Transit Van Modifications

First off, while our pace of travel has changed since we started this blog, our site statistics still say people are reading and watching our blog, so we plan to continue posting, especially as we head overseas in the coming year.

Now, on to our subject for this post, our van and what we have done to it since we got it! We have been really enjoying our Ford Transit, but we couldn’t help tweaking it to suit us just a little bit better.

Within just a few days of buying the van we installed a dash camera, ham radio transceiver, and 500-watt power inverter. All of these were in our former van, a Toyota Sienna, and were easy additions with a little bit of electrical wiring. It stands to reason why Heather just stood and shook her head as I pulled up floor panels and drilled holes in a van that we (according to the DMV) didn’t even fully own yet. We also noticed that there were no places to hang garments in the van, so two grab handles were added to the rear ceiling just in front of the rear doors that double as locations from which to hang clothes hangers.

If one looks at the picture from our post announcing the van purchase one would notice there is no step on the side. This did not make it impossible to get in or out of the van, but it made for a large first step to get in, especially for small children. This too was an easy fix because we were able to find an original equipment step on eBay. Better yet, the van frame already had the threaded mounting holes, so with just a few bolts the step was ready for use.

Heather and the kids enjoy playing MineCraft with family in Ohio. However, our satellite internet connection causes issues while playing the game over the slow internet. To combat this they have been taking the van to a parking lot in town and using the cellular hotspot on our cell phone to play instead. Yes, the cell phone data speeds are less latent than our satellite connection at the RV. To power the laptops for hours of gaming they use a small gasoline generator and and extension cord run through a door to a power strip. To streamline the process and reduce the stress on the electric cord being repeatedly being slammed in a door, I mounted a shore power connection in the rear bumper and wiring run to a total of 6 120-volt outlets mounted in the side wall of the van interior. These outlets are only active when plugged into a generator or shore power, but that is ok as we also have the inverter if needed for small 120-volt needs while driving. This setup can be used in-motion by ratchet-strapping the generator to a utility tray that mounts to the rear of the van via the 2″ trailer hitch.

Heather wanted to use the van for some longer road trips instead of always bringing the full RV with us. For this Heather planned, designed, and installed a bed and hammock system all by herself while I was gone on deployment. I have to say, I was pretty impressed when I saw it. The bed platform is made entirely of plywood and allows all 10 rear seats to be installed. There is a bit of an overhang, so the rear 4 seats should be used by shorter passengers, however if the front two slats are removed from the platform a full-sized adult can sit comfortably in the rear seats. The entire bed platform can be removed quickly by simply removing the interlocking slats without unscrewing anything. The side supports can come out as whole pieces and no further disassembly is required. To keep the whole system from sliding around the sides of the platform lock into place around the upright side posts and wheel wells. On top of the wooden slats we placed thin plywood sheeting and a 3″ memory foam mattress topper that we cut to fit the profile of the platform

For the hanging hammocks, Heather removed the interior ceiling panels and bolted Uni-strut to the existing roof cross-members creating a grid framework to hold the weight of the hammocks and occupants. From there she poked eye bolts through the interior ceiling panels and (once the panels were reinstalled) the bolts threaded into captive nuts in the Uni-strut track. From these eye bolts she hung homemade hammocks made from PVC pipe and rip-stop nylon, which she sewed herself. She hung these hammocks with nylon webbing and properly-rated carabiners. The hammocks can be removed and stored on the rear bed platform or strapped to the ceiling above our heads, however this option does obstruct some ceiling lights. For those that notice the white mesh item on the back middle seat, that is Chipmunk’s crib with mesh sides so he doesn’t crawl all around the van before he goes to sleep. It too can be broken down flat for storage. The kids really like the hammocks, and we have used them for a few trips now and they sleep the whole night without complaints.

