California Rush

After our somewhat disastrous time in Arizona, we again headed out in a westerly fashion on February 9th. By mid-afternoon we were in one of our favorite nowhere spots: Pilot Knob!

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We parked in the same spot we did last year! There were some other RV’s across the way that were all parked in the same area. All this wide-open land and they want to be right up on top of each other. I’ll never understand it. I’d show you around but there’s nothing here. It’s just a patch of dirt and rocks (down a road that doesn’t exist) that the Bureau of Land Management owns. It’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s ultra dark at night (so many stars), and best of all: it’s free! The kids love it for it’s open space. They ran in circles, they flew the stunt kite, they played giant frisbee, and they collected ALL THE ROCKS and sifted ALL THE DIRT. Outdoor showers were necessary.

 

We usually end up in our locales around dinner time, which means I’m immediately busy as soon as I step foot out of the truck. We got here early enough in the day that we had time for day drinking and nothingness before dinner!

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See those mountains? Arizona is behind them.

We left our happy place bright and early the next morning, thinking we’d just get breakfast on the way. We’d totally forgotten that this piece of the route did not offer anything in the way of regular food. Last year we ate Slim Jim’s for lunch because crappy gas stations were all that we could find and no one had been grocery shopping (way to go, me). We, apparently, wanted to recreate the experience. On this day, armed with a gas station danish and the will to live, we disappointingly chugged along.

Guess who was waiting for us when we drove through El Centro! THE BLUE ANGELS!

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They flew so close to the ground and over our heads that you could read the planes and see the pilots. I don’t have a photo of that, of course, because I was too busy watching.

Our destination on this day was a place called Admiral Baker RV Campground which is the famcamp for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. It wasn’t so much a campground as it was a big semi-circle shaped swath of RV spots situated somewhat around a giant open area with picnic tables and a playground. Within about 30 minutes the kids had been accepted into the giant horde of children (ok, 25 or so) that roamed the common space. This campground was fantastic for them and they absolutely loved being a part of this diminutive street-gang. Plus, SOCIALIZATION, amirite?

The campground was about eight miles from the base. We picked a day to venture out and ended up at their museum, of course. The Flying Leatherneck museum is just a small former office trailer type building but it also encompasses some fantastic artifacts outside. Right there, roasting away in the noon-day sun, was an Iraqi helicopter that some unit had taken as a war prize. The sign valued it at $2.5 million which I thought was generous, seeing as at this point it’s just a paperweight with a really ‘fun’ backstory.

At the base exchange we were able to score a cover (hat), a proper belt buckle, and some insignia for Wesson to go with his dress blues.

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Mara also somehow procured some cammies and a ridiculously priced hair-bow that she desperately needed.

Awww, Daddy’s little Devil Dogs.

Because we were staying in Miramar’s campground we were able to take advantage of a discounted whale watching tour that the MWR (think parks and rec) office was offering. The tickets were usually $55 and we got them for $16 each!!! What a great opportunity!

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Except… um… we don’t do well with continuous motion. Wesson hid under the table for a big chunk of the cruise, Mara laid on my shoulder, and I angrily held my lunch down.

Justin would have been strapped to the bow of the boat had they let him.

Through our angry faces and belly aches we saw a few whales (2) and, like, 23 dolphins according to Mara’s count.

Totally not worth the trauma for us in my opinion, but an experience nonetheless, and something cool that all sea tolerable people should do. Justin would go again! Maybe you can go with him.

Two days later we went to one of our favorite places! The waves of the ocean tried to bring back whale boat sickness but they couldn’t ruin Coronado Beach!

We also ran over to Point Loma and did the tide pools again.

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No octopus this time but we did see quite a few sculpin and some black sea hares.

On the way home we saw this dude:

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Some people’s children…

On February 15th our beloved rabbit Carrots Fuggles Secrets Funnybunny Rowland crossed over the rainbow bridge to the fields of kale.

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Long gone are the days of chasing Mara around the house, or sneaking out of her cage at night, or eating every damn laptop cord, you little shit…. Ahem. She had been residing in Michigan with my parents since we left their house in November. By all accounts she enjoyed stationary life and daily breakfast meetings with my mother. She only lasted about 12 hours after she showed signs of illness. We’re kind of thankful that she didn’t languish but it still sucked. She was also giving my mom hell in true Carrots fashion by going missing in the house (again) just before her end.  In her memory, I will share the most Carrots story of all the Carrots stories:

February 20, 2016 · Lexington, KY ·

I am about to paint a picture. Fair warning, the tale is wordy and gross. I don’t necessarily need to broadcast today’s happenings but I do need Facebook to remind me of the disgusting details of this day on it’s anniversary so that I may take a shower in remembrance. 1509051_10153112832698548_5432705213614927868_n.jpgThese events happened in a 25-30 minute window.

