Tuesday, September 28, 2010

. . . and the Nut House becomes Nuttier

Last night, while cooking dinner, I heard electric crackling in the living room and then saw sparks. My computer began to emit smoke and I was yelling at the kids to get back from it. Thus began an odd and not terribly enjoyable evening. Two utility type trucks were outside. We went running out to talk to them and they told us they were tracking down a household that was sending powerful currents out of the lines and that house was us. All of the lights in the house began to pulsate, going dim and then burning so bright they hurt our eyes and began to pop and go out. It was scary. The guy up on the power pole had gotten mighty zapped when my computer went out and the other guy got zapped when he checked the box out on the deck with all of the electrical lines. He said, you have a serious problem here and it is a dangerous one. Shut down everything except your fridge and don't turn it back on until you get an electrician out here. G'nite.

ACK. It was only 8 pm and already dark and we had flashlights and camp lanterns but that was it. J. suggested we leave the house and go somewhere lighted and comfortable until it got later, so we went to Shari's and hung out for a couple of hours, eating pie to make ourselves feel better. J. was worried because our electronic garage door was open, which meant anyone walking by could help themselves to his tools, etc. So he and the boys went back home and figured out how to manually get it back down.

When we got to Shari's. I encouraged him to call the electric company (the utility trucks from before were from the cable company). He did and they sent someone out to investigate. Another truck came back at midnight and three guys worked until 3 am to trim some branches and cut some wires and do other stuff I can't begin to understand. This morning, everything was working again except my downstairs computer. We haven't even been able to turn it on. The electric guy told us to call and talk to their tech people about it and we will.

In the meantime, I am grayer and worried and tired and it really wasn't much fun. I searched, however, and I found those damn silver linings. . .

1. No one was using the computer when it sparked.
2. I don't currently have a looming deadline that this will interfere with.
3. I didn't have anything on that computer that I can't reconstruct.
4. Maybe, now that the electric company came out and made changes, our bills will go down and the house will be safer.
5. We were supposed to be gone all evening and chose to stay home. If we had left, the boys would have been home alone when this happened and that would have been frightening for all.
6. The whole incident did NOT start a fire.
7. This did not happen while we were on vacation.
8. I got a piece of pie for dinner. :)

Stay tuned and if you don't hear anything for a bit, it is because we are trying to reconnect the internet and resurrect my computer. Send good thoughts people.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Orr House Becomes a Nut House

This morning, we were awakened to the rather unusual statement from our son that he had a squirrel in his closet.
Now, if you know us, our first reaction was to laugh and make a rude joke. Our second was to reassure him that he was dreaming. Our third was to investigate. And guess what?
He had a squirrel in his closet.
Welcome to Monday, post-vacation Orr clan.
So, we closed the bedroom door, took out the clothes in the closet and there was indeed a terrified, quivering squirrel in there. (How it got in the house is a mystery to us all . . . but I am glad it didn't get out and wreak havoc in the son's bedroom!) With all of us standing around watching, my brave hubby approached the problem.
Okay, not quite true. First I had to call my friend Susan. She is the one the entire family says to call whenever there is a question, problem or issue going on. Apparently we believe her to be one of the smartest, most capable persons on the planet. No pressure, friend. :) She suggested a trail of nuts . . . or something clever about nuts at least.
So, not having any nuts that were unattachable in the house (snicker), we went with Plan B. Joseph put a plastic wastebasket over the little fella, slid a book underneath it and voila, out the door he went. We planned to capture the special moment with the camera, but with three of them in the house, ALL were dead thanks to vacation. So instead we just promised to commit the moment to memory.
Joseph lifted the wastebasket and the little guy took a nanosecond to freeze (why are all of these people looking at me?????) and then executed a jump that I would think would qualify him for the Animal Olympics. Off he went into the trees. I hope that by now, he is calm, his heartbeat and breathing have slowed down and he is ready to reflect on his poor decision to enter a human's territory. Most likely, however, he is back to thinking about his nuts. Typical guy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Yes, we have returneth-ed. :) What can I say? I haven't written anything professional for two weeks. Instead letters, postcards and journal entries have been it. Deeeee-licious.