One drawback of the Transit van is the lack of natural ventilation. You see, only the two front door windows open. That leaves the other 10 seat in the van with only ventilation from the heating and air conditioning vents. This meant that we were running the fan just to have some airflow and not because we needed heat or cooling. To remedy this we installed a 14″ vent fan in the rear roof of the van. This allows hot air to escape out the top and draw fresh air into the van through the front windows. We have a similar vent fan installed in our RV bathroom, but the MaxxAir MaxxFan is built to handle the wind forces of driving and protect against surprise rain showers without the addition of an extra cover. The fan has 10 speeds and an automatic mode that, when activated, will automatically turn the fan on when the temperature in the van reaches 78 degrees. As the temperature continues to rise, the fan will increase in speed through its 10 speeds as needed. When the temperature falls below 78 degrees, the fan turns itself off. After a hot sunny day at the beach parking lot I can tell you the automatic feature is awesome!!! Instead of opening the door to a blast of hot air upon returning to the van, we actually found the van interior to feel cooler than the exterior air temperature. One final note is that the fan took some of the ceiling space that the cargo area ceiling light formerly occupied. The removal of this light left the cargo area a bit darker than I wanted, so two ceiling LED lights were added, one on each side of the fan to provide ample light to the cargo area (not in this picture).

The next question was how to keep our roof vent fan spinning all day while ensuring the van would start the next time we wanted to drive it. The solution was two-fold. First, the starter battery under the driver seat was scooted forward to allow the addition of a second (29-series marine deep cycle) battery under the seat. Special care was required to ensure the battery vent still poked through the floor to vent the battery underneath the van. The deep cycle battery was then attached to the vent fan as well as a few cigarette lighter sockets and anderson power poles for powering auxiliary devices. The second part of this was to ensure the battery would be able to be recharged. For this we added a 160-watt solar panel to the roof of the van and mounted a solar charge controller above the driver seat on the wall.

Wiring was threaded from the roof to the controller and down the wall behind plastic panels to the battery located under the driver seat. While solar will be the primary method of recharging, periods of shade and high device use may result in a need to use an additional charging method. To address this, we added a plug-in charger that uses one outlet on the van wall, so when shore power is connected to the rear bumper it charges the deep cycle battery. This dual-charging setup will allow us to utilize the sun when possible and have a backup charging plan when there is less sun available.

The last modification we made was more mechanical in nature. We had read a number of people voicing concern that the exhaust terminates UNDER the van. While actually driving this is not really a problem, but when van camping or idling for extended periods it could allow carbon monoxide from the exhaust to work its way up into the van. To address this we took the van to a muffler shop and in about 30 minutes they cut, bent, and welded an exhaust extension that comes out the side of the van behind the rear wheel (it is also behind the sliding side door when fully open). We considered just extending it straight out the back, but others had said after doing that they noticed they were getting hit with exhaust right against their legs when loading stuff in the back door if the van was running at the time. For this reason we elected for it to come out the side.

Pack it up!

It is no secret that those in the military move many times throughout their career. Our first military move was from Florida to California shortly after joining the military. We moved our own belongings in our RV and the military reimbursed us for our moving expenses. Except for having to weigh the RV at a truck stop, this was a pretty simple process since we were already living in our RV full-time, so not much really needed to be packed in order to move it. We are now quickly approaching our second military move, however this time we are having the military move us as the logistics of moving overseas is a lot more intensive than just moving across the continental United States. When the military moves you they hire a moving company to come to your location, pack all your belongings, inventory all the boxes, load it into large wooden crates, and ship it to your next location across the globe. When your things arrive at your new location the contracted company will even unpack all your items from the boxes and dispose of/recycle all the packing material and boxes. It really is door-to-door service and a rather amazing process. Our situation was slightly different from this pathway as we moved out of our RV prior to the moving company coming, so we did box a large portion of our things and put them in a storage unit until our pack-out date. On the day we “moved” the movers came to the storage unit, packed any remaining items that we had not already packed, inspected and adjusted anything that we had already packed, and organized them for packing into crates. Anything of significant value was inventoried on a specific form and serial numbers were recorded both on the form and the side of the box. This entire process took 2 guys less than 6 hours to pack, inventory, label, and load all of our household items, which totaled around 8,000 pounds. The packing of the wooden crates is done in such a way as to minimize the number of crates used, so these guys played Tetris: Master Edition with our boxes making sure to account for fragile items. It was actually rather impressive just how much they could Tetris into each wooden crate. Once they were done they nailed the last side on the crate and strapped it down. Since sending our goods we have received updates and tracking data on our crates even down to the vessel name they were loaded on and when they are expected to arrive in port at the destination. So far I am really pleased with the process and hopefully won’t find any broken items on arrival. Stay tuned for more updates as we arrive at our new duty station.

