Wide Open Road

We’ve reached the portion of our trip we’ve really been waiting for: RV time. This part is a welcome change of pace from the first two segments, while they were very enjoyable, it was hectic sightseeing in city after city, hopping from hotel to hotel, and jumping from one family member’s house to another. It was a new bed almost every night and hauling too much stuff from place to place. Kids do that to you. If you didn’t know, having the arsenal packed with items to calm, cajole and fill bellies takes up a lot of space.
The first night in the RV tried to prepare us for the worst. We got a later start than we had hoped, and thought we could get out of Target to stock the RV kitchen and bathroom faster than was realistic. Provisioning for a one way RV trip is a lot like moving out of your parent’s house your freshman year of college.
Pro tip: if you want to avoid the sticker shock of buying much stuff, find a goodwill or value village in your pick up city and buy the stuff you may not plan to use again.
Heavy traffic, bad weather, screaming kids, a soggy, leaning RV site did not reassure us we had made the right decision for the sabbatical.

But as I write this, the weather is clear, we made one simple beautiful stop, the kids are down to bed on time, the dishes are done and I’m enjoying a cold beverage with my honey on the ‘porch’ in a bumpin’ RV park on MO. This is livin’!


On The Road With Little Kids

Many have questioned our sanity in trekking across the country for 6 weeks with two children under 3 years of age. And there have been a few days in our last 9 days in which I, too, have questioned our sanity. However, I would like to share some tricks we think we’ve figured out how to work it.

  1. Balls
  2. Books – audio books for the kids
  3. Plenty of snacks
  4. Big gas tank in the car
  5. Snacks
  6. playground mapper (Google, bing, anything that will show green spaces)
  7. more snacks
  8. Know your daily distance limits

The kids play better together outside than in.

A hungry kid is an angry kid. Food keeps them and you happy. Playing in the car with a lightweight ball is actually more time consuming than you would think and not nearly as dangerous as trying to ignore screaming toddlers. Reading books seems to really work for Cora. The audio books from the Seattle Public Library were a nice addition to the collection for the trip, and when she would leave the headphones in, she would stay engaged for about 20 minutes. Having to stop for gas more frequently than you need to stop to exercise the kids is BAD. Tactical location of parks for meals is a great way to make sure you don’t live at McDonald’s or the mall to get some laps in for your kiddo during much needed breaks.


Snuggle time before we hit the road.

It’s  wishful thinking that this list of ideas would always work, but I figured some of things were unique and might help others considering a long road trip  with little ones.  We have resigned ourselves that we can’t be on the road for more than 5 hours of driving. That is not total time on the road, that is the amount it takes to get to the destination  It will take at least 1.5 – 2 hours to do the playtime, feeding and potty breaks necessary to keep the sanity you were aiming for to begin with.

Making a picture frame to decorate the RV.

Making a picture frame to decorate the RV.

Harlan plays peek-a-boo in the Jeep.

Harlan plays peek-a-boo in the Jeep.



Scratch One Off of the Bucket List – National Baseball Hall of Fame

Today we made our way from the bustling metropolis that is New York City to the sleepy village, yes I said village, of Cooperstown, NY, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Coming to Cooperstown was the seed that germinated for the cross-country odyssey that we are undertaking now. As far as getting to Cooperstown, all I can say is that you have to want it. It is in the back rural country in the middle of New York state. There are no interstates that come by town, and when you get there, there is only two hour parking everywhere, so we had to move the car in order to take everything in without getting a ticket.

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hof 02 - 05072014There was a lot of baseball history, it was a way of recreating some of the most memorable moments in baseball history and in a weird way, gives you a connection to the baseball legends whose stories still circle around baseball today. Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young Connie Mack, Casey Stengel are all still alive and well within the hallowed halls of the Hall of  Fame. It was also good to see that Negro league players such as Josh Gibson, James “Cool Papa” Bell,  and Buck O’Neil were enshrined in the hall, having played their entire careers in the negro leagues. FYI, Josh Gibson was quite possibly the greatest hitter to ever play the game of baseball. All in all, the Hall of Fame was a real treat to see. I took quite a few pictures of bronze plagues for players that I have enjoyed watching play or listening to stories about.  I also hope to be coming back next year to celebrate the induction of Craig Biggio, and witness the first Houston Astro to go in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame..

