Zero to 60

I swear this month has something new packed into it every time I turn around. I realized today it’s been like 10 days since I even thought about writing a blog post. Ooops! Clearly, it’s busy…and since family is involved…it’s a bit dramatic too.

My grandmother fell at home and broke her pelvis, so she’s been in the hospital and is now in the rehab center. This fall also prompted a call to the Department¬†of Family Services regarding potential elderly abuse. Yes, I made the call…against my aunt and her “friend”. They live with my grandparents supposedly to take care of them; however, we are all finding out that isn’t exactly happening. Now we will wait for the results of the investigation. I’ve definitely seen more of my grandparents in the past 2 weeks than I have in the past year, so it’s not all bad. But it does mean I’m busier than I expected.

Last weekend I took two of my older children to Disney’s Night of Joy. It was a mixed bag in terms of the experience. Friday was great! The concert (Mercy Me) was excellent! I had 4 teenage girls in my group and we ended up about 4-5 rows from the front of the stage. It was also the first live concert my daughter and one other girl had ever attended. We stayed at the Fort Wilderness Campground in their cabins. I had a total of 6 in our cabin including me. The best part was that all 5 teenage girls got along well and even made new friends. We got back to the cabin around 2AM on Saturday and after getting the giggles, fell asleep around 3:30AM. After one of our girls decided to go swimming with another group around 8:30AM, we all slept until around 10. I took my little group exploring on our golf cart (from the resort), and we went to the Trading Post, saw the pools, and did a short nature hike. After a group lunch, we headed out for Night 2…in the rain. It started out a simple light rain. We got about a 2 hour break, and then the skies absolutely opened up and drenched us. The lightning was popping like crazy and actually hit pretty close to FantasyLand. The concert we were supposed to see was delayed, so we ended up missing it. We still got to ride a bunch of rides and hang out together though. We again got back around 2AM and everyone basically went straight to sleep. At 9:00 we were up and going to our devotional. At 10:15, we were frantically packing up, checking cabins, returning golf carts (which I again had to run in the rain), and jump starting one of our church vans (battery/alternator issues). We finally got back to our church¬†around 1:00PM. I then had to go pick up my two youngest and head home to watch football!

I did miss the first quarter, but the important thing is that the Bills WON! And…my fantasy football team is kicking butt…so far. LOL! It’s looking like it will be one heck of a season for my team, and I’m just praying the team stays healthy. It’s always nice to say we are undefeated. Right now, only half of the NFL can say that. YAY!

bills2

Hello September

Things are back in full swing around here with all of the kids back to school. We have finished the first week with success, and it is onward and upward!

This month isn’t usually as busy as other months, but there is definitely plenty going on. We have Night of Joy coming up in a couple of weeks, which is a fantastic event at Walt Disney World. This will be the second year in a row that I have attended, and it will be the first year my daughter has gone with me. Last year my husband got to also attend, but of course, this year he can’t take off for it. I will try to take lots of pictures for him though.

Shortly after that, we have a motorcycle ride across two states to benefit a fallen law enforcement officer. This will be the longest ride we’ve taken so far on our bike, and both my husband and I are very much looking forward to it. I LOVE supporting our law enforcement, and any time I can combine that with our love of riding, it is a win win situation.

Another highlight is that football season FINALLY starts!!!!! It feels like it has been the longest offseason EVER! I’m looking forward to kicking butt in my fantasy football league, cheering on my team (Go Bills!), and eating lots of wings!

Another lesson learned

I consider myself to be a pretty adventurous person. I have my motorcycle endorsement and LOVE to ride, I scuba dive, I love going to the range and in fact just got an early birthday present (my own AR-15), I will be the first person in line for the biggest roller coasters, I love trying new activities, and I mean I’m a mom of 5. That equals adventure. That being said, I found something I will absolutely not do again: attempt to fly to a conference, attend said conference, and fly home on the same day. Nope. Not happening. Let me break this down for you:

I found out a couple of weeks ago that I won an award. The letter in this package said the award would be presented at the conference in St. Louis. Also in the package was a certificate (this will be important later). I emailed by boss and asked if she thought there was any way I could attend this conference on relatively short notice, and she encouraged me to gather details and submit the proposal. So I did. Within 24 hours, the district had approved my travel, my administration paid for my plane ticket and conference registration, and I was all set. This past Sunday I woke up at 4AM and my husband was able to drop me off at the airport at 4:45. My flight took off at 5:30 (small airport so security took all of 5 minutes), and we even landed early in Atlanta. Awesome. I had about an hour before my connection took off, so just enough time to recharge my iPad so that I could finish the novel I started. I had a window seat for both of these flights, and everything was great. I landed in St. Louis, found my shuttle, and made it to the conference by 9:40AM CST. After checking in and receiving my credentials for the conference, I promptly headed to the exhibit hall. I stayed there for about 2 hours collecting free stuff (mostly books) and trying to find something worthwhile to bring home. My biggest prize was an Army Alphabet Book signed by the author!

