The last several weeks have been a real roller coaster for me. I don’t want to use my blog as a place to air grievances, so this post is an interesting challenge for me. I considered a purely factual account of what has happened and I considered a very abstract poem type post to conceal the zings. Somehow, neither one seemed fair.

So, why am I writing about the F-Word? Mainly, as a way to shock people into reading this. This time, however, to your disappointment the F-Word is actually FAMILY. Families are crazy and confusing and complicated and awkward and abashed and awesome. The most paradoxical experiences and feelings I have are all family related.

Rather than bore you with a travel log, let me bore you with a list:

  • Sometimes family is the only friend I’ve got; sometimes friends are the only family I’ve got.
  • I love my family (this includes all of my families).
  • Everything it must belong somewhere; I know that now; that’s why I’m staying here.
  • When you are down, it isn’t far enough; when you are up, it isn’t high enough.
  • I can’t conceive a Venn Diagram that describes my family (yes, I tried).
  • People die, people move away, people stay close. None are permanent — the difference is timing.
  • Kids are amazing and resilient. Adults are kids, but rigid and fragile.
  • “Do what you are told”; “leave me alone”; and “or else”, all mean the same thing — I’m too scared to say what I really feel.
  • Feelings are precious and precocious — keeping them safe is selfish, but imposing on someone else’s is more like murder than battery — think about the millstone (Matthew 18:6).
  • God has a plan for my family — it is a lot better than mine.
  • I wish I was the influence I could have been
  • I fit in where I shouldn’t and don’t fit in where I should.
  • My kids are the part of me that I understand.
  • Finally, I love you — I’m sorry for not living up to the potential you all believe in.

I can’t think of a book I have finished in the last several months; I know I have, but I waited too long to post.

As for miles:

  • Kalispell, MT — 990 Miles
  • Billings, MT; Bozeman, MT; Afton, WY — 1850 Miles
  • California Trip — 3200 Miles
  • Portland, OR — 900 Miles
  • Kamas, UT; Sandy, UT; Afton, WY — 1095 Miles
  • Total — 21535 Miles

The last leg of our trip was the long drive across the Nevada desert; we weren’t in a hurry….

We hung out in our awesome room as long as we could; the kids took a jetted bath and we relaxed. We ate a great breakfast (best of the trip) at the hotel restaurant. The views from our room were great. The area is pine forests, steep mountains and an amazing lake.

Naaman tried to talk me into playing the slots, but instead we all went to the arcade. Jenicee beat me at the roller ball game. I was the reigning champion until the last game. She needed a 10,000 pointer to win; I lost. It was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed the games, the tickets, and the toys.

Once we got out away from the lake area we went over a mountain and the desert ensued. Reno is a lot bigger than I expected, and it reminded me of Boise (location and scenery). Straight roads from there to Boise….

We stopped in Winnemuca to eat and let the kids unwind a bit. The most exciting thing there was an incredible wind gust that about blew the kids over. Going 55 mph after you cross into southern Oregon is almost unbearable. The road is straight and wide and monotonous and 55 is crazy. Anyway, we made it home around 10pm. It was nice to be home.

So, I can’t get my pictures to upload; I will try again later.

We got up at regular time, hit the road, and were in the mountains by 11:00am. It was a bumper to bumper traffic jam at the Yosemite park entrance. The temperature was nice and the green plants on gray rock with blue rivers and lakes was serene — even in a traffic jam. We putted along with the windows down for 20 minutes, or so — waiting.

Once we got in things broke up a bit and we were able to travel unimpeded. The vistas were incredible — huge cliffs, splaying waterfalls, and thick forests. Half Dome was an amazing view from both sides. When we got to the main Yosemite Village area and it was insane. There were tons of people and a lot of cars driving around looking for parking. We didn’t find any spots so we started looking further away, and fortunately found one about 1.25 miles down the road.

We had some lunch in a little pine grove by the river and goofed around a bit. Naaman and Olivia used the fallen branches to make shapes on the ground; it was fun to listen to them work together on it. Then we started our trek to the lower falls. Naaman rode in a stroller, not designed for off road, and Olivia walked the whole way. Based on the map scale, I estimate we walked 4 miles roundtrip.

The falls were incredible. We could feel the moisture in the air as we got closer, then we could hear the rumble, and then we came out of the trees to an incredible scene. The cliffs are so gigantic and we are so puny. We snapped a few pics, enjoyed the moist cool air and then hit the road again. Besides the people and the mosquitos — Yosemite is up there with the Redwoods for me. Stunning.

We drove out the west side of the park just to go sight-seeing. The roads were winding and the mountains were steep. The area was beautiful. We stopped for dinner in a small town and got right back on the road. There were a lot of deer along the road; fortunately they stayed there.

