Disneyland at Last!!

It all started with a game of “I spy with my little eye”.  It was Melanie’s turn and she said to Jamin, “I spy with my little eye something……yellow!”  After much guessing and never coming up with the yellow item, Melanie finally gave the answer, “Dad’s teeth”.

It is because of this game that Jamin and I are having a conversation that sounds like this:  “So, Jamin,  we need to get to a grocery store today and get some lunch supplies,” I say.

Jamin:  “Yeshh, we will get to one of thoshhe places thish morning.”  He replies with his teeth wrapped in Crest White Strips waiting the prescribed 15 minutes before removing them.

It has been exactly two months since we left our home in Anchorage.  We are sitting in the shared parking lot of a college and a large hotel.  We pulled off the road sometime last night to sleep, but can’t remember which road we exited on.  We were all so exhausted.  Pulling into the parking lot, we find others who are making this their rest stop for the evening.  The man in the Camaro in front of us simply put up his sun shade across his windshield and called it a night.  There is a family in a bus parked at the back of this parking lot and they look like they are winding up the evening and settling in.  A tractor trailer is pulled up on the grass and looks as though it has been dormant for a few hours already. We pull up parallel with another suburban pulling a much larger trailer that is already “asleep”.

Our kids have already fallen asleep in the car, but we park the car, prepare the trailer and move three of the kids to the trailer with Jamin and I and the other child sleep in the vehicle in our sleeping bags.

I forgot to use the bathroom at a public facility last stop, so now I must master a new method for peeing.  I find that that the handi-wipe container has a wide opening and so I decide to empty that container and place its contents in a Ziploc so that I can have use of the container for this emergency.

Thank God for all of the “rehearsals” at the doctor’s office when I had to give “samples” with every pregnancy check-up.  Success!!  “Too much information” you say?  Well, it’s all new to me and I thought it would be useful to remember in the days to come.

We are twenty miles from Disneyland now.  We have visited many friends and family along our route.  We have visited some National parks, and tourist sites.  We have slept in hotels, rest stops, parking lots, and campsites.  We have need of a shower and a washing machine, but will have use of those later today when we check into the hotel for our six night stay here in Anaheim.

The kids are looking forward to cable tv at the hotel, a swimming pool and of course Disneyland tomorrow.  Jamin, interestingly enough, is looking forward to being in one place long enough to finish filing our 2009 taxes.  I guess taxes will be my assignment too for a few hours as we try to bang it all out today .  I am looking forward to laundry and getting the kids caught up on some of their school work so we can all enjoy the week off. 

Today we regroup, catch up on hygiene issues, use a real toilet, and prepare for a fun week at Disneyland!!!!

Morris Family Adventures Part 3

While I was in Idaho with the kiddos for a couple of weeks, Jamin took off on a Peruvian adventure with a team from Church on the Rock, Battleground, Washington to build a church in Contamana, Peru.  Here are some photos from their adventure!
They flew to Lima, then Pucalpa where they boarded a boat for the rest of the journey to Contamana.
The eight hour boat ride begins
Part of the work crew
Guido, our guide, with us on the Ucaylai River
Shoreline views on the river
The sun sets on our journey
The site where the new church will be built in Contamana
Preparing the rebar for the foundation
Pouring the concrete columns
Cooling down
Ahhhhhhh......
columns are up!!
Church meeting on Sunday morning up the river in Shipibo Indian Village
Our dear friend, Pastor Bill Courtnay from Church on the Rock, Battleground, Washington was the guest speaker.
Dancing after the service
Contamana
Some of the Peruvian Crew
After several days in Contamana, Jamin and his friend Chuck Skeek headed out on an adventure of their own to hike Machu Picchu.  Those photos will be in the next blog!
Photos are courtesy of Chuck Skeek who was also part of the work crew, our dear friend from Petersburg, Alaska. 

Vagabonding

Having just seen Jamin off on a two-weektrip where he will be helping to build a church in Cantamana, Peru for a couple of weeks, the kids and I are settling into the home of my family here in Idaho.  We all get Grammy and Papa Bob time and time with my sister Promise, and my brother Stan.  I plan to see many friends and family members while I am here as well.