End of Year Update

Wow! Life has been a little crazy this year and I have realized that we have completely neglected our blog for the past 6 months. As with others, Covid has been a contributing factor to some of the craziness this year. At work there has been a tent set up in the emergency room parking lot since mid-summer to handle the additional influx of patients with covid-like symptoms. We also transformed our minor treatment area into an entire negative-pressure treatment area for covid patients. While this has not changed the number of days or hours worked in general, the workflow within the emergency department has needed to be adjusted and changed frequently in response to changing guidance.


The kids have been growing up way too fast. Within the past few weeks they have concluded their martial arts program at our church’s after-school program. The instructor said they both did very well and even gave them both a set of martial arts gloves to take with them to our next duty station to use during future classes. Heather and I, as well the kids, thought this was a very cool gesture by the instructor. They both think they want to continue learning martial arts, and what better place to learn and train than in an Asian country.

Change of Residence

Within the next two weeks we will be moving out of the RV which we have called home for the past (almost) 6 years. We have had some great times in the RV and it has served us well. However, our family has obviously grown over the past 6 years and our spacial needs have changed. This paired with taking overseas orders with the military for the next few years just aligned to give us a convenient time to move out of the RV and into something different. It would also be rather expensive to move the RV across the ocean, mostly at our expense. However, this means that we have to move out of the RV, and we are figuring out just how much we have managed to cram into this 32’ house on wheels of ours.


After returning from the Covid deployment to Los Angeles earlier this year I, Kevin, have been busy with school. I started back with classes the last week of June and summer semester rolled right into fall semester, separated only by a single weekend. When I concluded classes for winter break on December 18th, my brain was ready for a break after doing school for right around 6 months straight. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my school. The practicum experience has been very beneficial and I have learned a great deal about how hospital administration really works. Heather may not be enjoying it as much since many of my “off days” from work have still been spent at the hospital, just in a student status instead of a working status.

Trip to Ohio

In November we were fortunate enough to be cleared to travel out of state and took the opportunity to visit family in Ohio for two weeks. We made the 2,200 mile trip in just over 36 hrs from when we left San Diego. While in Ohio we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which gave the grandparents the opportunity to see the kids open their gifts in person. In years past our visits have included a list of visits with friends around the state, but this year we curtailed our exposure risk by limiting our visits to primarily family instead. Despite these additional precautions the weekend we returned to San Diego we got word from our family in Ohio that many of them were beginning to lose their senses of taste and smell. You guessed it, they had covid. I spoke to my supervisor at work and it was determined that I should have a surveillance covid swab done to see if we brought it back with us from Ohio. Sure enough, I tested positive too despite having absolutely no symptoms myself. I and the family were placed on home quarantine for the next 10 days. We only ventured out for a single grocery run, and even then it was curbside delivery with practically no interaction with the employee that loaded our groceries in the back of the van. Luckily, none of the family developed any symptoms during the quarantine period either. If you were wondering, our Ohio family, while having minor symptoms, never progressed to requiring hospital care or emergency treatment. I am very thankful for that as many have not been as lucky as our family.

What’s Next

So what is next for us? In the next few weeks we will be packing up all of our household goods to send them overseas to the next duty station and will be temporarily be living in an AirBnB, which comes fully furnished, which gives us the flexibility to send our household goods ahead of time. It will also be nice to live in town again where cell service is much better than the campground at which our RV is currently parked.

Stay tuned for coming updates as we begin our adventures abroad. We will try to do a much better job at updating this blog so our friends and family know what we are up to. I will also have more time since I will be done with my Masters Degree by the time we leave the states.

