Road Tripping in an RV – Part 2

In Part 1, I mentioned the general costs associated with renting an RV and listed additional expenses one might encounter. Here’s the details on those additional expenses:

  • Campground Fees: Prices vary greatly from campground to campground, as do your surroundings & amenities. You may more for premium sites with full hook-ups (electric, water, & sewer). I think I paid an average of $35 per night. I discovered late in my trip that some RV stops like Flying J offer free overnight parking. So you can pull in & sleep. They don’t have hook-ups, but in moderate weather it would be great.

  • RV Dump Fees: One thing you have to do periodically…or regularly with 5 people…is dump the RV waste storage tanks which are called the Black Water & the Grey Water. That’s toilet & shower/sinks, respectively. If you’re paying for a full hook-up site at a campground, it’s included in your overnight cost. If you’re parking in your sister’s driveway at night, you need to find an RV dump at a gas station like Flying J or at a campground. Flying J is $10 for non-card holder & $5 for card holders. Most campgrounds are $10.

    I want to pause for a moment to tell you a funny story. We left my brother’s house in Birmingham on August 30th. I had dumped the tank in Chattanooga on Sunday morning the 28th. So, I figured there would be a dump station somewhere along the freeway early on our drive. I was wrong! We were 2 hours out of Birmingham & still no Flying J or other site. I was trying to locate a station with Gas Buddy on my Android to no avail.

    I pulled over at the next rest area so I could do a Google search for a dump station. It was still coming up with nothing! I must have sat there for 15-20 minutes trying to locate an RV dump along our route.

    Finally, I gave up & headed toward the rest area exit. Would you believe that there was a FREE RV Dump station right there at the end of the rest area??? We were 16 days into our 16 day trip. I laughed at only now discovering free RV dumps at rest areas (not all rest areas have these). And I thanked God for providing an RV dump when we really needed it. (I didn’t want to lug all that water waste on a 10 hr drive as it’s weight cuts down on fuel efficiency.

  • Propane Costs: To tell you the truth, I was terrified of the propane. I used it sparingly because I feared having to refill it and being clueless. What I discovered was that, at least at the Flying J, they refill it for you. I paid $3.09 per gallon. I used about 1/3 of the propane I started with in 18 days.

  • General Maintenance (oil changes, tires, etc. these are reimbursed): It is possible to have to take the RV rental in for an oil change if you are driving long distances. Tires, of course, can always be an issue. I had to take our rental in for a tune up…which is basically unheard of, according to the man at the rental center. It was annoying, but I didn’t have to pay out of pocket (Not typical! Usually you will pay out of pocket & get reimbursed at the end of the trip.)

  • Air for Tires: This can range from free to a few dollars.

  • Potable Water: This is generally free at RV stations like Flying J, campgrounds you stay at, and any home that you can get a garden hose to the water tank. There are some places that will charge for it, so my advice is fill it with free water whenever you can.

  • Generator: The on-board generator runs off your fuel and also has a meter. Cruise America charges $3 per hour of usage of the generator. You also have to add oil to it. It was one of those things I avoided out of fear of not knowing what I was doing. It isn’t a “necessary” thing in most cases unless you are camping in a primitive area and need to run everything electric at once or long-term. Most things in the RV run off an on-board 12-volt battery or the propane.

  • RV Toilet Chemicals: After you empty the black water tank, and before you use the toilet again, you have to put a toilet chemical into the black water tank. I think I paid $10-15 for a bag of 15 packets and I still have 4-5 left over that I left in the RV for the next person. The chemical indicated you could add it to the grey water tank as well, but Cruise America never advised me about this and I dumped the tanks regularly (daily as I could). This chemical packet breaks down all of the waste & toilet paper sitting in the tank and manages the odor as well.

  • RV Toilet Paper: It’s typically sold in small, 4-pks for about $2.99. It’s single ply and easily breaks down in the black water tank to avoid clogs in the system, hose or sewer drain.

  • Ice: Coolers are recommended for frequent access to cold drinks, so ice tends to be a necessity. It paid anywhere from $1.47 to $1.99 for a small bag and up to $3.99 for a large bag.

  • Drinking Water: Even though you connect the RV to city water or fill the water holding tank, it’s not considered safe to drink or use for cooking. So, I purchased both bottled water (for the cooler) and kept 2 gallons of drinking water on hand for cooking & rinsing tooth brushes. Bottled water was generally less than $4 per 24-28 bottles and the gallons were usually under a $1 each.

In my next RVing post, I’m going to talk about the things I really liked & some things that I did not like.


Christian wife & homeschool mom to 4 in NE FL.