It has been one month since we packed up our belongings, rented out our home and headed out of our town of Anchorage.  Time seems to be flying.  We said “goodbye” to our beds and”hello” to the road.  Here are some things I have learned about myself so far:

As much as I thought I was detached from my home, I discovered that I still held some strings.  When I checked our new renters into our home and watched their golden retriever loping on “my” couches I started cringing.   I had to turn my eyes away and say to myself, “It is only stuff, it’s only stuff”.  I walked away praying that God would help me live my life “open-handed” and treat everything and everyone as loans from God.

In order to relax on the road, home school, and keep up with bills and business, I realize I have to change my mindset.  I have to make the most any downtime to accomplish things that I will not be doing during our play times; and during our play times I need to just play.  So I have to lower my expectations some (okay alot!!) in order to relax.

Almost everytime I leave Alaska to visit another state, I feel like a “hick”.  The first thing I want to do is get my hair done and shop for clothes.  Over the years living in Alaska, there are certain aspects of style and “hipness” that you just have to surrender.  For instance–  shoes.  You can easily recognize a tourist if they are wearing white shoes.  The severe changes in weather here are certain to soil your shoes and if you want to keep them long, you don’t buy white ones.  Shoes in general in Alaska are as practical and basic as you can make them.  Mud boots are a staple for at least  six months of the year, and snow boots the other six. And “fashion”? “Style”?  Who the heck cares?  Designer jeans smell the same in a fish hold as well as Walmart specials.  So I always feel like I need to update myself  here in the world where they dress up to buy groceries.

We have stayed with relatives and friends on this trip.  Each home we have entered has held a story of its own.  Staying with others gives us a chance to become a part of their life,share their favorite things, and learn their trials and sorrows.  Our prayer lists grow a little longer and our hearts become a little larger with each household we visit.

All in all, this trip has had some challenges thus far, like when our bird trained dog Denali decided to hunt the “laying hen” of our friends the Dupea’s and left it alive but without feathers on her hind quarters, but we look forward to more destinations and more friends along the way.

Journal Excerpts

We drove 900 miles a day in order to get to Washington in time for Jamin’s eye appointment, so here are some excerpts from my journal of our last two days through Canada.

Jamin is past the point of delirium from staying awake as much as he has, but it sure makes for comedy central.  I have begun keeping a record of his quotes and sayings.  Maybe someday I’ll publish a dictionary of his phrases.   Here is an example:  “Cheese Shrapnel” This refers to the pieces of cheese that break off of slices.  “Rectal Sanctuary” refers to the area where the thermometer was inserted in the dog for her check-up.

Neil Young brings out his inner artist/musician.  He has performed what he has called the “Double Helix Java Dance” which involves holding a cup of coffee (with a lid) and moving his arms to the music being sure to incorporate his elbows.  “If you don’t move your elbows, it isn’t considered a ‘double helix’ it would only be a single.” He informs me.  Using his coffee cup as a microphone/kazoo, we are being serenaded this morning.

I took a shift in driving in Canada while Jamin sequestered himself inside the trailer we are pulling behind us.  He was hoping to catch up on some sleep since he has driven the majority of this trip.  We have no communication between us when he is in the trailer.  Since we are travelling through Canada, we have turned off our cell phones to keep roaming charges at bay.  My determined destination was William’s Lake and I didn’t want to stop ‘til we arrived.  I was sure Jamin was sleeping like a log since he was so wiped out, and I guess he did sleep well for about an hour but the jarring and bouncing of the trailer triggered his need to go to the bathroom and he couldn’t communicate that need to me.  Looking around inside the trailer, Jamin decided to get a Ziploc bag to “go” in.  He found it difficult to get to the ziplocs because of the way the trailer was loaded down, but he remembered that we had a gas can in the trailer that was empty.  Perfect!!  He made good use of that.   Then he laid down again, relaxed and waited for me to stop.  But I didn’t stop soon enough for his need to “go” again.  Back to the gas can.  When we finally arrived in William’s Lake I opened the trailer to see if he had slept well and learned that he had almost filled a two gallon gas can!

It’s beautiful out now.  It’s 60 degrees Farenheit and the sky is deep blue.  We have traveled into the agricultural portions of Canada.  Some time ago we left the rough wild look and feel of Canada and Alaska, and now we are looking at horses, foals, cows and calves.  The road seems wider with fields and pastures on either side.  There are rolls of harvested hay, and lakes filled with ducks.  I am warmed by the feeling of being in the rural areas…much like the way I grew up in Idaho.  Sometimes, like now, I miss those endless fields with grazing horses.  I want to get out of the car, jump the electric fences and run through the pastures.  I want to catch minnows in the ditches of water and find frogs in the ponds.