Covid-19 Deployment

By: Kevin

The last week of March 2020 was the beginning of a new era for many Americans as they went into lock-down mode as businesses closed and travel became restricted throughout the United States due to the outbreak of Covid-19. However, for me and about 500 of my peers, a new journey was just beginning. I had been called upon to serve aboard the USNS Mercy, a huge white floating hospital ship operated by the U. S. Navy. I was asked to prepare for deployment in about 3 days while businesses and even travel around the city of San Diego was being halted. That added an extra degree of difficulty as I prepared due to stores being closed that I wanted items from! We were able to find some work-arounds such as doing curbside pickup of boot socks from Dick’s Sporting Goods, where you drive up after ordering online, roll down the window, and they pitch your purchases to you through the open window from a “safe distance”. Talk about abnormal shopping!

Well, I was able to get everything I needed in those few short days of scrambling around, jammed all of it into a seabag, a backpack, and a garment bag, and boarded the huge white ship which pulled out of port heading North, but with no official destination. It was determined a few days later that we would be heading to Los Angeles to help ease the load of local hospitals by taking non-Covid patients and caring for them aboard the ship. This was done because infection control is hard to battle onboard a ship in normal times, let alone with a tenacious virus like Covid-19 of concern.

Ship life was not too bad once one figured out how to navigate around the ship. Due to the large number of officers onboard the vessel I spent part of my time sleeping in an enlisted rack and part of the time in an Officer Stateroom. I will have to say I preferred the spacious Stateroom, but the enlisted rack was tolerable. I found the rocking of the ship at sea soothing as I was rocked to sleep at night, and it only took me about a day to get used to walking down a passageway while compensating for the shifting deck. Once we arrived in Los Angeles harbor the rocking of the ship stopped and we only noticed the tide when comparing our height to the cruise ship terminal at which we were docked.

There were other perks of being an officer onboard such as having a separate (shorter) line for food from the enlisted and we ate in the Wardroom instead of the common galley. However, due to social distancing requirements both officers and enlisted were detoured to the flight deck to eat under a large white tent when the galley and Wardroom were too full.

After 6 weeks aboard the USNS Mercy, while most of my peers were preparing to head home, I was re-tasked to a land-based mission in the Los Angeles area aiding local nursing homes who had requested assistance and had been identified by the state as being in distress. I was honored to be named the Officer in Charge of this mission, reporting directly to the Fleet instead of the USNS Mercy. Multiple small Medical Strike Teams were formed and we headed out to various nursing homes to assess, provide staffing, and teach infection prevention and control measures to mitigate Covid-19 transmission. We obtained vans and they were loaded down with personal protective equipment for each Strike Team. If there is one thing the military is good at, it is providing needed gear for its personnel.

For this phase of the mission we were based out of a hotel, as the USNS Mercy had pulled out of Los Angeles Harbor and was headed back to San Diego. After 4 weeks of assisting over 500 nursing home patients, the military made the decision we were no longer needed and we handed off our mission to the National Guard (a state asset) and the California Medical Assistance Team for continued work. While I have really enjoyed the 70 day mission and the experiences I have taken part in and learned from, I will be happy to return to the Navy Hospital and see my teammates of the Emergency Department again.