So, here is the abbreviated report on our trip. Comment away!

We travelled 2,200 miles down the coast of Oregon and California, changing our minds on our next day's route on a regular basis. We went as far south as San Francisco and then came back up through central California and into Portland. We stayed at KOA Campgrounds every night except one in which we were at a county park. We learned how to pitch two tents, including pumping up all three mattresses, plumping pillows and spreading out sleeping bags and blankets, in less than 30 minutes--even in the dark. It took coordinated teamwork on everyone's part but by the end of the vacation, we had it down to a fine science.

It is impossible to relate everything that happened over the days, so here are the highlights:

We were serenaded by so many different things as we went to sleep each night, which for me was a gift since I usually hear nothing but a high pitched emergency signal in my head. Over the course of two weeks, we fell asleep to the sounds of chirping crickets and cicadas, hooting owls, croaking bullfrogs, howling coyotes, whistling trains, roaring highway traffic, rolling surf, babbling brook, pouring rain, dropping pine needles, blowing wind, strumming guitars and murmuring voices.

We saw amazing scenery including miles and miles of brown velvet rolling hills, endless rows of grape vines, millions of soaring pine trees lined up on mountain sides and ocean views that left us gasping. The huge white eaves crashing into black craggy rocks never got old. We went through tiny tourist towns and complex hectic cities. We were humbled by the ancient redwoods. We toured a lighthouse and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge during heavy fog, making it feel as if it (and us) were suspended in the middle of a giant cloud as we could not see the water below, or the bridge ahead or behind.

We stayed in tiny campsites and huge ones. One was next to a field full of donkeys who made the same noise as our air pump. Another was next to a farm and we were wakened by the sound of a crowing rooster--who does not stop with the dawn--and the mooing of cows. One site was in the middle of a cedar and pine forest where we were sheltered under a leafy, green canopy that soared almost 100 feet into the sky. In one place we walked on pine needles and the next in sand. One gravel, the next grass. What made one place better than another? Price? No. Services? Nope. Pool? Nah. How close it was to the bathrooms? You bet. I truly do not care to see the inside of an outhouse ever, ever, ever again.

We were reminded that tourist sites are fun but can cost a fortune for a family of five so we chose carefully. No to the Mystery Trees and the Sea Lion Caves; yes to lighthouse tour and Confusion Hill. We found a number of Goodwills (much to the boys' total despair) and scored a few treasures, including about $400 worth of greeting cards we love to send for a mere $9. At another, I found two Thanksgiving candles like ones I had when I was about 6 years old. For 98 cents I bought them because they woke the little girl underneath all of these years and gray hair. We stopped at countless gift shops and I am sure that Nicole and I increased postcard stocks because we sent out more than 50 of them. We somehow managed to come home with MORE stationery than we left. (oops)

We found that food cooked and eaten outside always tastes better. We found out that it is difficult to take a shower in under four minutes but eight is more than enough. We found out that soap works as shampoo when Mom packs two bottles of conditioner by accident. We found out that, between all of us, we can read 26 books in 12 days. We found that a 34 pound dog on an air mattress with two adults somehow takes up far more than one-third of the room. We found out that reading out loud is still fun and that no one writes a better metaphor than Ray Bradbury.

We found that changing the route on whim is fun and misreading the map entirely can result in fun detours. We found that KOAs charge hugely varying prices for the same exact tent site--we paid a low of $29 and a high of $67 for the same darn thing. We found that nothing is quite as beautiful as a full moon with brown/red aura around it shining through pine tree boughs above our softly lit tent below.