Ahhh…yes, something about the sun and the land fills my heart.

Good news to report that our dog Denali’s “issues” seemed to have cleared and we have not had any incidents that require soap and disinfectant…as for the rest of us who desperately need a shower….well, that’s another story.

Morris Family Adventures Part 2

Morris Family Adventures Part 2

Day one of the travel out of Alaska

The trailer finally completed,  we packed up our gear and made plans to leave Saturday afternoon, but there was always just “one more” thing to finish up, so our departure time changed to 10:00pm that night.  Both Jamin and I were so wiped out.  He had been working solid on preparing our trailer, and I had been packing and sorting and then left to speak and lead worship for a ladies retreat for two days.  Our hopes of making some tracks Saturday night were interrupted by our exhaustion, so after one hour Jamin stopped to sleep an hour.  Then another 2 ½ hours on the road, we needed to pull over and sleep again.

The kids were so excited to hit the road but fell asleep quickly as the wheels began turning.  I wish I could sleep as comfortably in the seat of a vehicle.  We stretched out for about three hours in our sleeping bags in the trailer we were pulling behind us and I dreamed crazy dreams in those 180 minutes.

I dreamed I was watching a television show about a young man who bought a used sleeping bag at a thrift store and took it camping with a friend.  Sometime in the night, the man fell into a coma and his friend could not wake him.  The plot thickened as it was soon discovered that the man had contracted a communicable disease through the used sleeping bag and his camping partner was next to succumb to the illness.  The whole town was then put under quarantine.

Creativity can find you anywhere.  Melanie at one of our rest stops sang an original tune as she dangled her feet from the toilet.  It went something like this: 

Verse“There once was a lonely piece of toilet paper.  Until there came along another piece of toilet paper.  Then they were so happy,

Chorus  ‘cuz all of their friends are in the toilet, all of their friends are in the toilet.”

 It had a very cheerful melody.

Probably against our better judgment, we brought our dog, Denali on the trip.  Bethany couldn’t bear to part with her for months on end.  She will be living in our trailer for most of our trip I am sure, but for now she is riding in the second row of seats with the girls.  She has already lain down in a mud puddle at one of the gas station stops, and  Bethany had to clean her up so she could get back into the car.   We are 90 miles now from the Canadian border and last rest stop the dog had diarrhea. 

In another seven hours we will have completed our first 24 hours of part 2 of the Morris Adventures.  The weather has been beautifulish….just a few hours of pouring rain.  The autumn colors are lovely and we are glad to be on the road.  There is evidence of winter all along our path.  Some semi-frozen lakes, and the remnants of the first snowfall remain on the ground on the sides of the road.  I am grateful for clear roads and sunshine.

*****************************************************************************************************

We have crossed into Canada now and are making tracks through the Yukon.  We are currently in Destruction Bay having a bite to eat and then we will drive through the night.

Bethany spotted two faces of gorillas in these mountains across from Kluane Lake in the Yukon Territory.

Can you spot them? 

There are two gorilla faces on these mountains.

Scaling the Walls of Organization

Confession #2:  I have already contemplated changing my name, and moving to Bermuda.

Jamin called on Monday to let me know he was extending his hunting trip a few more days.  So, channeling my high blood pressure to other things, I turn to the paperwork and business material that needs to be consolidated and dealt with.  There are bills to pay, manuals to read, and information to gather about the various sources and resources we will be using as we travel.  I have dug out some of the kid’s homeschool material so I can keep them somewhat occupied while I work on the computer and make phone calls.  Most of it is still packed away and I can’t get to it yet.

One resource I came across was www.dmachoice.org which provides a service that eliminates or streamlines the types and sources of junk mail, catalogs or coupons you receive in the mail.  It also works for e-mail accounts.  I will be looking into this as I work on arranging how to deal with our mail while we are away.

Sue Carpenter who travels around the world doing children’s ministry gave me some tips on how to handle the mail and the phone when you are out of the country.  She had a phone line put in at her parents’ home with an answering machine attached to it and has all her phone calls forwarded to that line.  Clever!  We will be in the states quite a bit of our travel, so for now we can have our phone calls forwarded to our cell phones, but this is a good idea for future reference.