New wheels…again

By: Kevin

Kaw 1400

When we moved to San Diego, we never intended to change vehicles. We had a truck, van, and motorcycle that served their purpose and we enjoyed them. As one can read in a prior post on our site, we have already upgraded our van since we arrived in San Diego. Then I was on my way home from a training class on a freeway fly-over ramp when the SUV in front of me decided to brake harder than necessary. Due to being in a full-bank turn my motorcycle was hard to bring to a stop and I ended up skidding into the back of the SUV. I came off the bike and rolled past the side of the SUV before coming to a stop against the concrete barrier wall. Other than sore hands I had no other injuries. It certainly could have been much worse! The accident only left a scratch on the SUV (which the owner was not concerned about) but bent my handlebars and front forks. The insurance company inspected the bike and totaled it in a matter of minutes. It was mid-December so we decided to wait a bit for the weather to warm back up before seeking out a second bike. Well, San Diego weather is fairly mild, and by mid-February I was back on two wheels. My former bike was a 2005 Honda Shadow 750cc cruiser. I enjoyed it and put 41,000 miles on it since I purchased it brand new. Now that I had been riding for multiple years I was interested in a bike with a few more creature comforts. After test-riding it, I purchased a 2011 Kawasaki Concours 1400cc sport touring bike. After my crash some advised me to give up motorcycles entirely for safety reasons, but instead I more than doubled the engine size and top speed of my old bike. You can tell I listened very well, LOL.
The new bike has many creature comforts and upgrades compared to the Honda. It has ABS linked braking, a motorized push-button adjustable windshield, heated hand grips, a throttle lock, keyless ignition, locking hard saddle bags, full cowling, a digital dash, tire pressure monitoring, and LED lamps to name a few things I did not have on the Honda. I am very happy with it, and the ride is great. For anyone who cares, it also cost me half of what my Honda did, although the Honda was purchased brand new and the Kawasaki was purchased used with 13,000 miles on it.

Note: Since purchasing the bike all the Coast Guard stickers have been removed 🙂

Starting College Degree #3

Upon completing my Associates of Nursing I kind of knew at some point I would need to return to school for a Bachelors of Science of Nursing. I took a year off and then started back to school to obtain my BSN. In the middle of my degree program we launched on our Full-time RV adventures with travel nursing. Much time was spent at the homemade desk that was fashioned in our bedroom of the RV working on school assignments. I completed my BSN capstone project in Daytona Beach at the hospital where I was a contracted travel RN. The administrators were blown away that I was doing a capstone project in their hospital but was not even an employee. They offered me permanent employment multiple times over my remaining contracted time there. At the completion of my BSN I figured I was done with school. I was a well-educated bedside RN with no aspirations to become an advance-practice nurse.

Well, let me tell you, things change…..

After joining the US Navy I learned that while it is a number of years off, if I desire to obtain the rank of O-5 or above, I will need to have a Masters Degree. Add to this that the Navy offers tuition assistance (TA) to those taking classes, and the thought and cost of a Masters Degree became very attainable. I researched schools and started the process. I was once again back in school. Of course, anyone who knows the military knows that EVERYTHING is subject to change. Part way through my degree plan I learned that I was temporarily not eligible for tuition assistance because of a rule change made at the national level. This meant that at least one class would have to be paid for out of pocket instead of receiving tuition assistance. Heather and I decided that while this would be a minor inconvenience, the military tuition rate was still pretty darn good and that I would continue working on my degree until I became eligible once again for TA. After a single class being paid for out of pocket I fell back within the criteria for TA and I happily accepted additional money for school. My degree was then once again put on hold due to deploying on the USNS Mercy, one of two Navy hospital ships. Upon returning from my deployment I will restart my courses and with any luck I will complete my Masters Degree at my next duty station.

I guess it just stands to reason that wherever I start my degree is not necessarily where I will complete it. My BSN was completed over three geographic living locations, and my MSN will be completed over at least 3 geographic living locations as well, more if you count each campground separately.

Temporary Duty in Florida

By: Kevin

IMG_9215Upon returning from our Ohio trip, I was fully anticipating to settle back into my work schedule at the hospital. However, the Navy had different plans. I worked a whole two shifts before I was placed on administrative hours so I could prepare for departure again.

It turns out I had been selected to be an instructor for Navy Corpsmen who were preparing to go to an operational job with a ship, the US Marines, or other forward-deployed medical facilities that would be dealing with trauma patients. I would be helping to train the Corpsmen of the future.

So what did this mean for me? Well, for starters, I would be living in a hotel for 8 weeks. This in itself was an interesting experience. I was given a daily allowance for food and incidentals. I could eat out all three meals a day for the entire trip. However, my waistline would have doubled if I had done that, so I opted to eat out some and make food in my hotel room part of the time. Now, cooking in a hotel room which only has a microwave and mini-fridge was a bit of a challenge. I could not get food that needed to stay frozen (no freezer, just a fridge), nothing that required a pan to cook, and nothing to go in the oven. I looked into a meal-prep service, but many of them required at least some stove-top prep, and the ones that were fully prepared were delivered once a week. That means I would have to play Tetris with a week’s worth of food in the mini-fridge. Instead, I simply went to the commissary/grocery store and cruised the aisles for food I could easily store and prep.