Road Tripping in an RV – Part 1

It all began a few months ago. Another homeschool mom who has her children enrolled in the same private school for unschoolers as I have mine enrolled in, asked if any other families enrolled in the group lived in an RV and traveled about the country.

Until that day, I hadn’t even considered an RV for our travel needs. And I’ve done a lot a traveling with my kids (with and without my husband). I really started thinking about renting an RV when I decided to take my 4 kids to Indiana. There is only 1 hotel where we were going. I’ve stayed there once. It wasn’t that great and now I would need two rooms at an outrageous $90 per night. (Trust me, the place is worth $35 TOPS!) After considering hotels outside the area (a minimum 30 minute drive each way), I started to wonder about renting an RV.

I didn’t know much about renting an RV, but I did recall Lisa Whelchel writing or talking about traveling for a year in a Cruise America RV. So, that’s where I went first to check it out. I then searched for other RV rental websites; contrasting & comparing prices & other details. Eventually, I decided to book with Cruise America.

So, that’s the long & short of how our RV adventure started out.

Along the journey, I had people everywhere we went ask me questions about renting the RV. Mostly people wanted to know how much it cost. In simple terms, you have a per night cost, plus a mileage rate. Of course, you have to pay for gas too. Oh, and insurance coverage is included in your rental fee with Cruise America (I can’t speak for anyone else, but this could be the standard in the industry.)

But there are other expenses an RVer can encounter.

  • Campground Fees

  • RV Dump Fees

  • Propane Costs

  • General Maintenance

  • Air for Tires

  • Potable Water

  • Generator

  • RV Toilet Chemicals

  • RV Toilet Paper

  • Ice

  • Drinking Water

In my next post, I will go into more detail on those expenses.


Christian wife & homeschool mom to 4 in NE FL.

17; The Birthday of My Dreams – Part Three

Anne-Marie’s Notes: I am so very excited to have my daughter, Lindsey, graciously writing some guest posts for my blog about our 2009 AZ Trip. Of course, no arm twisting was needed for the talented author to compile the tale.

If you have not already, you might want to read the Adoption Story to get a better understanding of our relationship.

The Trip : Day #3; ????????? (if you count the “?”s carefully, you will notice that there are nine of them – one for each person in our party)

On the evening of May 31st, after our hike, Anne-Marie had called and said that Danni was unwell with the sickies. By the morning of June 1st, Nate had also come down with the sickies. So…Anne-Marie stayed at the hotel with the Munchies. As to what Mom, Dad, Allie and I did…well, that shall remain a mystery! Bwah hah hah hah hah! : )

The Trip – Day #4; The Multi-Destination Adventure (Sedona – GC – Flagstaff)

After all of the last minute packing details, we were finally on the road to Flagstaff. We were very sad to say “good-bye” to Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, but the next adventure had just begun. We were departing the first phase of our journey and entering into the second. As we drove up the mountain on Highway 89A toward Flagstaff, I listened to Take Me Home, Country Road on my iRiver while Allie called her Mom. Leaving Oak Creek Canyon meant cell phone reception!

With the Shaffers in tow, we headed up the switchback highway toward Flag. Allie hung up with her Mom, and we started listening to Prince Caspian soundtrack.

At the top of the hill, we pulled off into a viewing area. The Munchies parked two cars away. They began to walk toward the viewing point. Mom, Dad, Allie and I followed. The minute the Munchies became aware of our presence, they were upon us. After the usual amount of “hellos”, we continued to the viewing point. Nate has this thing where, when he really wants something, he will beg in the most pathetic tone possible. He widens his eyes and looks so pitiful that you think he’ll die if he doesn’t get what he wants. It really cracks me up.

No sooner were we at the viewing point then the begging began. “Can I pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaasssse borrow your camera? Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssseeeeeeeeee? Pleeeeeeeaaaaaassssseeee? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?”
Allie handed Nate her camera. “Put the loop around your wrist.” She later told me that she was nervous that Nate would drop it over the cliff. But he did take some really cool pictures!

We hung around for awhile, then departed for our main destination – the Grand Canyon. Oh yes, did I mention that we all (nine of us to be exact) were going to pay a quick little visit to the Grand Canyon before we headed to Flagstaff? Yeah, it was kinda out of the way, and three out of nine of us [Dad, Mom and me] had already seen it more than once, but at least one of the nine of us [Nate] really wanted to see it, and another one of the nine of us [Allie] had been there but didn’t remember anything about it except for the clinic she had to visit because of her strep throat. (Anne-Marie’s interjection: I’ve also been to Grand Canyon more than once.)

With no strep throat or any other illnesses in sight, we made our way up to the canyon entrance. Allie was clearly excited. For the sake of my mother’s pride, I will not tell you how we managed to get into the park for free. We drove on, down the road leading into the park. Dead trees mingled with living trees lined the road like an eerie wall. Then finally, we saw it! Occasionally through the broken trees could be seen patches of red, yellow, and even purple rock.