Our plan was to check in to our hotel at Lake Tahoe, sleep a bit, and then try to travel while the kids were sleeping. When we arrived at Harrah’s (barely on the NV side of the state line) that plan changed. They gave us a free upgrade to a suite. When we got to the room it was awesome — two bathrooms, a huge jetted tub, a separate tv room, and even a walk in closet. We decided to just sleep, play here tomorrow, and drive home with the kids awake.

This was pretty much a travel day. We slept in a little bit, due to the long day yesterday. The drive through L.A. was exciting — I love traffic. The scenery back through the mountains was kind of cool, and then to the desert…. We didn’t stop much, just for fuel. The kids watched movies most of the trip.

We arrived in Bishop around 4pm and our room wasn’t ready, so we went to the park. It was white trashy, and it seemed that all of the women there were smoking. We didn’t stay long. This was the worst hotel so far — no pool and no laundry facilities. We holed up in the a/c for a bit and then went to dinner.

We ate at a Japanese restaurant; I was craving some shrimp and fried rice. This too was a bad experience — Jen got the salmon, which “tasted like a TV dinner” and I had Teriyaki beef (no shrimp or fried rice on the menu). I don’t mean to complain, but the food was not good.

Jen and the kids cleaned the car while I tried to stay cool at the hotel. We slept.

20110711-095939.jpgWe all got up early and were ready to go at 7:30am (a miracle for Olivia). Jen’s cousin Gina met us and was our personal tour guide. She was awesome; she knows Disneyland incredibly well. I didn’t get many pictures because my phone battery was low and died quickly, but we saw all of the major attractions. I’ll hit the highlights.

Olivia’s favorites were the princess coronation (a little interactive play with Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella), and the Little Mermaid ride. She loved the whole thing, and walked all day without complaining. Olivia also got Minnie Mouse Ears and a Panda Bear stuffed animal. She did well on the thrill rides, and even went on Splash Mountain with Gina and me.

20110711-095945.jpgNaaman liked Star Tours and Space Mountain the best. He is not scared of going fast, etc. We got to go on Star Tours twice in a row because they had a few empty seats. Naaman was so stoked. I don’t think he knows any of the characters, but it feels like you are going really fast, turning, and stopping quickly. Naaman rode in the stroller or on my shoulders all day.

Jenicee favored the Aladdin play and Pirates of the Caribbean. She was glad Gina took us to the Aladdin show because we wouldn’t have gone otherwise. The actors were good, and the genie was hilarious. There was a bunch of pop culture jokes in the dialogue, which was amusing. Pirates has been updated after each movie and is a classic.

20110711-095950.jpgI’m not sure which Gina’s favorites were (she is much more versed than the rest of us), but I will venture to guess Star Tours was her favorite and the Aladdin play was up there too. She loves the Disney characters, and knows them all. It was nice to have a pro with us because she knew all of the ins and outs. I hope she was amused by my ignorance — I’m always good for a laugh. Thanks a million, Gina.

Oh yeah, I liked the roller coaster at California Adventures and Space Mountain best. See a pattern? Matterhorn was closed, so it wasn’t in contention. Gina was the only one who would go on the roller coaster with me (again, thanks Gina!). I had never been on Space Mountain before and that was awesome. I sat with Olivia and she loved it too, which made it better for me.

We went on Splash Mountain last (Olivia, Gina, and me); I think it was around 10:00pm. We got drenched. That would have been okay, but it screwed up Gina’s electronics. Olivia liked the ride a lot, but she was freezing. My whole right side was wet. It was a good last ride.

In bed around midnight, whew, that was awesome!

20110711-091432.jpgWe stopped at the Carlsbad outlet stores. I think Jen had fun; Naaman and I had a hard time not getting bored. We went to lunch at Ruby’s Diner and the kids got balloon animals and little car toys. They had fun there and the food was actually pretty good.

We drove up Hwy 1 through Laguna Beach and Newport Beach area. There were a ton of people and the beaches and bays were awesome. We didn’t stop because there were so many people and parking seemed impractical most of the places we went to. Anyway, we checked into the Annabella Hotel (right across the street from Disneyland. The parking was bad there too :-).

20110711-091441.jpgWe restocked our cooler at the nearest grocery store and headed to the beach We ended up at Sunset Beach, which was fun but windy. Jen and the kids hung out on the beach and I played in the water. The water went immediately deep and then leveled off and stayed waste deep as far as I dared to walk out. The waves got more powerful as time went on. There were a few that were insane; I loved it. We all said goodbye to the beaches — we’re headed inland.

The rest of the day was spent getting ready for our big Disney day coming up. We tried to get the kids in bed early, but they were so giddy they couldn’t go to sleep.