 

The kids were playing outside so I decided to grab Carrots and give her a good brushing since she has been blowing her coat all over the place. As soon as I picked her up I knew something was amiss. What’s that smell? I flipped her stout body over. There it was: a turd, the size of a Smart Car, stuck to her undercarriage. I’m exaggerating slightly, it was probably 4″x2″. That’s a little bigger than a Smart Car.

At this point I’m formulating a plan. How can I help this animal? Where should I attempt to do the helping? Why do I have this rabbit in the first place? I start to pull “things” apart and immediately she starts trying to run away. My instinct is to GRAB. I grabbed a full handful in a bad place. Now I’m tainted, but I finish the job. The children were a good 20 feet away the whole time and were complaining of the stench, you can just imagine my position. I enlist Wesson to find a tote bag and I stick the offending poop hoarder in it so that I can carry her without ruining my clothes.

17097645_10154970606523548_5940460959352225949_oAs the children are packing in their bikes etc. so that we can go inside, Wesson falls spectacularly and scrapes both knees. This was not an “oh man, I fell over” type fall that normally occurs. This was blood gushing down both legs and death rattle screaming (which he never does; he was HURT). Here I am in the back yard, bleeding, wailing child, rabbit in a bag, poop hands, and a Mara. Wesson manages to hobble in the house with Mara’s assistance and I run to the bathroom to furiously scrub my hands while a tote bag full of Carrots hangs from my shoulder. I throw the beast back in her hovel and take care of the boy. Mara was already picking out giant bandages. She is a wonderful helper in general, by the way. I never give her enough credit for that.

 

With the children squared away I turn my attention back to the putrid furball. I decide the only way to help her is to try to soak her rear. I fill the bathtub with about an inch of water. Carrots was now holed up in her carrier, as she was somehow aware of what was about to happen. I grab the carrier and try to dump her out into the tub. I 12400786_10153760809958548_137939840111768259_nturned it completely sideways and she somehow stayed in there. I could have shook that green, smelly box with a paint mixer and that rabbit would have never came out. After several tries she unceremoniously plopped into the tub.

A few minutes into the spa experience the oven timer went off. MEXICAN LASAGNA! DAMMIT! Neither child can operate the oven. With Wesson maimed in the earlier melee, Mara was the unlucky soul. “Mara” I say, “Grab this paper towel and hold bunny’s head, she won’t go anywhere if you push on her head a little. Sit here for thirty seconds while I wash my hands and grab dinner out of the oven.” Wash hand: Check! Lasagna: Check! Mara:…

12193605_10153628935703548_761149071998762748_n.jpgAs I walked into the bathroom to sit on the toilet, Carrots decides in a rather abrupt fashion that she is done with OUR shit. She leaps on poor Mara, foul water spraying everywhere, scratched legs and scratched arms. I grab at her, pushing her back into the tub while Mara screams bloody murder and runs away. Carrots jumps onto the edge of the tub then up to my shoulder like she’s a damn shit-covered parrot. I grab a nearby towel, wrap the stew meat candidate in a burrito and leave her on the floor. Mara and I HAVE to abandon our clothes. I track her down – which was not difficult as she was still wailing. Amazingly enough, Carrots stayed where I had placed her while I tended to the injured “volunteer.”

Battered and soiled, with a broken spirit, sporting only my underwear, I complete the mission. Poop be damned, I won. The rabbit was dried and returned to her habitat, the tub was rinsed, the girl was consoled, the boy was bandaged, and the lasagna was delicious.

 

Our next destination was a Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, California. My Great Grandmother and her sister lived in Seal Beach when they were alive. I have fond (albeit fuzzy) memories of visiting them when I was just about five years old. This is where my Grandfather purchased the 1970 Ford Maverick I ended up with when I first got my license.

We made a quick visit to the beach while we were here. Wesson was brave enough to get in the water here with his newly acquired board.

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He was very matchy matchy that day. Such a big kid, too.

We also took the truck over to the Hoonigan Donut Garage!

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There was only one guy there working in the gift shop and no shenanigans to be had on this day. We couldn’t pass up an opportunity to peep in on them, though.