I tapped Allie on the shoulder and pointed. “Allie…welcome to the Grand Canyon.” A smile exploded onto her face. She seemed to become a young child again, visiting the Grand Canyon with her parents and brothers for the first time. Who really cared if we were just a surrogate family? She was here!

We pulled into a viewing point and unloaded the kids. The girls were delegated to us, while the boys were delegated to Anne-Marie and Mom. Dad avoided us as much as possible. Helena instantly came up to me, holding out her hand for me to take it. “I want to go with you, Lindsey.” Danni clung to Allie’s hand. Although my sister and my best friend had only known each other for four days, Danni had taken an obvious liking to Allie.

We made our way into the visitor’s center. All of our eyes popped when we saw the huge observation window. The kids eagerly crowded up to the window. They stared in amazement at the wonder of the canyon. Gabe snapped a few pictures.

After having been overloaded with canyon beauty, the Munchies turned to face the visitor’s center. Their eyes popped once again as they rushed toward the large model of the canyon – Helena and Danni dragging me and Allie along with them. They marveled at it, running their little fingers along the “rivers”.

“Where are we?” Gabe asked. I came up along side him and pointed. “Right here.”

Slowly the Munchies lost interest in the model of the canyon, and one by one made their way into the visitor’s center – a miniature museum of sorts. The place was crawling with evolution. Everything as far as the eye could see said “millions and billions of years ago” in one form or another. But this deceptive information went right over the heads of the Munchies. Ignoring the googols of years, they approached and touched every display they were interested in.

Helena led me to a rock which hung from the wall. The caption read “Start the Half Time Clock. Measuring Deep Time”, and an arrow pointed to a little red button. Anne-Marie pushed the button. To our surprise, oodles of lights burst from the rock like a constellation in the sky. Half the lights went off. Then half of that half, and so on and so forth until the whole rock was once again dark.
I rolled my eyes. Oh great. More evolution. “It’s evolutionary,” I told Anne-Marie.
She looked surprised. “Oh really?”
“Yeah,” I explained as best as I could from what I remembered from my scientific studies, “It’s something to do with the amount of oxygen in the rock. [Evolutionists] think that rocks lose half of their oxygen over a long period of time.”
“Actually,” Allie stated, coming up behind us with Danni in tow, “it’s the amount of carbon.” She pointed to the sign. “It says so right there.”
I did know that! It had just escaped my mind! But, I know where to give credit when credit it due. “Thank you,” I said to Allie.

Helena was inspired. She pushed the button, causing the rock to light up again. “Wow,” she said in ecstasy, “The rock sparkles. I didn’t know they did that!”

Finally she led us away to the other side of the room, to a wall display of trilobites and other such supposedly extinct creatures.

Then they saw it. Another observation window facing the canyon. Gabe snapped pictures like a mad man. Helena was inspired.
“Can I use your camera?” Helena asked Allie, in the most pleading tone of voice she could muster.

Allie looked nervous. “Sure,” she replied, handing Helena her camera, “Put the loop around your wrist.”

Within several minutes, Allie’s camera lost pictures as Helena went mad, spastically taking pictures of everything she could focus the camera on.

As we headed outside to the multiple viewing points, I took hold of Allie’s camera. “Let me hold that for you, Helena .”
“No,” Helena said, pulling the camera away, “I can carry it.”
“Let me carry it outside for you,” I offered.

The kids ran to the guard wall and leaned over the edge. These guard walls are only about two, maybe three feet tall, so I have no idea how that’s supposed to save a loose 5-10 year old from falling to his/her doom. Mom, Anne-Marie, Allie and I pulled them back.

They stared in awe at the canyon. “Those are mountains!” one of the Munchies exclaimed, pointing to the rock formations. “Look at the mountains.” I couldn’t help laughing.

We walked on, visiting viewing point after viewing point. Then we saw the death trap…a lookout point situated on a cliff, jutting out over the canyon, only surrounded by a piddly chain link fence. There is no way the Munchies are going down there!

“Why don’t we watch the kids,” Mom offered, “and you and Allie go down there and take some pictures.” Taking her camera away from Helena, Allie and I made our way to the viewing point. Dad was already down there when we arrived. We walked up to the rail and gazed over into the overwhelmingly deep canyon. One thing you must know about me at this point is that I have morbid acrophobia. So now, standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon (for only the fourth time in my short life) with only a piece of chain link fence between me and a plunge to my doom, I started getting vertigo and stepped back.

