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

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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.

 

Kevin:

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 meal..in fact, he probably had a few extra. At 7 weeks old he weighed 15 lb 1 oz !!

Monserate Mountain Hike

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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.

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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.

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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?

New Wheels

By: Heather

We bought a thing! A new to us 12-passenger Ford Transit! It is disappointingly white but spending thousands of dollars to paint it iridescent orange was not exactly in the budget.

So backstory: In 2014, shortly after we started our full-time RV journey, we bought a van. It was a 2004 Toyota Sienna that had been sold at auction and fixed up by a student trying to pay his way through college. We paid $5,000 for that little van and it was money well spent. That thing traveled all over the country and often pulled our box trailer as well. I was spoiled with that van. It had heated leather seats and automatic doors and the back seats folded flat into the floor, I mean, what else could a girl ask for?

Well eventually it did get old. 265,000 miles and 15 years old plus 10 of those years had been spent in Ohio with winters full of salty roads. A recent repair shop in California said there was so much rust on it that many of the parts they were trying to remove were fused together to other parts. Plus, now as a family of 6 we only had one extra seat and we often wanted to haul more than one extra person. Several times I (being the smallest) was the one who ended up sitting on the floor when we had extra people riding along. It was not very fun for me.

So now we have the Transit. We have named it Baymax since it is big and white and… fluffy?

“Hello, I am Baymax, your personal transportation assistant. Are you satisfied with your ride?”

Seriously though, it is much less scary to drive than I first assumed. There are lots of mirrors to alleviate blind spots, it accelerates surprisingly well, we had a backup camera installed shortly after we bought it, and I am really (surprisingly) enjoying being up higher. I can see so much more of the road and surrounding cars since I tower over most of the other vehicles now. Also, now I can always find Baymax in a busy parking lot as the roof is about 8′ tall instead of the average 6′ tall vehicles around it. I am, however, limited on the parking garages I can fit into now.

My kiddos really like it too. Though they do still fight over seats. Go figure. The kids have lots more room and there is a lot of room for storage in the back since the van was designed to accept yet another row of seats bringing the total to 15 seat. We looked at one of the 15-passenger vans, but it left ZERO room in the back for anything else, so we opted for the 12-person setup.

Notes from Kevin:

If we are going to use the Transit for the foreseeable future, we might as well make it the best fit for us. Therefore, I took no time at all to begin popping off trim pieces and drilling holes to customize it. Heather just shook her head as she looked over the array of plastic trim pieces laid out on the ground next to the van less than 24 hours after we purchased it. Everything went back together the way it came apart, but the Transit now has two extra 12-volt outlets, 2 sets of Anderson Power Pole connectors, a 500 watt power inverter, a VHF/UHF ham radio with antenna, and 2 lock boxes for firearms installed. We are now set to travel!

San Diego Zoo

By: Kevin

DSC_0799The San Diego Zoo….a massive sprawling zoo located not only in the middle of the city of San Diego, but also situated within Balboa Metro Park. The zoo has earned and kept quite a reputation for excellence, and for good reason. Not only are they a renowned zoo, they are also a full botanical garden with many species of plants and flowers.

My (Kevin’s) first visit to the San Diego Zoo was actually back in 2004 when I was on summer cruise with the US Navy, as part of the ROTC program at the Ohio State University. Some things have stayed the same since my visit in 2004, but much of the park I do not remember, so I was excited to explore it again.

Our family has been to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, the home of (Jungle) Jack Hanna, a number of times over the years and we have been able to make it through the zoo in a full single day. San Diego Zoo would be a tough feat to make it through everything in a single day. We decided to get annual zoo passes, and we are glad we did. We have been to the zoo three times now, and have covered different sections of the zoo each time. After three visits we have completely covered all areas of the park. We most likely could have covered everything in two full days, but since we have season passes we felt less rushed to cover everything in three days instead of two.

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We have not yet taken the guided bus tour of the zoo to hear their insight and information about the zoo that we may not learn by just walking around ourselves.

Safari Park

As an added bonus to our annual passes, there is also a Zoo Safari Park at a separate location in the area that our passes allow free access to, and you can see how a single day just isn’t enough time.

The Safari park is located about 30 mins north of the main San Diego Zoo off of Interstate 15. Over half the acreage of the park still sits empty for possible expansion and as a sanctuary for native wildlife. There are multiple open areas that visitors can overlook as well as a drive-through tram ride that explores additional areas of the park. It took us two days to get through all the areas of this park, and we only did the free things that were included with our (free) admission. There are additional pay-to-play “safaris” such as a high ropes course, zip-line, Jeep tour, and overnight camping excursions. Even without these pay options the park was well worth our time and drive.

Old Town San Diego

I must start by apologizing to our faithful followers. We have been pretty busy over the past few months, and we have not shared any of it with you all. We are trying to get caught up, so please keep your eyes out for a number of posts over the next few days.

 

Among our explorations around the San Diego area we stopped in to Old Town San Diego. This area of town is a great area to stroll around on a sunny afternoon or weekend. The area is comprised of multiple historical sites, 32 restaurants, 36 museums, and over 100 shops. The center of Old Town is accessible by foot only, which adds to the family fun factor since we didn’t have to worry as much about the kids running around. There was plenty of parking within walking distance, but if you want to park right in the middle of the action, plan to arrive early in the day.

One of the historical sites in Old Town is the Mormon Battalion historical site operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site features a free interactive tour which explains how the Mormons made their way from the Midwest to the San Diego area and the struggles they encountered along the way. Bug even got to dress up like a soldier complete with leather backpack and rifle. The outside exhibits included panning for gold, using a hand pump and metal washboard to wash clothes, and using wooden forms to make bricks for buildings. The time spent at the site was enjoyable for both adults and the kids. Afterwards we strolled through many shops and snacked on freshly made tortilla chips and salsa from one of the restaurants before calling it a day.

*On a separate trip to Old Town we also tried out of the Mexican restaurants which was pretty tasty.

Navy Band Christmas concert

By: Kevin

This week we had the opportunity to attend the first annual Navy Region
Southwest Christmas concert by the U.S. Navy Band. This concert was a
combined effort by the Navy band and USO San Diego. We are a huge fan of the
USO, and the San Diego division has been awesome to us as a family. We have
attended free weekly dinners, gotten free food items at regular intervals,
and sent the kids to a week long summer camp for free courtesy of USO San
Dhttps://apps.wordpress.com/get?campaign=calypso-open-in-app#%2Fpostiego. The San Diego community has been truly blessed by the USO. Anyways,
back to the subject at hand.

The concert was at the Balboa Theater located in downtown San Diego. The
theater itself boasts tall ceilings, comfy seating, and a balcony with quite
a view. The band performed many traditional and contemporary Christmas songs
including a sing-along session with the audience. There were visits from
Santa Clause and the Grinch. It was truly a great performance lasting around
90 minutes. The Commander of Navy Region Southwest, Rear Admiral Lindsey,
read the Christmas story to all the children in attendance as they were
huddled around him on the side of the stage. After the concert, both Santa
and the Grinch were available for photographs as we exited the venue. Both
of our kids said they really enjoyed the concert and each had a favorite
song from the performance. We are all looking forward to attending again
next year.

Lastly, there was a special moment mid-concert that I wanted to mention. One
of the band members was due for re-enlistment, and she was sworn back in by
Rear Admiral Lindsey with the call to reenlistment for everyone in
attendance. What a great honor it would be to reenlist with the Rear Admiral
and a theater full of military members standing at attention to witness the
event.