We have several businesses and much paperwork for each business, so I have several folders set up to collect receipts and carry them in an expandable file box.  I also have a binder with plastic sleeves in it where I place all of the information that has to be dealt with:  phone messages, bills to pay, contracts to fill out, letters to send, cards to mail, and anything else that will need my attention and should not be filed away yet.  I have taken the time to enter all the info on my rolodex to my ipod touch contacts.  I also included carpet cleaners, house cleaners, appliance repair numbers, snow plow services, neighbors, and the contact info for most bills we have to pay.

The last of the homeschool material has been ordered and should arrive before we take off.  Now I will finish up my preparations for the ladies’ retreat coming up where I am guest speaking and leading worship.

*********************************************************************************************************

Jamin called this morning to say they were on their way out of the woods.  He and his dad both got a moose.  We will have organic meat in the freezer this winter!  He probably won’t be here until tomorrow, but he will take care of some errands in Anchorage for me before he comes to Anchor Point.  That will be a load off!

I realize that I quickly become overwhelmed and stressed when I don’t have a plan.  The hardest part about travelling for me is the organization that is required and the stress of forgetting something important.  I can’t solve it all.  And, I realize that my eyes are on me when I am stressed.  The solution that I have known forever is this:  Worship.  I need to put my eyes on Jesus and take them off of me and off of my “stuff”.  So today I am endeavoring to worship.  I need God to speak to my heart and quiet my mind.

Morris Family Adventures Continue

I am sitting at a hotel here in Anchorage.  It is the same hotel we lived in for a few months when we first moved to Anchorage looking for a house.  The kids feel like they are back at “home” and couldn’t wait to wake up early for the continental breakfast and then swim.   It is 46* outside and thick with fog.  The four kids are swimming in the hotel pool and shivering because the water is cold and so is the inside temperature of the pool room.  I am in a sweater  and jeans watching them and feeling comfortable.

We finished last night.  The last of the packing, the loading of the trailer, the mowing of the lawn and the set up of our house.  I am grateful to the cleaning service we hired who sent over three ladies who worked on all the details I could not deal with yesterday.  The house smelled great, looked beautiful, and hopefully inviting for the weary guests who arrived on an early morning flight from New York this morning.

Jamin left a few days ago on a hunting  trip with his dad and a friend, so I am feeling accomplished having completed the task without him, and also sad leaving our home and having my down time without him in a hotel.  I’m feeling a little “homeless” and I am too tired to relax if that is possible.  My mind is so full of the next steps so I didn’t sleep much last night. 

This morning I will go check in on our renters once they are settled in and ready for my visit, then it’s off to Anchor Point–a 200 mile drive south where we will store our things, re-pack and prepare for the road trip.

*********************************************************************************************

The drive to  Point was lovely.  The sky was clear once we headed up the mountain passes. The trees are changing colors and the fire weed was blazing red.  It must be porcupine migration season again because I passed at least 17 dead porcupines on the highway.  Poor little fellas! They need their engines recalibrated to be able to cross the highway a little quicker.

We arrived without incident.  I backed the trailer into a spot in my father-in-laws driveway, unloaded the dog and kids and began to offload some of our things we need immediately.  I think I will save the rest of the unloading for Jamin when he gets back. 😉  I found our food and we had a small dinner.  Now the kiddos are tucked into their beds for the night and I am about to do the same.  Maybe tonight I will sleep.