“I’m having vertigo,” I said out loud.
Allie heard me. “Oh no!” She exclaimed. “Just don’t look down.” She turned me around. “Look at your Dad.” She wrapped her arm protectively around my shoulders. “You’re going to be all right, Lindsey.” That much I did know.

(Anne-Marie’s 2nd interjection: After Lindsey & Allie returned, at her mom’s suggestion, I took the Munchies, one at a time, down to the launch point of doom lookout point while someone snapped a photo of each one clinging to the chain link fence.)

Lunch rolled around and the kids were ready to go. So we packed up and headed to a wooded area to eat our sandwich lunches. I tapped Allie on the shoulder. “Are you tempted?”
“By what?” Allie asked me.
I pointed to a nearby tree. Allie chuckled. She was an avid tree-climber, but wasn’t about to climb a tree on this trip.

We took up two tables; Mom, Dad and Anne-Marie took up one table, and Nate, Helena , Danni , Allie and myself took up the other. That’s when the trouble started. Gabe claimed not to be hungry and ran off through the woods. We called to him to come and sit down, but he pretended not to hear us.

After lunch, we let the kids run around. While Allie hung with Nate and Danni , I ran after Helena , who was chasing after the ever-rebellious Gabe. From what I understand, he hit her. She went crying to Anne-Marie. He went tearing off in the other direction. I returned to Allie, Nate and Danni , keeping Gabe in sight.

Nate led Danni and myself on a walk across some logs which lay around. Then it was time to go.

“Gabe!” Anne-Marie called to him. “Come on! We’re leaving!”
He ignored her and headed into a nearby graveyard. I’m not usually afraid of graveyards, but this one just creeped me out. It looked like an old Indian graveyard, and who knew what creepy things might be lurking in there.
“Gabe,” I called, “please come back, for me!”
He ignored me. I ran toward him, just as he entered the graveyard. Oh great! It’s just another one of my paranoia’s – old Indian graveyards.
I prayed for God to give me courage and then headed into the graveyard. It was like walking into a Spiderwick Chronicle book.
I quickened my pace to catch Gabe. He started running.
“Gabe,” I shouted angrily, “get back here right now!”
I took him by the arm and led him from the graveyard, gripping his arm tightly to prevent him from escaping.
“Why are you mad?” Gabe asked me.
Had I been acting mad? “It’s nothing,” I replied.

We piled back in our respective vehicles and headed south toward Flagstaff. Allie and I listened to more Adventures in Odyssey, occasionally glancing back over our shoulders to make sure Anne-Marie was still following us.

Finally, the tall peaks of Mt. Humphreys – the tallest mountain in AZ – appeared in the distance. To me it seemed big. To Allie (being from Oregon) it seemed small. But to the Munchies it seemed huge, immense, titanic, gigantic, colossal, elephantine, monstrous, humungous, and gargantuan! They were impressed.

Dad led Anne-Marie to our hotel – the Little America. We had stayed here many times before, but for Allie, Anne-Marie and the Munchies it was a new adventure! Little did I know it would be a whole new adventure for me too!

We were in building four. We had three consecutive rooms on the top floor; Anne-Marie and the Munchies in 404, Allie and me in 406, and Dad and Mom in 408. It was great! Later that week I would manage to carry a toaster from Anne-Marie’s room to Allie and my room on my head! That’s how close we were.

Pigtail Problems

Once we were all settled in, we headed out with Anne-Marie and the Munchies for the In The Pines family restaurant. We walked along the path, passing the pool area and the hot tub. The kids couldn’t wait to go in, but we told them we’d go swimming tomorrow after our hike.
We walked on. After a while we came to a fork in the path. The path to the left led toward the main hotel building, and the path to the right led to a dining area. We paused.

“Which way are we supposed to go?” Anne-Marie asked.
“This way,” I said, pointing to the left. “I can see a restaurant through the window there.” I pointed to a large window, through which we could see tables, chairs, and a bar.
“That doesn’t look very family friendly,” Mom commented. “I think it’s this way.”
Mom led us down the path to the right, up the stairs and through a door. We found ourselves standing in a fine dining room – totally not family friendly.
Several of the staff people – dressed in lacy tops and black pants – looked up at us, obviously scared that we were going to eat there.
“Where is the family dining?” Mom asked.
“Around the corner,” answered one of the staff people, pointing in the general direction of the way I wanted to go. Lindsey’s correct…once again.

I led them out and around to the family friendly dining area. The hostess led us to a long table and we sat down. The waitress came and handed out the menus. She gave Allie an adult menu, then she turned to me.