The training included classroom and skills practice, followed by 5 weeks in a local Level-1 trauma center to care for actual trauma patients. The Corpsmen who were selected for this training had not been involved in patient care for the past few years, so a good dust-off of skills was needed, but they were eager to learn and the classroom portion went well. Next the Corpsmen actually performed direct patient care at a local Level 1 trauma center which opened their eyes to patients they may actually encounter. They started IVs, dressed wounds, inserted Foleys, and help set broken bones among other tasks. Everyone agreed that the training was invaluable to them at the conclusion of the course. It is my understanding that the program is intended to be expanded around the US over the coming years to benefit even more Navy Corpsmen.

Of course I didn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy Florida on my days off. I visited Daytona Beach and the Ponce Inlet lighthouse, toured the St. Augustine distillery and the Angell & Phelps chocolate factory, as well as various restaurants around Jacksonville. I spent a decent amount of time soaking in the Atlantic, which is considerably warmer than the Pacific at San Diego. I met up with a retired Navy officer and her husband to check out the Central Florida Zoo followed by lunch.

The instructor assignment was considered unaccompanied and I flew to Florida by myself. However, Heather being the strong independent person that she is, decided that if I wasn’t in San Diego then she did not need to be either. With 4 kids and a dog jammed into the cab of my truck she hitched up the fifth wheel RV and towed it from California to Ohio to visit her family (who we just got done visiting about a week prior). She spent a few weeks there before hitching up again and driving to Jacksonville, FL to visit me as well. After a few weeks in Florida she hitched up once more to start the journey back to California so she would beat me back to San Diego as I flew back at the completion of the course. All in all it was a great experience and would do it again if given the opportunity to teach the course to future classes.

Road-trip back to Ohio

By: Kevin

DSC_0357aWhen Chipmunk was born the US Navy awarded me with 14 days of free leave. However, with Heather’s mom in town and the support of our church, I did not feel the need to take leave immediately after Chipmunk’s birth. We had meals being delivered to us and an extra set of hands to care for the other kids. Instead, I decided to save my leave and use it for a trip back to visit friends and family in Ohio after Chipmunk was old enough to really travel.

We decided to make the trip in June, so the weather would be nice during our visit. This would make Chipmunk 4 months old. While he would still need stops to eat and have his diaper changed, this would be much easier than when he was younger.

We packed the van and were ready to go the night before leaving, which we did for a number of reasons. One of these reasons was that I worked the night before we left. Luckily for me, the flow of patients was not horrible and I was able to head home early, which allowed us to pull out of the campground right at 2:00 am Sunday morning instead of around 7:00 am if I had worked my entire shift. We were officially in for the long haul! The kids were excited to be on the road and were very energetic, but after we made it out onto the freeway they all went back to sleep until after daybreak. It was a little over 2,200 miles from California to Ohio. We were prepared with snacks, activities, and 5 gallons of drinking water.

We settled into a routine when we would make stops along the way. I would fill the van with fuel and wash the bug cemetery off the windshield. Heather would tend to Chipmunk. Pie would help with Miss Kicky Feet, and Bug would potty the dog and refill Dixie’s water bowl. This kept our stops short as possible to reduce any unnecessary additional time being added to the trip. Our system must have worked, as we pulled into the driveway in Ohio at 5:30pm Monday. When you account for the 3-hour time zone difference, this put us right about 36 hours for the whole trip including stops.

We were asked by some why we didn’t fly to Ohio. The first was simply cost. We would have needed 5 round-trip tickets, and once we arrived we would not have a vehicle, so we would most likely need a rental car. Comparing this cost to the fuel expense to drive the van to Ohio and back, the choice was clear. We also were planning (and did) bring back a 30-gallon cooler of frozen beef. I don’t think the airlines could have accommodated that.