army alphabet

Around noon, after attempting to go to 2 sessions (1 was too full and the other was cancelled…there were about 50 sessions cancelled), I found a quiet corner and ate my $10.00 chef salad and finished that first novel. I started my second novel and waited for my 3:00 award ceremony. Finally 3:00 rolls around, and I go to the reception/ceremony. They have cupcakes and 2% milk…ummm ok. There might have been 25 people in the room. What is happening here? They were playing a slide show four about 10 minutes before the ceremony started (ok maybe 20 minutes), and I saw my name and picture flashed up there with the award I received. Awesome. The award table looked pretty empty, but then I remembered from a conference last summer that everyone got to hold the crystal trophy for the picture and then your real one was mailed to you, so I didn’t think anything of it. The ceremony took about an hour. No trophy for me. No announcement of my name. No handshake. Not even a “stand up and be recognized”. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. WTF?! I approach the organizer of the event afterward to make sure I hadn’t missed something. I introduced myself and told her the award I received, and she said, “Oh yes you should have received your certificate in the mail”. Um yeah…that certificate I got…that was it. Oh. Ok. I flew across the country for a certificate I already had at home. Great. You know, you could have said that in the letter!!!!!!

Anywho…I walk out of the conference to get my shuttle back to the airport. I get an alert on my phone that my flight was been delayed. It was supposed to take off at 6:30 but is now leaving at 7:40. Shit. I have a connection to home in Atlanta that is supposed to take off at 10:18pm. This delay means my plane won’t even land from St. Louis until 10:19pm. Shit. I call Delta (I won’t fly with them again for a LONG time!), and they check other airports in my area…nothing. Other airlines…nothing. The earliest I would be able to land about 2 hours from home would be around midnight….oh wait….nope that seat is taken too. Great. I get to the airport and talk to the agent at our gate. She says we are now scheduled to land at 10:07pm and could possible make up time in the air, so I might still be able to make the connection. YESSSS!!! She puts me in the aisle of row 4, and I am ready to make a beeline for the connection. And then…yep you guessed it…we got delayed taking off…by 20 minutes. We landed promptly at 10:17 and I did not make the connection. Shit.

I head over to the customer service desk and ask for a hotel voucher. The first try they gave me one that said I would pay $74/night. Um no I am not paying for a room thanks to your airline’s screw up. Oh it was coded wrong…great fix it. Take two and I end up with a room at the DoubleTree. I get to my room around 11pm. After calling my husband and getting him caught up on the events and letting him know I would now land at 10:45ish Monday morning, I try to go to sleep near midnight. Except…my room is right next to the elevators that run all night long and a train outside my window that apparently also runs all night long. I drift in and out and by 6AM, I’m done. I get up and decide to grab the next shuttle to the airport figuring I’d rather wait there for a few hours than keep fighting sleep at the hotel. Oh I should mention the TV’s were on the fritz thanks to some sort of power outage. Ok…on to the airport.

Immediately upon arrival to the Atlanta airport, I know there’s a problem. There are 6 double lines winding through the entire airport all the way to the front door. I’m not even kidding. Security people are everywhere trying to keep the lines moving and security dogs are checking everyone. It took an hour and half to get to the actual security gate. I really do feel for the people that work these gates, because they must have repeated themselves a million times and people still didn’t listen or asked a question that had already been answered had they actually listened. My plane boarded at 8:40, and I finally got to my gate at 8:15. I’m pretty sure if I had slept until my original intention of 7AM, I would have missed that flight as well. I FINALLY got home around 11AM, and I have never seen a happier sight than that of my husband waiting to pick me up. It felt like I had been gone for weeks. We ended up napping on the couch and going to bed early.

The lessons in all of this:

1. Do not fly Delta and expect to make all connections (this is the second time in a row I have missed a connection with them…fool me once…)

2. Do not attend said conference again…seemed a huge waste for me at least (they usually have about 20-25 thousand attendees, and I heard someone say they only had about 5 thousand this year…hence the cancelled sessions). If I win another award from them, they can just mail it to me…oh wait, they did.

3. Find out the exact details of any award being given BEFORE booking travel arrangments. My first award conference was a BIG deal with a crystal trophy, and this one was just the certificate in the mail.

4. You will find the frequent travelers have the BEST attitude when stuff like this happens, and they made the delays and frustrations bearable…and even funny for some of it.

Lessons learned.

Such a great trip! (pic heavy)

And…I’m back! We had a really good vacation, and it was super hard to get back to work today.