“Would you like a kid’s menu or…?” she asked. “How old are you?”
“I’d like the adult menu, please,” I replied. “I’m seventeen.”
She looked embarrassed and handed me an adult menu.
“Why did she think I was a kid?” I asked Allie once she’d gone.
“It could be your pigtails,” Allie replied. “They make you look younger.”
Up to this point, I hadn’t thought about my pigtails. Yeah, I’d had my hair in pigtails all day, but it had never occurred to me that my hair could’ve affected how old I looked. I took my hair out as the waitress returned.

“Can I get you anything?” the waitress asked.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “how old did you think I was?”
She thought. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Fifteen, maybe.”
I knew she was lying. The kid’s menu clearly states “for 10 and under”.

Haven’t read the 4 segments of Part One?: Preface, The Meeting, The Long Expected Party, & The Adventure.

And Part Two

17: The Birthday of My Dreams – Part Two

Anne-Marie’s Notes: I am so very excited to have my daughter, Lindsey, graciously writing some guest posts for my blog about our 2009 AZ Trip. Of course, no arm twisting was needed for the talented author to compile the tale.

If you have not already, you might want to read the Adoption Story to get a better understanding of our relationship.

The Trip – Day #2

The Crestview Community Church Adventure

I do not sleep well on sleepovers – especially on the first night. So, this mass “sleep-over”, if you will, was a little hard on my beauty sleep. By the time we arrived at Crestview Community Church for our 11:00 a.m. Church service, I’d had a total amount of 2.5 hours of sleep.

We all marched into the church, attracting quite an audience from onlookers. The greeter’s eyes bulged at the mere sight of our little group, and we exclaimed, “It looks like the bus was emptied here!”
“We’ve got donuts in the other room!” someone called.
The kids’ faces lit up. “No!!!!!!” Anne-Marie said, herding her children into the sanctuary.

It’s a miracle I didn’t fall asleep in church (due to being so sleep deprived). That’s all I remember about church – a really good sermon and feeling sleep deprived.

There wasn’t enough room for us all to sit together, so Mom, Anne-Marie, and the Munchies ended up sitting across the aisle from Dad, Allie and I. The Pastor provided the Munchies with Bible related activity booklets to keep them occupied.

We were on our way out of the sanctuary when Mom exclaimed, “The kids were so good, they deserve a donut!”

So Allie and I guided the Munchies into the donut room. They each grabbed a chocolate covered donut and munched away. The pastor’s wife laughed. “The kids always go for the chocolate ones.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I’m probably the only one here who isn’t tempted to take one.” However, Allie stated later that she was not a donut person. So, this kid ODs on ice cream, and doesn’t like donuts? The things you learn on vacation.

We headed back to the cars, and Allie took advantage of the church’s cell phone reception to call her Mom and say “hi”.

The Hiking Adventure

Once back at the hotel, we parted ways for a brief time. Mom, Dad, Allie and I ate our New Frontiers deli sandwich lunch out on the porch of our creekhouse. From inside the creekhouse we could hear the NASCAR race blaring on the TV. Allie’s family has a tradition of watching NASCAR on the weekends, and voting on who will win the race. And of course, this trip would be no exception. Allie’s little brother had e-mailed her the name of a NASCAR racer guy whom her family had picked for her to vote for. Greg Biffel, or “The Biff” as Allie’s little brother had stated in his e-mail. Neither Allie nor I had heard of him – though I wouldn’t expect myself to know these things. I’m not into NASCAR (though I am guilty of watching the occasional NASCAR race now and then). Viva Jeff Gordon! Oops, did I say that? Harley Davidson Motorcycles are exciting enough for me. Whenever I see a Harley Davidson motorcycle, I cry out “HARLEY!”. Later, I would get into an argument with Allie’s older brother about the average speed of Harleys vs. “cheap imitation” motorcycles.

But I digress. Shortly after lunch, Allie and I had changed out of our church clothes and into more hiking appropriate clothes. My parents and the Shaffers did the same, and soon all nine of us were congregated in our creekhouse in preparation for our first hike – a short little hike up a trail behind the hotel. The Munchies were decked out in their swim gear, seeing as we’d be hiking right next to Oak Creek.

Finally, we all hiked out the door and down to the creek – all of us except for Mom and Anne-Marie, who were still busily talking about something of lesser importance (their lame excuse for delaying the start of our hike).

We were instructed to wait by the cattle-guard bridge, which we (being Allie and myself) did. But the Munchies headed right for the bridge.

“No kids!” we called, rushing up and pulling them away from the welcoming cattle-guard bridge.

Nate grabbed the tripod. “Come on,” he demanded, “set up the camera! This is the scene where…”

“We’re not filming anything until after the hike,” Anne-Marie stated as she and Mom approached.