We stopped at a nursery that specialized in carnivorous plants, i.e. sundews, venus flytraps, etc. They are amazing plants in all colors, sizes and styles. We took dozens of pics of us being eaten by the oversized styrofoam plant inside the store, as well as the huge 10 foot metal plant in the field out front. We made a campfire one night, thanks to Nicole's outdoor skills, and sat around it for hours talking, laughing, telling stories of our part and watching the kids poke, poke, poke at the fire as they wished we had packed ingredients for s'mores. We found out that Nicole can sneeze so loud it echoes throughout the campground and woke people from a sound sleep wondering if there had been an earthquake.

We encountered temperatures from 90 to 32. We had bright blue skies and pouring rain (which is lovely from inside a tent if you can quit worrying about leaks). We hit elevations of 5000 feet and rode on some of the curviest, craziest highways full of hairpin curves. We ate in restaurants that had amazing service--and appalling. We ate fast food, food from the cooler, food made on the camp cook stove, food from gas stations and food bought from fruit stands on the side of the road and blackberry bushes. My personal favorite was the medium rare prime rib eaten with plastic utensils standing around the trailer in some small coastal city.

We laughed-a lot. We told stories. We sang stupid songs. We read. We talked. We took walks. We connected as a family and when I walked back in the front door when we got home, I knew I had achieved everything I had hoped for on the trip. I had spent time with people I love more than anything on earth. I didn't work for 12 days. I saw amazing beauty. I relaxed. Most of all, I fell in love with my family all over again. I appreciated anew their humor and wit, their patience and kindness, their skills and qualities, their individualism and their love. It was exactly what all of us needed.

A wonderful, memorable, special time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It is 10 a.m. as I write this update.
We FINALLY left about 8 . . . . stopped for gas. Found out a tire on the trailer was put on backwards so stopped and switched it.
Got a quick bite to eat.
Then stopped at a Starbuck's for coffee before hitting the highway.
At which point, the engine began to squeal. It smelled hot. It shut down.
So, we called a tow truck (thank goodness for AAA). We are all back home now while the van is taken to the nearby mechanic. Now begins the wait on what is wrong with it, how much it will cost and how long it will take to fix it. I really, really, really want it to be later today but don't have a lot of hope for it.
So, we are back home and the kids are falling asleep and I am trying to decide what to do to make it still feel like a fun day because you know what? So far, it sure hasn't.
Stay tuned.

TRYING to leave . . . . .

It is 6:30 a.m. We had planned on being the road about 90 minutes ago. We got up at 4:15 in order to do so. But . . . we're still here. Did you know it takes a LOT of stuff for five people to go camping for 2 weeks? By the time you put in tents, coolers, stove, lanterns, tarps, mattresses, bedding, clothes, dishes . . . . it takes up a LOT of space. We filled the trailer up to the brim, shocking and disappointing my husband no end who pictured it holding everything and having room to spare. That segued into putting the luggage carrier on top of the van . . . an arduous and time consuming project. Now we are repacking and Nicole and I are trying hard to keep the mood light and happy but it ain't easy, folks.
So, two hours later, we're still here. The sun is coming up. Nerves are a tad frayed. But I keep reassuring myself that this just means we will appreciate the relaxation of vacation even more, right?
Remember the two things I had hoped would not happen when Joseph and I snuck away for the weekend a few posts ago? I am fervently hoping they do not happen on this trip either. Cross your fingers for me.
I hope to check email from the road and if possible, I will post from there as well. If not, then I will catch you all up when we get back around the 24th or so.
Of course . . . . . first we have to LEAVE.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

See ya Soon!