The next two weeks seemed to fly by as we relaxed, visited with family and special friends, and enjoyed watching our kids play with their cousins. Each of Heather’s sisters had given birth to a new baby that we had not actually met yet, so it was nice to seeing the babies in person instead of just pictures. Additionally, none of the extended family had ever met Chipmunk either, so all three new babies got passed around quite a bit.

While I have been away from the Fire Department for a few years now, our visit to Ohio coincided with Chief Henry’s retirement from STFD, the second department I was on while in Ohio. It was great to see my coworkers again and catch up with what was going on around the department. I am very happy with my current occupation and location, however I am truly thankful for the time I got to spend on the department.

Since I was thinking about the Fire Department I opted to make a visit to the Mansfield Fire Museum, a small museum that I had heard about but had not made it a point to visit while actually living in Ohio. Miss Kicky Feet came along with me and she enjoyed seeing all the retired trucks and equipment. She even got to try on some junior-sized fire gear.

I think we each gained about 10 pounds while we were in Ohio thanks to “Grandma cooking”. Make no mistake, the feasting was glorious! It was like a full-fledged family reunion at each night’s dinner. I even got to enjoy my favorite homemade pie, Apple Rhubarb.

I was promised by Heather’s mom that during this trip I would not have to take on any home improvement projects like the prior visit when I ripped up and re-tiled the bathroom floor. While she did not ask me to do any projects, I did do a few little jobs like moving the Wifi router, changing the bathtub spigot, chainsawing 2 trees, and adding a vent valve under the kitchen sink to name a few. I also hopped on the zero-turn lawnmower, although I’m not sure if that really qualifies as work or play. For reference, it had been 5 years since I last mowed a yard.

Once our two weeks had come to an end, we loaded up the van and headed back West. This time the anticipation and excitement were not the same, and we knew exactly what we were in for over the next 36 hours. That made the return trip seem longer than the trip heading East. We also started out first thing in the morning, which means the kids did not sleep the first few hours like on the way to Ohio. Regardless, we made good time and pulled back into the California campground around dinner time the next day, approximately 36 hours after leaving Ohio.

It was great to see our family and some special friends during this trip. As we pulled out, we were not sure when the next time we would be back in Ohio so the hugs were long and there were even a few tears shed.

Introducing Chipmunk

By: Heather


It is funny how radically different every child can be. This is my 4th child and not with any of my other 3 did I experience “Braxton Hicks” contractions. I had no idea what those felt like. All of my previous contractions led to birth within a relatively short period.

My due date was February 11th. Pie was born 8 days after her due date and Bug and little Miss Kicky Feet were born pretty much on their due dates. My mom was worried that she would miss the birth because she was flying in on the 8th. When the 8th rolled around I was a bit surprised to be in labor! We were out running around getting things done and I was having contractions for 2 hours straight that were 3 minutes apart, though they were not very intense. That should have been my sign, I guess. We thought maybe Mom would have to get an Uber from the airport or something, but once we got home from running around I relaxed a bit and the contractions just melted away like they had never come. huh. I continued to have these light contractions on and off for the next 7 days. On my due date we went out to the beach and took some pictures but there were no signs of any real labor. On Valentine’s day the weather was yucky and rainy so we went to a mall to walk around. I was trying to walk this baby out (and had been for days and days) but he still did not seem interested and I was exhausted and horribly uncomfortable and just wanted a nap. That evening we left the kids with my mom and Kevin and I went on a walk all by ourselves. We were staying at a campground on the San Diego Bay and it was beautiful. We walked outside in the dark hearing the soft sound of the waves lapping against the beach and looking out over the Bay which reflects the lights from the city and the Coronado Bay Bridge. It was wonderful and peaceful though still uncomfortable. Shortly afterward I carefully collapsed into my bed. I slept hard.