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If you decide that you really want to see the La Brea Tar Pits, by all means, go right ahead. I will tell you, thought, that it is almost impossible to breathe around the pits. It smells like a thousand parking lots being refurbished. The museum is really neat and worth a look. They have thousands of specimens on display, and a really good guided tour available. One of the areas where the workers are cleaning and assembling bones is open to spy. Behind the glass fish tank (people tank?) area there are people in white lab coats toiling away with their toothbrushes in hand. Our Kern County Museum Membership got us in here for free, FYI. Hooray for ASTC!

Goodness, I have the yawns. I’m going to have to chop this post into several as there’s just so much to share and I am TIRED. Every second traveling is like constantly discovering secrets that everyone knew about but no one shared. Even with the days we hated we still found pieces of this country to appreciate and love. I hope the kids remember even a small fraction of the things we’ve seen. I can’t wait to tell you more tomorrow.

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On a Dark Desert Highway, Cool Wind in My Hair

We’ve had an amazing – and I mean amazing – few months here in California, and now we’re on the way out. *insert saddest emoji you’ve ever seen* The bright, hot sun, the shimmery, sandy beaches, the awe-inspiring mountains everywhere you turn, the towering palm trees, the infinite Slurpees…. Uggghhh… Don’t make me go! If some mean person told us that we couldn’t travel any longer and had to choose somewhere to live, California would be my pick. Hopefully we’ll see it again next winter.  Let’s talk about what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks before I start having mixed drinks about feelings.

We did this garbage:

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We went another 15 miles, thank goodness. NO REPEATS, PLEASE.

We went to Coronado beach AGAIN because if I’m going to cry I may as well do it on the most beautiful beach in the vicinity.

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She has a half-stache

One day Justin found a bike trail that he wanted to ride within the Cleveland National Forest and the kids and I tagged along to traipse through the woods. While he rode through puddles and such we lobbed giant pine cones and talked about habitats and life cycles. I do love it when we can pick our lessons right off the ground (and hurl them like grenades).

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Mara was too busy pouting about climbing the hill

While in Descanso we were lucky enough to be neighbors with a legend named Doctor Oliver Luck – an 85 year old Korean War vet who played trombone in the Air Force band (and with Duke Ellington), teacher of music, actor, two time Love Connection winner, and most importantly for this story a GOLD PROSPECTOR. For some reason he agreed to teach us how to search for gold. The process involved something called dowsing rods and included fantastically exciting stories about traveling to Papua New Guinea. We all had an appreciation for the octogenarian treasure hunter.

We soon moved off of the mountains to a park in Palm Desert which lived up to its name.

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Disregard the satellite dish

They even had sneaky cell towers that looked like palm trees.

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You can’t even tell. It’s magic.

The men decided to get haircuts while we were here. Wesson gave up the mullet he’d been cultivating for the last year and a half but still retained his long hair for the most part. Justin decided to lose a little more.

It was drastic but he looks GREAT! He kept the beard, of course. Nobody messes with the majestic brewers beard.

I have been thinking about jalapeno poppers since November, y’all. We were at some weird grocery store in Texas when I saw a $5 poppers kit. It came with eight peppers, a block of cream cheese, and a pound of bacon. As shameful as it is to admit, I do not like grilled bacon. *GASP* I know, I know. I finally sat down and found a recipe I liked. We’ve started making them and now cannot stop. We’ve been adding them to our hamburgers on the reg. I keep thinking of all those pathetic burgers that I cooked that didn’t have piping hot cream cheese filled jalapeno peppers on top and wondering where I went wrong in my life. If you want to change your world, go here: Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos

Speaking of eating cream cheese en masse, I finally purchased a bicycle. I sold my last bike back in September when it wouldn’t fit properly on our original bike rack. My unicycle has been riding in my spot on the newer roof rack. This time I ended up with a black on black Cannondale. Don’t ask me what kind it is beyond that. I know that it has two wheels and I like it, that’s all I need. I got it from this place that used a photo of their previous business card as their new business card just to induce aneurysms.

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Solo bike rides offer deafening silence and I kind of love it. Normally a bicycle purchase would not be a significant, notable event, however now that I go on bike rides by myself I get to take photos of places like this:

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Mount San Jacinto

And mysterious objects like this:

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Behind the campground a mile or two was Coachella Nature Preserve and the road there was shoddily blocked off for some reason. I think it probably had to do with the sand dunes overtaking the roadway.

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They also have something against pomegranates, so maybe the road was blocked off to keep dirty, dirty pomegranates away from their wildflowers? We may never know.

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It took me about five bike rides to figure out that the sidewalks here are so huge because the old folks like to drive their golf carts everywhere.