As I sit here at my computer NOT working (wahoo!), I am counting the hours until vacation starts. Actually, for me, it started late last night when I finished my last assignment due before I left. Today I have "loafed about" doing things like paying bills, packing, running to the bank, stopping by to refill meds, packing . . . . getting ready.
Did I get all of the assignments done? Yes and no.
The writing prompts? Yes
The passages? Yes
The items? Yes
The book . . . . I checked and had way more time before it was due than I realized and I took the easy option and bumped the assignment until I come back. By then I will be refreshed and ready to hunker down and work. Right now I am just weary. I had an editor contact me over the weekend to let me know that they were "disappointed" in my literary analysis (this after spending HOURS and HOURS and HOURS trying to write it correctly and in an interesting way) and a reader of my Home Education Magazine column write in to let me know she was offended by a humorous comment I made. Sigh. At this point, never writing again sounds pretty good. I know that will all change by the time I get back, but gee. Ouch.
Today Joseph asked me what I wanted out of this vacation--what was my goal. I rambled a bit but in the end, the answer was (1) time together as a family, (2) making memories, (3) seeing new places and (4) not working. Where we go is actually almost irrelevant to me. I just want to GO. I want to sleep in the tent, read by lantern light, sing in the car, laugh at my kids . . oops, I mean WITH my kids . . and I don't really care where I am as long as it is not sitting in front of my computer working. Make sense?
I will be back around the 25th and with a full report. . .. yes Coryn, with the MORNING report.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodwills RULE

When I was growing up, I was taught that Goodwills were for those less fortunate people who couldn't shop at "real" stores. I felt sorry for them.


What a hoot that is.

Today, 90 percent of my shopping is done at Goodwill. I have found deals that have kept me smiling for days--even weeks. Today was the perfect example. As we prepare to go on our trip, we have longed for a bigger tent. Joseph and I wanted one that was roomy enough to STAND UP in to get dressed without standing on the mattress. I wanted to be able to be in it for something other than sleeping. Today, we found a GREAT tent . . . 16 X 7, sleeps 7, has built in lights, windows, door handles, even a PET door. . . . orignally $180 . . . . got it for $30. Can you see me smiling from there? (pic above)
Also, I have been wanting an old-fashioned hardsided suitcase, a small one, to carry my books and papers, pens, stamps, etc. I wanted it to have CHARACTER, ya know. I wanted to look at it and wonder where it traveled and with whom. Same Goodwill trip . . I found a Samsonite suitcase from the 1950s that was a little large but otherwise perfect. . . then I opened it up to check the inside and there was ANOTHER one in there that was exactly the size I wanted. I brought them home and spent an hour covering them in stickers about children, family, road trips, etc. They look wonderful and so ME. You'd know a lot about me by reading the stickers on it. I just love it. Together they were only $20. Heehee.

So if you are like the old me and think Goodwills are for the unfortunate, throw that attitude out the window and give one a try. You just might be shocked at the treasures you will find.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Making It through the Obstacle Course

See the shining light wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy at the end of the tunnel?
That is vacation.
Two weeks of being on the road, exploring the state, camping out, sleeping outside, hanging with my hubby and kids--in other words, heaven. We weren't sure we would be able to afford it this year but we are making some sacrifices here and there and staying within the state and it's gonna work out! Wahoo.
But that shining light is just a pinprick right now. It's a tease. It's taunting me. Because in between it and me are:
80 essay prompts
an 8000 word book on Afghanistan
52 multiple choice items
5 passages

And until I am able to get THOSE all done, I can't go on that vacation. And you know what? It's hard to keep on task. It's hard to concentrate. It's hard to sit here and work when I want to make packing lists and pick out books and select clothes to take. It is Friday afternoon of a long holiday weekend and I won't spend it at a picnic or BBQ. I won't be out on the deck reading. I will be doing all of those assigments above.

And when Tuesday dawns early, I hope I will have them all done. If I don't, I make the family wait while I finish (no pressure, Tami). Sigh. So wish me fast fingers and a faster brain. Wish me strong eyes, a silent hip and copious amounts of coffee. Because I can guarantee that the minute I get in the van and we hit the highway, work is going to be the LAST thing on my mind--what I have left that is after writing 80 essay prompts, an 8000 word book, 52 items and 5 passages.