We started our long, arduous journey across the bridge and up the trail. A little ways up the trail, we came to an area where a man-made canal ran under the path. We taught the Munchies the art of “Pooh-sticking” which kept their attention for about thirty some seconds.

We hiked up, Dad in the lead, followed by Nate, Allie, me, Helena, Gabe, Mom, Anne-Marie, and Danni. The Munchies ran to the edge of every drop off, scaring Anne-Marie and I to death.

Then, at last, we reached the top of the hill. Up there, Dad and I have a tradition of hiding pine cones and things like that under a rock. Every time we go up to Sedona, we check and see if the stuff is still there. It was, accompanied by millions of daddy-long-legs.

“Did you know,” Allie asked, “daddy-long-legs are one of the most poisonous spiders in the world?”

“What?” I asked in total shock. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very well-educated person. I’m just more interested in World War II dates and the capitals of African countries, and historical things that happened on my birthday.

“Yeah,” Anne-Marie said, “they’re one of the most poisonous spiders…but they can’t bite you cause their mouths are too small.”

Nate crouched down next to the spiders and shouted, “Losers! You’re loser spiders!” Allie and I cracked up.

We hiked on. The path became narrow, leading off to an almost straight drop off on one side. Anne-Marie took Danni by the hand, and I took Helena and we proceeded to cross this treacherous terrain. Attempting to keep Helena on the trail as much as possible, I stepped off the path and onto the side of the drop off, relying on the grip on my shoes to keep me from slipping to my death. It didn’t work. Loose sediment began to slide, taking me with it. In the nick of time, Anne-Marie grabbed me and pulled me to safety.

Suddenly, Dad exclaimed, “It’s a tarantula!”

The boys rushed forward to see. Allie took a picture. The girls pushed their way through the boys to see.

“That’s only a baby one,” Dad stated. “The ones at our house are huge.” He held up his hands to show how large they were.

“Wow,” Anne-Marie replied.

At last, Dad began to lead us off the trail and down toward the creek. The going was tough, especially because I was helping Helena along.

“Why can’t they just make these rocks like stairs?” Gabe replied.
I started to explain how the rocks were just there and happened to be part of a man-made path to the creek, but then figured that he was too young to comprehend what I was saying.

The creek at last! We helped the kids put on their water shoes and then watched them splash in the water. Allie and I watched from a rock in the creek. But, the Munchies really liked their big sister “Yindsey” and her friend “Island” (as Allie was called for the first day or so of the trip). Soon they were upon us, climbing around, literally, on top of us.

Munchies were all over me, grabbing my shirt for support. Like a knit tank top and a little empire waist shirt were going to save their lives.

Nate made his way across the creek, splashing in the water as he went. Gabe tried to follow, but slipped, grabbing Helena’s hair for support. Oh, that will give you so much more support than my tank top.

“Let go of your sister’s hair!” Anne-Marie called.

Gabe obeyed, but continued to follow Nate. Then, with a huge splash, Gabe was in the water, floundering for a rock to stand on. We all burst out laughing as he made his way back.

Nate was, by this time, on the other side of the creek, with no way of getting back. Anne-Marie took off her shoes and rock-hopped out as far as she could, which still wasn’t close enough. Then Allie took off her shoes and rock-hopped out to help Nate, having to step in the water in order to get close to him. But, by this time, Nate was on his way back safely, basically stranding Allie in the middle of the creek.

We started back toward the hotel. A large group passed us. Helena began to panic and exclaimed, “They’re going to steal our hotel room!”

We stopped at the AB Young trail to film one short scene, and then continued on our way back to the hotel. The boys and my Dad rushed ahead. Helena called to them, “Wait guys!” Needless to say, they didn’t wait. Isn’t that just like boys?

Helena humphed and muttered, “No-waiters.”

“Why don’t we take the kids to see the secret garden?” Mom suggested.

“Okay,” I replied, pushing my way to the front of the Munchies. “Follow me guys!” Nate and Gabe held my hands as I led them up the pathway. Allie followed. Mom and Anne-Marie had the girls.

“Up we go!” I called. “Just like the movie “Up”.”

“I really want to see that,” Allie stated. “Have you seen it yet?”

“[A friend of ours] wants to go see it,” I replied. “If she hasn’t seen it when I get back home, I’ll probably go see it with her…but she’s probably going to see it while I’m gone.”

“I don’t really know why they rated it PG,” Allie stated.

“It’s probably all that stuff movie makers put in nowadays,” I replied. “All that stuff I don’t want my two-year-old watching – hypothetically speaking, of course.”

Gabe looked shocked. “You have a two-year-old?”

I laughed. “No.”

Gabe got one of those gentle expressions on his face. “Lindsey, are you going to have a baby?”

