size from 10 to 14 inches.
 Beauty everywhere I looked.  :)
We were hoping to have a trout appetizer but ended up with more than we could eat!

We told the kids to savor this day because they may never have a fishing day like this again in their life.
 We stopped at an abandoned mining sites on our way back from the lake.
 It was strange to think a little over a 100 years ago that place was a thriving community of miners.  We had fun exploring all the deteriorating buildings.
Karlie loves to clean fish!  She and Pops had their work cut out for them.
Of course half the fun is playing with the fish heads.  We had a feast but learned the kids like catching the fish more than eating the fish.  Luckily Pops knows how to put away the fish and not a one was wasted.  Our first day in Telluride was hard to beat.