The view from the window

Still Here

Confession #1:  I don’t think I have shaved my legs since this process began….at least I’ve kept up with shaving my armpits.
What a whirlwind this process has been. Between packing and sorting, there have been serendipitous moments. Like the day we saw the ad in the paper about a place where we could trade in some gold jewelry for cash, and Jamin grabbed up an old chain necklace he had that was broken and irreparable, cashed it in and we paid for a few of the upgrades we made to our home. Then, thanks to Craigslist, we sold many items that we no longer needed, and donated several loads of items to Salvation Army. We cashed in our many jars of loose change, found money in a few obscure places and added that to our travelling fund.
Sorting through our memorabilia, we found letters and cards to one another, pictures the kiddos drew when they first held a crayon, and keepsakes that we have collected even in our three short years here in this home. The love letters that Jamin and I have written each other served a greater purpose as the tensions of packing and moving mounted as we have been pressed against a deadline.
Our first renter comes in four days; from another country with a small family. I think we will make it out in time. Thankfully Jamin postponed his hunting trip by a few days to help complete this process before the kids and I head out. There are just a few things left to do here in the house: get the carpets cleaned, mow the lawn (hopefully the last time before the first frost which is on its way), clean the house, wash all the linens and rugs, and set it up like a nice motel.
Thinking about the fact that my guests will be from another country, I will be writing up a home manual with pictures and instructions to help with all the idiosyncrasies of this house. The gas-assist fireplace, the trash collection times, and a few pages of our favorite places to eat and play. I’ll leave some pages in the book for each guest to add their experiences and favorites too.
I still didn’t get the taxes done, but at least all the paperwork is compiled and contained so that we can tackle that between the time Jamin returns from hunting and the time we hit the road. Most bills are taken care of, but I still need to arrange for someone to check our mail and send it to us at our various destinations.
So, about those destinations, well, they are still in the deciding phase, but two places are for sure on the radar. Idaho to visit my family for a few weeks, and Southern California to take our kids to Disneyland. We hope to make an adventure out of all the road in-between. We will be visiting many of you, our friends and family!
We purchased a trailer to pull behind our vehicle and we have packed it with the things we think we need for our trip. We will begin our journey down the Alcan (Alaskan/Canadian Highway) in a few weeks. It is usually a 3 to five day trip down through Canada with a promised stop at Laird’s Hotsprings where we will hopefully melt away our tired, cramped tensions of travel before we cross the border again into the “Lower 48”.
There is still so much to do and I haven’t been able to think too far ahead. I have needed to check so many things off of my list for phase one that I haven’t had the time to prepare too much for step two…but hopefully after Saturday I will have that chance.
So, I’m checking in with the world for now and many of you will hear more from me in the weeks to come, and who knows…I might just shave my legs! Where did I pack that razor?

Morris Family Adventures Part 1

Here we go again….embarking on another Morris Family Adventure. You might call it “Hurricane Season”, or a “Soup Sandwich” at first glance, and for a few days that will probably be an accurate representation. But we have hopes and plans that the hurricane winds will blow us into our destination and the soup sandwich will soon be a refreshing meal to bring contentment to our bodies. If only I had just 18 more sets of hands…..

We start with questions such as “What do we want to do? Where do we want to go? What do we want to accomplish?” and then we begin to re-arrange our lives to accommodate our plans. This is when the hurricane begins.

We have decided to travel for a few months. Although not all those plans are nailed down, we know at least that we must rent out our home in our absence in order to keep paying our mortgage while we are away. We place ads on craigslist offering our home for rent and after a few weeks, with no real bites, we decide to hire a vacation rental booking agency to rent out our home on short-term leases throughout the winter. This kind of agreement allows us to leave our furniture in the house and make our packing up a little less hectic. It adds, however a few more contracts and agreements and the hiring of housekeeping and groundskeeping in our absence.

Packing will require that we sort our things and leave only those things in the home we are okay with sharing. Our beds and bedding, most dishes, linens, and some spices and essentials for preparing meals. We leave our pictures on the wall and pack away our photos. Then, knowing we will return during winter months, our personal belongings must be stored in such a way as to access our winter gear and clothing first when we return.

It’s funny, but when we rent out our home this way, we begin thinking about the things we need to add to our home that guests would appreciate, but we have lived without up until now. Things like cable tv, wi-fi internet, and even a HD flat screen tv for the living room. It will be the perfect retreat when we are finished with all the preparations.

As I consolidate our bills, convert as many of them to an e-bill format, and arrange for a new mailing address, I am reminded that we have not yet filed our 2009 taxes and must finish that before all this paperwork is packed away.

We consider that our travel will most likely take us to places to swim and our youngest children need swim lessons. So those are quickly scheduled and followed up on. Oh, and we need a laptop to handle our bills and correspondence, so we will check out a deal at Best Buy that is a package of a 42″HD tv and laptop computer with a few accessories for $1000.00. Homeschool curriculum needs to be streamlined to DVD’s, MP3’s and as few books as possible. Journals, pens, pencils and some scissors will hopefully cover most of our needs.

This is all step one.

When I get to step two, I will tell you more. For now, if you meet me with a hollow stare and glazed eyes, just know that I am planning to return to the world of the living as soon as these tasks are performed.