20110708-103306.jpgToday was nice we didn’t try to rush anything — aside from a few temper tantrums it was pleasant all day. My kids are both very determined and very particular (What were the chances of that? Considering their parents…). Anyway, today marks one week in California, and I’m still partial to Northern though today was quite nice.

We loaded up around 10am and headed toward San Diego (15 miles, or so). Our first stop was the San Diego Temple, which was incredible. Jen and I lamented that we couldn’t attend a session there; it looks amazing. While we were walking the grounds a senior missionary stopped by and showed us photos of the inside and shared some of the architectural elements with us. As we guessed the inside is amazing.

20110708-103317.jpgAfter visiting the temple we went to Sammies Woodfire Pizza. Jen and Naaman were able to get a gluten-free pizza, which made them happy. I had shrimp and pasta (I always do), which was good with the artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The restaurant was in a nice area and there were a lot of presumably wealthy women were having lunch there. Jen didn’t seem to notice, but I was grateful for our family at that moment. Grateful that Jen chooses to stay home and be a mom instead of going to work so she can attain more worldly wealth. I certainly don’t provide a lavish lifestyle, but she doesn’t complain, or go to work.

We spent the rest of the day at the San Diego Zoo. That was a lot of fun. The kids did really well; we walked a lot and they liked the animals. Hippos and Polar Bears were everyone’s favorites, but I also liked the Rhinos and the big cats (lions, jaguars, cheetahs, etc.). The other fun things were the tram, which we went on twice, and the bus tour where we learned about several of the animals.




Today was the official beach day, though it still hasn’t warmed up as much as Jenicee would like. We took a back road to Malibu, which was a fun drive (long tunnel, etc.). Malibu was a smaller community, but definitely more money than the northern beaches we have been going to. Some of the houses were huge.

We stopped at Santa Monica Beach and played there for a while. We goofed with building a sand castle, and hauled a bunch of ocean water up the hill for our mote. A lot of times we ended up with little crab/bug things in the water. Jen inspected them closely; they could swim and would sometimes burrow into the sand. The dry sand was super hot.

I dug a little hole and buried Naaman’s feet. He thought it was cool to break out, so I packed it tight and dumped water in a few times while I was filling the hole. He was stuck. He and Livy laughed so hard it hurt. He did get out, just took him a while.

20110707-091945.jpgAfter an hour, or so, Jen went to West Elm and then we cruised down Hwy 1 for a while. We drove by all of the beaches you hear about — Venice, El Segundo, Redondo, Long Beach…. Finally, Jen talked me into hitting the freeway. We arrived at La Quinta in Carlsbad around 4pm, settled in, and then went to the beach.

This time we actually got wet. Livy and Naaman went out into the waves with me, but they didn’t like when the water splashed them in the face — something about the taste. They played in the sand with toy trucks, digging holes, picking up sea shells, and moving rocks. I spent a lot of time just goofing around in the waves. I thought of a million things I wanted to write about it, but right now I don’t want to write any of them. So, let’s just say I was like a little kid. Jen read and snuggled with Naaman when he got cold.


We took a little walk around the pond behind the hotel before leaving today. The kids enjoyed seeing the geese, ducks, pigeons, and seagulls — I don’t like birds :-). I pushed the kids in swings for a bit and we hit the road again.

We took the 101 South, about 100 miles of it looked like Nampa, ID — should have stuck to the coast like we planned…. I really liked the San Luis Obispo area, as much as anywhere since we left the Redwoods. We stopped at Pismo Beach, played a little and ate lunch at a local seafood place. I didn’t get any pictures because I didn’t want to pack my phone onto the beach….

20110707-084331.jpgOur next stop was Solvang, which was a good tourist trap. The best part was the Ostriches on the way into town. Solvang is a Danish settlement/mini-mall. We got ice creams and chocolates at Ingeborg’s Chocolates. That was fun for the kids, and the ice cream was pretty good. Naaman and Olivia shared a few chocolate covered marshmallows — they were pretty excited about that combo.

20110707-084324.jpgOur destination for the night was the La Quinta in Thousand Oaks. We unloaded the car and went to the grocery store. While I was taking wrong turns to get there we drove into a neighborhood that blew my mind. There were no garages or driveways. Everyone had to park on the street — parallel park. It looked like a busy downtown street totally lined with cars, unbelievable. I hope rent was cheap.


We had a pretty relaxing day, really. We got out of the big city hustle and drove Hwy 1 along the coast. The vistas were amazing, but it was 55-60 degrees with high wind — nobody wanted to stop, even for a picture :-).

20110705-090059.jpgWe stopped at a park in Santa Cruz for lunch and so the kids could play on the toys. They had fun, the weather was great, and it was nice to stretch out a bit. The park was a little creepy — CA park bathrooms are to avoided at all costs (more on that later). We started a new book on CD called “Impossible”. I can’t recall listening to anything else, and it was a fairly short trip.