hof 03 - 05072014hof 04 - 05072014For those interested: The reason the Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, New York is because of the work A.G. Spalding (of Spalding sporting goods) did to try and prove that baseball was a pure American game. In his “research”, he found someone named Abner Graves who claimed to have been taught to play baseball by Abner Doubleday in 1846 in Cooperstown, NY. Abner Doubleday went on to gain some notoriety in the Civil War for the Union forces and has a monument at Gettysburg, which we found on our trip. Having a Civil War hero create the game before the civil war was a great motivator for Spalding to claim that baseball had been invented by Doubleday. The story of Abner Doubleday creating baseball is accepted as being a myth and not fact. The fact is that baseball evolved with the country. It is derived from a game called rounders and the first known mention of “base ball” was in 1792. The game evolved in to a game called town ball or country ball or any number of variations. In 1845 the New York Knickerbockers baseball club was formed and they set down a set of rules for the game that, most, are still in use today in major league baseball. Alexander Joy Cartwright, is really the Father of the modern game.

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New Yooooooork City!

We like New York, it’s flashy, it’s unique, full of people and sights and sounds we don’t see often. It’s also a place we love to visit but could never live in. We learned a lot about our opinions this time around visiting with small children and a car. We chose to stay in Brooklyn to save some money since we would have a car and hoped for a bigger room to fit us all. We found a hotel through Hotels.com which sounded too good to be true, because it WAS. Bedford Stuyvesant was the neighborhood we ended up in, in a hotel that was much smaller than we hoped. The neighborhood wasn’t too bad once you got over the smell of urine and the bustle at rush hour(s), and it was really close to the A train to Manhattan. However, we didn’t know how many people would also be trying to get into and out of the city during rush “hour”. Which was not pleasant holding little bitty ones and their stuff. With your face stuffed with other people’s backs, bags and backsides, or being skipped by trains that were too full to fit anymore, the travel left a bad taste in our mouths. We’d gotten pretty minimal in our day pack for sightseeing but it still involved a stroller which isn’t that easy to get on and off the subway. We did get some entertainment on the train however. (An example since my video never wants to load).

But enough whining, here’s the other good stuff about our visit to NYC !

The 9/11 memorials:  Washington, DC, New York, NY and Shanksville, PA. The National 9/11 Memorial was a breathtaking site – the sheer size of the memorial as well as the sense of depth created by it. The water features gave you a sense of rushing and then immense calm at the deep pits in the middle. Because it was much busier, in the middle of the financial district, and the airport-like security, it had a very different feel than the Pentagon Memorial. I definitely recommend seeing it if you’re in New York. You really have no excuse- it’s free, it’s accessible and it’s a very significant marker of US History.

We also played the tourists for this trip to the Big Apple. I had never been to Liberty or Ellis Islands before so we hopped on the ferry to see each. Plus the “castle” where the tickets are sold, Castle Clinton, was nice to explore with Cora. The ferry trips were long (the wait to get on from Battery Park and from Liberty Island in particular) and the kids were kind of done, but I got my fix for the Lady Liberty. We skipped Ellis Island – waved to it without getting of the ferry – then headed back to Brooklyn.

I always like to talk about food when I travel. The first night we ate dinner at Shake Shack as recommended by our neighbors in Seattle. No offense, but What-a-burger might be the winner here. Although those custard milkshakes were a close second. Courtesy of Bed-Sty we were exposed to some Caribbean food from Jamaica Grill in the neighborhood and we enjoyed some oxtails, jerk chicken, beef patties and plantains. Made me miss Reggae Hut in Houston. Good meal! Two nights in one city really only means one day of activities for that stop, so a few meals and the ferry was about all we had time for. But they were worth it and we will definitely be back when the kids are older to explore more.


Statue of Librety – you could pay to have that on a penny.