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There is also ridiculous amounts of golf cart parking at the grocery stores. This makes it extremely difficult to park my excessively large diesel truck when I’m trying to buy jalapenos.

Joshua Tree National Park was on the list of sights to see. The park is an intersection of two deserts: the Mojave and the Colorado. The Mojave has all the Joshua Trees and the Colorado has more brush and cacti. The children were more concerned with climbing than plant life.

We also looked out upon the San Andreas fault line. 

That’s where we lived, come to find out. IN the fault line. Thank you for behaving, tectonic plates.

Most of the National Parks have a Junior Ranger program. The kids collect workbooks at the Ranger Stations and once they are complete they get a badge or a patch. Here’s Mara being sworn in as a Junior Ranger.

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I like the program because A) it’s free and B) it engages us with the park in ways that we may not have considered. Because we’re doing a scavenger hunt or pretending to be lizards we’re actively looking for plants and animals and structures that would probably be overlooked. Lots of learning to be had!

Right behind this Ranger station was a place called the Oasis of Mara! Our girl has her own oasis, can you believe it?

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All in all I think they enjoyed themselves that day.

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Justin replaced the worn out, crooked Super Duty decals on the truck the other day with something a little more fun.

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We’ve been meaning to do it for a while but they’ve been out of stock. If you want your own, you can find them and lots more good stuff here: Hoonigan

Today, we started our journey back East to take care of some VA business in Michigan. It is supposed to take us about six weeks to meander that way. The camper is being a butt at the moment, so I think our trip might be paused. A tire is wearing oddly, another has a bubble in it, and the fridge just went out a few minutes ago. All this as soon as we got to the gosh darn Bob Sagget mother trucking middle of nowhere literal Hole In The Wall campground in the flippin’ Mojave Nature Preserve.

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Look at this view before I implode.

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I climbed on top of the camper to take that photo, and I didn’t fall on a cactus when I came down the ladder.

Thankfully and inexplicably we have internet and phone service here, which is great because tomorrow we will have to find a camper doctor. We’ll also explore this park, because we didn’t come all the way out here for nothing. We need some happy. Whatever YOU do tomorrow, make sure that it makes you happy.

PS – this is the second time I’ve written this post. I had it almost finished yesterday and somehow deleted everything but one lower case n.

Here it is: n

A California Adventure and the Birthday Boy

Our second day at Disney was magical in its own way. It was dang near empty there by Disney standards. We rode all the rides we could stand and never waited more than 5-15 minutes each. The longest wait we had was for Anna and Elsa.

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Between you and me, they were disappointingly bland. The other princesses had personality, these two were not as exciting.

Pictures! Same deal as last time, we were more worried about having fun than documenting the shenanigans. Here’s a few miscellaneous snaps.

We met Mickey, Olaf, and Daisy!

And Minnie Mouse stole my child.

 

We were sitting on a bench when Minnie Mouse came walking by and Mara stood up. Minnie grabbed her hand and they both walked away!!! Justin and I looked at each other in shock, then had an “oh shit” moment like we forgot that we should probably follow them. When we caught up with them Minnie had found a spot in the shade to greet people and was interacting with Mara. The introvert had been kidnapped by a giant mouse and Did. Not. Care. She didn’t even know that she was “missing.” Her love for Minnie transcends all common sense.

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Wesson got this sweet hat, complete with his name stitched on the back. He was pretending that he was an airplane. Goofy would definitely approve.

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We ran into the very fun green Army men who had a little mobile dance party/cadence deal going on.

It was a great day! Disneyland and California Adventure far surpassed my expectations and the ridiculous price was worth every penny. There will definitely be a next time.

Another one of our fabulous birthday events was a trip to LEGOLAND! Wesson has been looking forward to this for years. He spent the day before we went randomly grabbing us and screaming “WE’RE GOING TO LEGOLAAAAAND” while simultaneously shaking our shoulders.

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LEGOLAAAAAAND!

They got fancy new Lego Batman shirts to commemorate the day. We were about five seconds into the park when we walked right into this:

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BATMAN!!! So, the kids were totally geeked. I was fairly horrified by the giant Lego Dark Knight. AND THERE WERE MORE…

Umm, do you see Unikitty? That was NOT a statue. There was somebody INSIDE that suit! I desperately wanted to stand around to see them try to walk out of the area but that probably would have scarred the children. Nobody cares that I’ve been scarred, though.

What’s more scary than giant people with claw hands? It turns out that it’s real people.