Allie and I looked at each other, not knowing exactly how to react. “No.” I replied. “I should hope not. Anne-Marie would faint if I was going to.”

We arrived safely in the secret garden. The Munchies ran wildly through the garden as Dad collapsed, half dead from exhaustion, in the grass. Okay, okay, that was an over exaggeration. But we were all pretty tired.

Just for some details, the secret garden is a large patch of grass surrounded by tall pine trees. On the south side of the garden is a covered bridge which leads to a picnic table with a grill, and on the west side of the garden is a large wooden swing – large enough for all four Munchies to sit squished together. How do we know this? Simple answer – we tried it.

Dad swung the Munchies several times, then Anne-Marie, Helena and I got on for a much needed photo-op (we’d taken a boatload of pictures of me and the kids, and all nine of us as a group, but we had no pictures of just me and Anne-Marie!). Then Allie and I got on for our photo-op.

At last we headed back to our creekhouses for dinner. We’d gotten a work out that day, but we couldn’t wait to see what God had in store for tomorrow!

Haven’t read the 4 segments of Part One?: Preface, The Meeting, The Long Expected Party, & The Adventure.

17: The Birthday of My Dreams – Part One: The Adventure

Anne-Marie’s Notes: I am so very excited to have my daughter, Lindsey, graciously writing some guest posts for my blog about our 2009 AZ Trip. Of course, no arm twisting was needed for the talented author to compile the tale.

If you have not already, you might want to read the Adoption Story to get a better understanding of our relationship.

Part One is broken down into 4 segments: Preface, The Meeting, The Long Expected Party, & The Adventure.

The Adventure

Allie and I, along with some of my close friends back in Tucson, had filmed an amateur film back in March of 2009. I had sent it to Anne-Marie for mother’s day. My 9 year old brother Gabe also saw the movie which Allie and my other friends and I had created, and – being a wonderful human sponge – he absorbed and was inspired. He had to make a movie!

So, now in Sedona, with his three other siblings, big sister Lindsey, and Allie, he found his chance. He grabbed the family camera and I helped him attach it to my tripod.

Suddenly feeling an element of freedom, Gabe began to direct us, “Helena do this; Danni do that; Allie and Lindsey, pretend to be sleeping on the bed”. My 10 year old brother Nate was manning the camera. The film would be called “The Adventure”. It was about these people who get sent on a mission by the president (Nate) to find a treasure.

The only downside was that Allie, my friends back in Tucson and I had made a WW2 movie, in which the Germans were bad. They were referred to as “Nazis” throughout the movie, but somewhere in there, I guess we must have mentioned that the Nazis were Germans. Now I have nothing against Germans – being, myself, part German. But we failed to communicate the message that “all Germans aren’t Nazis”. All the Munchies – being only four of the many human sponges in the world – understood that to mean that all Germans are evil. So, guess who the bad guys were – Germans.

Altogether, the Munchies did a good job of putting everything together. They were really good actors for only being 10, 9, 6, and 5.

We were having a blast filming with the munchies, when Mom and Anne-Marie came in and told us it was time to go to bed. So we said “good-night” to the Munchies and returned to our creekhouse for the night. We would have to finish the Adventure later.

More of the story coming soon!

17: The Birthday of My Dreams – Part One: The Long Expected Party

Anne-Marie’s Notes: I am so very excited to have my daughter, Lindsey, graciously writing some guest posts for my blog about our 2009 AZ Trip. Of course, no arm twisting was needed for the talented author to compile the tale.

If you have not already, you might want to read the Adoption Story to get a better understanding of our relationship.

Part One is broken down into 4 segments: Preface, The Meeting, The Long Expected Party, & The Adventure.

The Long Expected Party (Lord of the Rings, anyone?)

At long last we were settled into our hotel! We were in creekhouse 1, right on Oak Creek, and the Shaffer’s were nestled in creekhouse 21, literally right above us. Allie and I had spent the last several hours “babysitting” the kids while Anne-Marie had unpacked the rental car. By the time we made it to our creekhouse, Dad had unloaded all of our stuff and taken it upstairs to our loft. For our own sanity and privacy, Allie and I shared the loft upstairs, while my parents had “full reign” over the entire main level of the creekhouse. And besides, we wouldn’t keep them up late if we decided to stay up until 2 a.m.!

After dinner, we headed back up to the Shaffer’s headquarters. It had been raining, so everything was wet and dripping. Feeling goofy, I snuck into the creek house, motioning to Anne-Marie to be quiet. I crept up on the munchies as they ran spastically around the room. Then I leapt forth, screaming like a banshee.

My 6 year old sister, Helena screamed and exclaimed, “You scared me!”
My 5 year old sister Danni gave an exhilarated yelp and ran into my arms. “You’re back! You’re back!”