Bedford-Stuyvesant Proud

Bedford-Stuyvesant Proud





Philadelphia, PA

We stopped in Philadelphia (apparently I’m not allowed to say Philly) on our way to New York, spending one night there and the morning after. We stayed really close to the sights we wanted to see so we didn’t have to deal with in and out parking or the train. We wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and the city had great facilities for seeing both. Philadelphia also has a wonderful amount of opportunities to learn about the history of slavery in the union and the Underground Railroad. There is so much history on display in Independence Hall. It’s operated by the National Parks Service and they held tours every 15 minutes. The tour included the meeting, court and the signing rooms of Independence Hall.


The ranger giving the tour was quirky and made the information more interesting to me, Sean thought she was a little too much. She probably doesn’t have anything on the History Channel, of which Sean watches a lot more than me!



The Liberty Bell had a fairly new structure around it with more installations dedicated to the Underground Railroad, slavery, the state of the union at the time the bell was in use and its transition to a bigger symbol of freedom. If I may show my ignorance, I totally thought it was going to be bigger in person.




First Stop: Our Nation’s Capital

We elected to spend 4 nights at our first stop in order to give ourselves a chance to adjust to the east coast time zone, see the sights and visit family. While we know the kids won’t remember this trip outside of the pictures, Sean in particular has a passion for our nation’s history and there is plenty of it in Washington D.C. The story will mostly be told in pictures but some highlights not pictured from our activities include:

  • National Archives to see the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (no pictures allowed)
  • Walking around the national mall (carrying, pushing, chasing, dragging Cora)
  • Dining at a busy hipster restaurant – Busboys and Poets (owned by Andy Shallal featuring lots of vegetarian and vegan options)
  • Hanging with our family (my sister and Sean’s cousin)

We managed to pack in more activities than we thought we could with two little ones in tow. Some of that is definitely due to feeding the baby on the go and a steady supply of snacks for big sister. Maybe on my personal blog I’ll share some of the revelations and tribulations of traveling with small children as I have learned them.

Wireless access on the road being what it is, I will have to add pictures later, but more posts will be coming sooner.

Day 1:

We took our time getting up and had breakfast in thanks to the hospitality of my sister. We strolled to the National Mall to take a look around and see what it was like with Cora in the borrowed stroller (thanks Tara and Henry!). Harlan was in the ergo baby carrier (also a recent addition to our travel gear) and that had its ups and downs and well. Cora only scraped her knee once and stayed dry all day. We had lunch with Sean’s cousin at a Texas-themed Mexican restaurant called Austin’s (pretty close to Tex-Mex) and checked out the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. Unfortunately, we’d reached the end of Cora’s goodwill with our excursion and headed back to the condo for naps. Sean dipped into the Air and Space Museum solo while they napped. For the evening we ventured over to Busboys and Poets in the Vista neighborhood and then went home for bed.

Day 2

We visited the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon. It was beautiful and well done. Cora didn’t quite get how to be behave at a memorial (and she couldn’t read the signs asking for quiet). It was the first of the 9/11 memorials on our trip and it gave us pause for the weeks ahead, seeing parts of the country touched by that unforgettable event.

We visited the mall after nap time to ride the carousel and eat funnel cake (don’t do it!). That evening, my sister watched the kids for us and Sean and I went for adults only dinner and drinks. We’re a little outside the age range for the location we picked but either way it was nice to spend some QT together.


Harlan – Why don’t I get to ride with them?



Shining children on the National Mall

Day 3 – Fairfax, VA

We were hosted for brunch by Winston, Eden, Maezie and Nina. A fabulous time was had by all, especially two little girls and a yellow slide. If you ever want to go to Honduras to help with Winston’s clinic, give him a buzz. It sounds like an amazing opportunity for outreach work. Then we continued the trek to the Air and Space Museum Extension at Dulles to see the Discovery Space Shuttle. We met up with Brandy, a good friend from Rice and one of my gorgeous bridesmaids and her family at this stop. We had lots of baby/kid time and let the menfolk geek out over aircraft and engines, the drive was worth it! That evening was dinner in and packing for the road to Gettysburg.

Day 4

It was our first travel day for the trip and we thought we should get an early start. We realized our stay wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflection Pool, however. We packed up the condo and planned to grab a late brunch (isn’t that just lunch?) with my sister after making a stop. We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial first and took it all in (reflection pool, World War II Memorial  all the ducks) and walked back along the other memorials to our far flung parking spot. Turns out that was no minor trip, and after having lunch at the the Eastern Market on a gorgeous day, we finally got on our way to Gettysburg, PA.