We started on Tuesday, Feb 21st. My husband had the van all loaded and everyone ready to go by the time I got home from work. We headed out and quickly got everyone settled into a movie, a book, or an app. We drove to San Antonio, Texas, and arrived in the early morning. We went to Denny’s and had the first and last sit-down-at-a-restaurant breakfast (Holy frijoles that was expensive!). Then we walked over to see the Alamo. It was the first day of a some kind of a festival, so there were bleachers set up and decorations. It was cool.

image1 (2)

We left San Antonio before noon and headed to Phoenix. Once again, we drove straight through and got to Phoenix around 7pm. We stayed at an Embassy Suites, which was great because we took the bedroom and the boys had the living room with a pull-out couch. We went to the pool that night and had a good time. The next day, we spent a few hours back at the pool, went to my university’s bookstore to get a diploma frame and some other stuff, found the graduation site and picked up my tickets for the next day, and waited for my parents and daughter to arrive. We had pizza at the pool and hung out together and then went to bed fairly early.

The next day was Friday: Graduation Day!!! After the free hotel breakfast (which was amazing!!), I went with my daughter and parents to the arena. My husband got everything all repacked into the van (wow did I just oversimplify that crazy process!!), and brought the boys over. I went up and got my regalia issued and was able to see my family for a few minutes before I reported to my seat.

image2 (2)

 

image16

It was a really nice ceremony. Luckily I went pretty early on in the process, so I didn’t have to sit and freak out for long. Afterwards, we went outside and took lots of pictures before I had to turn in my regalia.

image8

My parents headed home, and we were off to our next stop: Colorado Springs. We arrived around 3AM, and after a frustrating search for a hotel room, we finally crashed at a Day’s Inn near Pikes Peak. After another free hotel breakfast, we headed out to Garden of the Gods. I LOVE this place!!!

image3 (2)

image4 (2)

We then took the Cog Train up to Pikes Peak, and my kids got to see snow for the first time. That was pretty awesome, but my youngest was definitely not very impressed.

image5 (2)

My sister-in-law brought her three kids over to swim at the hotel that night, and we were pretty beat by the time we called it a day. The next day it rained all day. We met up with a university colleague for lunch and hung out with her and her husband for about 3 hours. Then we went to my sister-in-law’s house and hung out with them until about 5:00 when we went out for pizza. The next morning, we got up and made the drive through Wyoming…so pretty even with the darkness of clouds and rain.

image6 (2)

We arrived in South Dakota around 3pm and checked in to the Holiday Inn in Keystone. It is a GREAT hotel! The room was spacious and had 2 queen beds and a pull-out couch. The kids went to the pool a couple of times, and the breakfast had really good cinnamon rolls! We went out to dinner with some friends and their little guy that night to a restaurant that only serves either 6 oz or a 9 oz bacon wrapped filet mignon. It was pretty good too. The next morning we got up and headed out to Mount Rushmore.

image7 (2)

This mountain goat literally came right up to my youngest. He was like, “Do I pet it”? The younger goats didn’t have an interest in him at all. We hiked the Presidential Trail to the point where it was closed for updating.

image8 (2)

My two youngest did the Junior Ranger program and got “sworn in” and received a badge. That was pretty cool.

image9

After leaving there, we went to Custer State Park. We drove the Wildlife Loop and saw all sorts of animals.

image11

image12

We then went and drove through the Iron Mountain Road and the Needle Road which had lots of tunnels like this:

image14

And just because I couldn’t help myself, I noticed that even South Dakota has a dirty mind:

image15

 

After lots of hiking on rocks:

image10

We headed back to the hotel. The next morning we got up early and headed out for St. Louis. We got there pretty late that night and found a hotel. This was the cheapest hotel since we were only going to be there for a few hours, and the breakfast wasn’t anything to write home about either. We went to the Gateway Arch the next morning for our last stop:

image19

image18

image17

After leaving St. Louis, we headed home. That was a LONG portion of the trip. We ran into some intense traffic, rain, construction, and quite frankly, we were all pretty much done with being in the van at that point. Everyone was getting cranky, my stepson was hacking up a lung (and got everyone sick of course), and we all just wanted to be home in our own beds. We got home around 3 AM on Friday. When we got up on Friday, I mowed the yard (man was our yard embarrasing!), and we sorted through all the mail and started laundry. Saturday morning, my husband and I got up and went on a memorial ride for a slain police officer in our area. It was a BEAUTIFUL ride! We spent the rest of Saturday doing laundry, cleaning, and putting crap away. Sunday we went to church (oh how I missed it!!), finished up laundry (yes there really was that much laundry), and relaxed. Today, everyone is back to work and school.

It was a really good trip, and I’m glad we were able to make those memories with our children.

image20