The munchies soon had Allie and I deeply involved in a Star Wars/Mission Impossible battle game on the back porch. Suddenly, Helena’s shoe went flying over the railing and into the forest. She gave a cry and began weeping bitterly.
Allie jumped into mission impossible mode! She dramatically swung herself over the railing, dropping herself with Elfish ease to the ground just below the porch. She quickly retrieved the shoe, handed it to the sobbing munchie, and swung herself back onto the porch.

Sometime after that we headed back inside for…a birthday party. Yes, we were 11 days late, but I didn’t care at that point. I was in Sedona, sitting at a table with my birthfamily and Allie, with a carrot cake sitting in front of me. We had no candles, nor did I need to blow them out. Not only would blowing out the candles not grant my wish in the first place, but I no longer had any need to blow them out. My wish had already been granted by someone much more powerful than seventeen pieces of decorative wax sticking out of my carrot cake. I believe that only God could’ve pulled this whole thing together, because it seemed impossible from an earthly perspective (as stated earlier). But He pulled everything together in a way none of us, leastways me, myself and I could’ve expected. (Believe me, the birthday party part was only the slow beginning to the most exciting trip to Sedona I have ever had. Please keep reading).

Next Installment: The Adventure

17: The Birthday of My Dreams – Part One: The Meeting

Anne-Marie’s Notes: I am so very excited to have my daughter, Lindsey, graciously writing some guest posts for my blog about our 2009 AZ Trip. Of course, no arm twisting was needed for the talented author to compile the tale.

If you have not already, you might want to read the Adoption Story to get a better understanding of our relationship.

Part One is broken down into 4 segments: Preface, The Meeting, The Long Expected Party, & The Adventure.

The Trip – Day #1; The Meeting

I could hardly believe it when I found myself standing on Allie’s doorstep, helping her carry her luggage down the driveway to the car (okay, okay, so maybe I wasn’t carrying her luggage – Dad was carrying her suitcase, I was just walking with her).

Anyway, we’d arranged to meet Anne-Marie and the kids, who had flown into Phoenix (DH wasn’t coming). After a seemingly lengthy conversation via cell phones, we finally decided to meet at a random gas station. We arrived first, and Dad proceeded to fill up the car. Allie and I decided it was a great time for us to use the WC (the European abbreviation for restroom) for the following reasons:

a) We still had about an hour or so more driving before we reached Sedona.
b) So we could get it out of the way before Anne-Marie and kids got there.

Our excellent plan failed utterly, for at that moment, a silver Toyota Highlander pulled into the gas station parking lot, the window rolled down, and Anne-Marie waved to us. We smiled and waved back, and proceeded on toward our point of destination, only to find the door locked.

So, we headed inside to the cashier for the key. What she handed us was a huge orange monstrosity with a seemingly puny key connected to it.

Having successfully gained access to our point of destination, we headed back to the WC. Anne-Marie and the kids met us at the WC door. In my creative thoughts I’d never imagined such a meeting place – in front of a restaurant would’ve been more suited for this wonderful reunion.

After all of the formalities and many hugs and “Wow, you’ve really grown in the past 3 years!”, we climbed backed into our cars and headed north for Sedona. We caravanned; Dad in the lead and Anne-Marie following us in her rental car.

The hour or so of driving time flew by as Allie and I listened to Adventures in Odyssey and took pictures out the windows. We could hardly wait to see what the next 5 days would hold!

At last we espied the red peaks of Sedona in the distance. I tapped Allie and we removed our headphones long enough for me to tell her “Welcome to Sedona, Arizona.”

We made our traditional stop at New Frontiers, a grocery store in Sedona, for groceries! (We couldn’t get enough food for four people in the car with all of our luggage – we had a hard enough time packing sandwiches for the road! And of course Anne-Marie needed to.)

Something you must know at this point is that I hate any kind of sugar! I hate birthday cake and cupcakes and things like that, and I have proudly not eaten anything along those lines for the past 5 years! I only have one weak exception – carrot cake. Allie had been deprived of ever tasting that carrot flavored heaven. So I couldn’t wait to give her the experience.

As Allie and I strolled down the freezer aisle in our parkas (okay, okay, maybe not parkas), Allie looked longingly at the chocolate ice cream and explained to me that she’d told her Mom she’d be good on this trip and not eat any ice cream or sugar.

I stopped in front of the vanilla ice cream and grabbed a container, much to her shock. Then I explained how her desire to be at my birthday party would come true – complete with carrot cake.

Allie’s face lit up. “I’m sure Mommy will let me make an exception…because it’s your birthday.”

Next Installment: 17: The Birthday of My Dreams – Part One: The Long Expected Party