America, here we come!

Alright, that’s a little dramatic I know, but the trip we’re about to embark upon warrants some fanfare. Sean gets a sabbatical every 5 years at his company. However, this will be the only time it is for 8 weeks and we’re taking every advantage of it. We’ll be spending 5.5 weeks on the road with our two munchkins travelling from Washington DC and meandering our way back to Seattle.

Here’s the plan:

Washington, DC
Gettysburg, PA
Reading, PA
Philadelphia, PA
New York, NY
Cooperstown, NY
Mexico, Oswego, NY
Niagara Falls, ON, CA
West Mifflin, PA
Washington, PA
Stoystown, PA
Hurricane, WV
Cincinnati, OH/Chillicothe
Cridersville, OH
Chicago, IL
Springfield, IL
Kansas City, KS
Keystone, SD
Custer, SD
Yellowstone, WY
West Glacier, MT
Coeur d’Alene, ID
Seattle, WA
Everett, WA

If that looks like a lot of stops, that’s because it is. Did I mention we’ll have our two munchkins in tow? Let me remind you of what that looks like. I’m pretty sure potty trained Cora will need a lot more stops, and wiggle worm Harlan will like to… well you know. I’m going to get off my butt and get a cool graphical version of our trip up soon. In the meantime, just stories and silly pictures.


Spring 2014

A lot has happened this spring, and it’s all been leading up to a really nice break for our family. First a quick summary:

  • AJ completed her Masters from the University of Houston in Physical Education – Motor Behavior
  • Sean has had a really successful quarter with new business and connections at work
  • Cora is potty trained and has a huge vocabulary.
  • Harlan has continued to grow and flourish with new teeth, new skills (pulling up and rolling both ways).

In less happy news, my grandfather passed away in February. Rev J. Bob Thomas went home on February 12. We traveled to Dallas for the services and then on to Houston to spend time with my dad and mom. He was a great guy who was very loved in his community. He will be missed.






We also traveled to Houston a short month after that to celebrate the wedding on my dear friend Kim to Faheem on April 12. Crew Phi Crew is slowly but surely marrying everyone off!








In short, a lot has happened this spring and we’re only going to follow it up with more craziness as we get ready to embark on our 5.5 week trip cross country in May.


Great American Road Trip

Starting to get excited (or scared?) for our big trip. We’ve got a rough plan of where we’re going and what we’re going to do and we’re also excited for the opportunity to visit places we have never even thought of going just because. We have five main themes to the trip:

  1. 9/11 Memorials
  2. Underground railroad historical sites
  3. Americana
  4. National parks
  5. Family

9/11 memorials: pentagon, world trade center memorial, and united flight 93

Underground railroad historical sites: TBD – more research needed

Americana: baseball hall of fame, Punxatawney, PA, Kennywood Amusement Park, Smithsonian Museums

National Parks: Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park

Family: Cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, every branch of that family tree except our parents.


Babymoon, Family Style

I’ve been on a whirlwind of DO as  I near the end of my freedom, I mean pregnancy. Each weekend has been jam-packed with activities – bbq’s, lunches, brunches, park visits, hanging out, work parties, you name it. This weekend we decided to take the last safe opportunity to go out of town before my due date to the Olympic Peninsula. Seeing Hurricane Ridge was a priority, but other than that, we hoped to just relax at our destination along the Hood Canal and spend some quality family time together.

We almost did just that, but once again, probably did a little more than advisable because some one in our family, and I’m not naming any names, is hard headed.

We visited a surprisingly warm lake near the Hood Canal called Lake Cushman. The air temps were unpleasantly cooler than desired, but the water was incredibly comfortable for a dip. Our southern proclivities have earmarked Lake Cushman as a repeat spot for the family when we visit the Olympic Peninsula again. We took the Sea Eagle out for a few hours together on Sunday. We took a lunch break on a “sand bar” island in the lake. Sean pulled out his pole for a little solitary fishing, while Cora and I paddled around the lake a little more to stay warm.


It was a little tiring, but a really fun weekend together before we welcome #2 to the family sometime soon. Looking forward to taking more opportunities to do that in the future!