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These are the Lego Friends, and Wesson thought they were great. Mara was unsure about their validity, as the rest of the Lego characters actually looked like toys. Real people were not in the grand plan, yo.

Just like our two Disney days, we planned ahead! We were there on a week day so the lines were non-existent! The kids got to ride nearly every single thing, and most of it they were able to ride on their own. The rides there are pretty tame, made for the under 12 crowd. They chose to stay off the roller coasters and we walked past a few spinners we knew they would hate.

Wesson got a Happy Birthday button from member services when we walked into the park, and just like Disney every staff member we passed had a birthday greeting and a kind word for him! He had big smiles all day long.

We purchased passes for Legoland, Aquariums, Madame Tousseau’s Wax Museums, and other neat places so we can have fun and be horrified all year long!

What else happened? Wesson turned EIGHT!

Oh, boy. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that he was walking way too early (nine months old – for real), riding his big wheel down the stairs (Hey mommy, watch dis!), and asking if we can harvest the inner workings of Big Ben to build a giant robot. As for that last one, we agreed that if the clock were to be decommissioned – which is not probable – I would assist him in drafting a letter to the government asking for the spare parts. It’s what a mother should do.

The birthday boy requested lunch at Red Robin, a trip to Toys R Us for his birthday freebies, tacos and creamed corn for dinner, and to spend the afternoon at Coronado Beach.

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Happy birthday, beach boy!

The kids ended up finding another set of kids who were wearing Marine Corps hats just like them! Instant friends!

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We all love this beach! Look how happy these little boogers are!

My little buddy had a wonderful day! I only hope that the rest of his 100+ years can be filled with as many smiles and as much happiness. This kid is going to do amazing things. Correction: This kid is going to KEEP doing amazing things, and I can’t wait.

Ten Bottles of Glitter

Look at this gorgeous sandy water! Just LOOK!

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I don’t even care that the photo takes up the entire screen. It was so sparkly! If you haven’t guessed the locale yet it’s Coronado Beach, in front of the famed Hotel del Coronado. The hotel was built in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It is currently the second biggest wooden structure. The beach itself is one of very few beaches that has mica in the sand, which looks like flecks of gold. Mara said they had to have dumped at least TEN bottles of glitter in the ocean. Technically she’s not wrong.

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I have no idea who this footprint belongs to.

These guys are always so happy to be on the beach! Can you blame them? They roll around in the sand, haul buckets of treasures out of the water, and build castles with moats and flags – the whole nine yards. Part of Wesson’s actual schoolwork was to build a castle of some sort, so this was *technically* a school trip. Ahem. They left there with half the beach in their shorts and the other half in their hair.

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We also learned about Sand Dollars, AKA Snapper Biscuits, AKA Sea Cookies that day. They are burrowing sea urchins covered in tiny hairs that move independently and the little wiggly hairs definitely don’t creep me out in any way whatsoever. Look at the variety of colors that washed up onto the beach. I don’t think that I was aware that they were anything but the bleached, white “test” that’s usually found. Any day we can literally pick our lessons off the ground is a great one. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

This was the view from the bridge that we had to cross to get to the island:

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And this was the view on the way back:

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Sleepy beach baby, clutching a platypus

We had tons of fun and will be back there in a few weeks. We’ve been trying to talk the kids into checking out a different beach. They’re insistent that we go back to the one with the fancy sand and the warm, hot sun.

A few days later California got rocked by the heaviest rainstorms that they’ve seen in six years. We decided to move off the mountain a few days early to avoid any potential mudslides or high winds. The Weather Channel had this to say about the situation:

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Someone made a typo or we’re all about to land in Oz

The bad news is that we didn’t get skipped by the storm but thankfully our site didn’t flood and we never lost power. Yeehaw!

Moving to this new park, Wilderness Lakes, gave us a site with a full hook up! BONUS! I have been keeping the laundry bucket empty and it’s been a dream come true. We also get to wash our dishes indoors and use our own shower! I like camping, I really do. I also like not packing a shower bag, as it turns out. “Glamping” would be a closer term for the thing I love.

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On February 18th, Carrots Fuggles Secrets Funnybunny Rowland turned TWO! In proper, traditional Rowland fashion, her bedroom was decorated overnight and when she awoke in the morning Mara provided her with a stylish birthday hat. She took her decorations down right away. She had no appreciation for my toilet paper streamers. As you can see from the above side-eye, she had no love for the hat either. Poor, tortured, traveling bunny.

The Disneyland post is next, people, and I am so excited to tell you about it! We have one more visit there this week and then I will fill you in on the Disney goodness all at once.

Sneak preview:

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