I was awakened a few times somewhere around 1:30am. I wasn’t sure why I was awake but then realized I had had a contraction that had woken me up. Nothing new but when the next one came I timed it. 7 minutes apart. But the next one was 3 1/2 minutes and then 2 minutes. After that they were all coming about 2 minutes apart and were pretty intense. I don’t think I was even fully awake yet and was spending a lot of time in the bathroom with my digestive system expelling everything that had not yet been fully digested. yum. My mom had not fallen asleep yet and heard me up and decided to put her bed away in preparation. I remember the dog bed being in my way and moving it out of its normal place at the bottom of my bed and putting the dog in her crate. Around 2:30am I awoke Kevin and we called the midwife. By this time I don’t remember much except trying to ride the waves of contractions. Kevin and Mom were getting things set up, getting a table to put supplies on, and getting the supplies down out of the loft. Somewhere in there little Miss Kicky Feet woke up to use the potty. Surprisingly, she let my mom take her and did not even ask about what I was doing and went right back to sleep. This labor was fast and intense! I labored standing at the end of my bed with my elbows and head on the end of the bed. I remember one point I was thinking that either this was the worst labor ever or I was already in transition (I was in transition). I was alone in the RV just then with my 3 sleeping children. Apparently Kevin and Mom were outside watching the Navy Seals training out on the Bay. I was getting a little bit worried because I was starting to feel like I needed to push and there was literally no one else around. I really was not very interested in delivering all by myself. Thankfully, just then Kevin and Mom came in and brought the midwife with them. Whew! After that contraction ended I stuck my head out the door and informed everyone that I was really feeling like I needed to push.

I would call him Little Chipmunk but there is really pretty much nothing little about him. This guy is big and adorable and sweet and LOUD.



On the midwife’s arrival she started going through the box of supplies and arranging them on the table. She said she would check Heather shortly and see what kind of timeline we were anticipating.

After Heather stuck her head out and barked at us the midwife sprang into action. She and I were ready to accept the baby and were sitting on the floor under Heather. Chipmunk’s head came along as expected, but after the head finished I was fully expecting for the rest of him to follow as in previous deliveries. It didn’t. The head was fully out and he had stopped. The midwife took over and flipped Heather up onto the bed and told her we needed to get baby out right now. She was able to maneuver Chipmunk’s shoulders around the pelvic bones and successfully delivered the rest of his chunky body. No broken or dislocated bones for the win! From the time the midwife walked in the door to the time of delivery was under 10 minutes. Heather did not waste any time.

Chipmunk is our largest child at time of birth weighing in at 9 lb 4 oz.  He is now 2.5 months and has not missed a single fact, he probably had a few extra. At 7 weeks old he weighed 15 lb 1 oz !!

Monserate Mountain Hike


By: Kevin

The staff of our emergency department at the hospital not only enjoy working with each other, but also hanging out together outside of work as well. On this day we all met up at the trailhead of Monserate Mountain for a group hike. The trail was great. Even though it had rained within the past few days, little mud remained on the trail.


The ascent was quick but tolerable and we summited 1200 ft above our vehicles within less than 2 miles. One of the guys brought his drone and got some awesome aerial photography of the hike and mountain.


I asked my coworkers if I could bring the kids along, and while they agreed I think they expected the kids to be bringing up the rear of the group. Wrong! Bug was out in front leading the charge. In fact, one of my coworkers commented about Bug literally running the trail even after we summited and were headed back down. Both Pie and Bug got turns flying the drone which they both thought was awesome! Of course as soon as we got back in the car they both wanted to know if we could get a drone like the one they flew. I did look at the drone online, but with a price tag of around $800, it will not be a purchase we will be making this month…or probably next month either.

Miss Kicky Feet made the trip too, although she was in the backpack on my back. She would have liked to walk more than she was allowed to, but that surely would have slowed down the group a good bit. I let her out to run around at the summit before loading her back in the pack for the trip back down. I have to say, I LOVE the Osprey pack! It makes all the difference for distance hikes with a toddler on your back.

All in all the trip went pretty well without even a scraped knee. The only casualty of the trip was a pair of boots that didn’t make it the distance. The wearer did make it all the way up and down the mountain before deciding to retire the boots and make plans to buy new ones. I do have to admit watching him hike the mountain without soles on his boots was rather entertaining.

Following the hike we all met up at one of the attendee’s house to have a grill-out and relaxing hangout. I mean, we had to replace those calories we burned off, right?