We were able to check in a little early at the Holiday Inn Express, which is technically in Seaside, CA. We hit the pool and hot tub for some play time, and then Naaman and I went back to the room for a nap. Olivia loves swimming; she jumps in by herself.

20110705-090117.jpgAfter a short nap we went to McDonald’s for the kids. The plan was to go to the beach, but it was extremely windy, so we stayed a little inland. The Dennis the Menace Park we found was probably yesterday’s highlight. There were some cool toys and the kids had a riot. All of my pictures come from the park….

Naaman loved the train, of course. Olivia was an amazing rock climber. On Our way out the kids and I ran the bases on the baseball field, which was fun because Olivia ended up at the fence straight out from first base and Naaman ran straight to the pitcher’s mound. It never occurred to me that they don’t know how to play baseball, at all. Wake up Dad!

20110705-090109.jpgNaaman and I went into the bathroom at the park, and I nearly puked, seriously. The toilet did not flush, presumably, and several people had still used it. The first person I can understand, hey it didn’t flush it wasn’t their fault, but I couldn’t force myself to be the second person to go on that toilet. It still makes me sick thinking about it. I would go in my pants; Naaman did. We went back to the hotel and disinfected….

After plenty of time to recover we took the kids to Baskin Robbins, and we ate at Henry’s BBQ. We shared Chicken Marsala and each had a salad — quite good. The rice wasn’t great, but it gave us a way to get more of the Marsala sauce off the plate, which was excellent. We cruised Cannery Row a bit, and enjoyed the industrial look turned modern.

20110704-102846.jpgToday was less travel, but a lot more people (I prefer the Redwoods, did I mention that?). We had the SF experience though, and I’m glad we did.

So we left the hotel around 10:00am and cruised the city parks along the coast. We didn’t stop at the SF beach because it was 65 degrees (nobody was in the water). We came into the Presidio from the Southeast and looked around a bit. There are a lot of cool houses and architecture, but I can’t understand the lifestyle….

Our next tourist attraction was Lombard Street where the hill is so steep the road winds down the side of it, right in the middle of the city. Jen got sick on the hills, and I have to admit going over the edge on one of the roads was exciting. I couldn’t see anything but blue sky and buildings; the road was there and unbelievably steep. We walked up Lombard to get some pictures, which was good exercise and fun.

20110704-102852.jpgFrom there we drove around Fisherman’s Wharf a bit; it was insanely busy. We wanted to ride the trolley cars over Hyde Street, but we couldn’t figure out how to get on. I thought driving it instead was a good alternative — the kids were not convinced. We checked out the downtown and drove down Market Street. Finally, Olivia convinced me that we should ride the train.

We rode a street car from 14th and Market all of the way back to Pier 39. The kids loved it, and I enjoyed it a lot more than driving. We walked around a bit, taking in the tourist stuff (not my favorite thing to do), but the kids loved it. We ate at the Fog restaurant on Pier 39; the food was awesome. I had a mix platter with Salmon, Halibut, and Shrimp; Jen had a salad w/shrimp; the kids had French fries, a hot dog, and chicken strips.

20110704-104548.jpgTwo great quotes from our fellow travelers: A teenage girls shouts to her friend in angst after finding out the ICEE machine is broken. “You’re kidding!… No ICEEs. :-(“. You may have needed to be there for that one. Next is the local elderly black woman making conversation with a 20 something black kid wearing a Boston Celtics shirt. She was disappointed to find out he was from Riverside, not Boston, “Oh, you’re just a valley boy! I’m San Francisco through and through, I love the Giants and the 49ers.”. Probably not as funny to you as me, but hey these are my memories.

We rode the street car back to our car, and it was loaded 110%. This one was more like a bus, and the other two we rode on were more trolley-like. The first was from Milan, Italy, then Boston, and the last was a 1950s SF street car. Both of the kids sat on my lap and fell asleep; I loved it. It has been great to just be with Jen and the kids.

We finished our book on CD, listened to a bit of Disney, and I got to listen to the Bravery on the way back to the motel.

I’m glad Livy talked us into the street car.



20110703-105458.jpgIt was a foggy morning; I wonder if it is always foggy in the mornings in Eureka….

We got up pretty early considering this is vacation, but I don’t sleep in very well — even on vacation. I think we were on the road by 9:00am, or so. I forgot we needed to get fuel so we weren’t on the road long before we had to stop. We went to a strange little gas station/casino, and Naaman wanted to play the slots.

Rather than taking the 101, we went on the Avenue of the Giants highway. It was amazing with thick forests lining the road, bridges, and small valley vistas. The best part was hiking in the Redwood groves; the ground was covered with clovers. We didn’t find any four leafers. I am still so fascinated and humbled by the Redwoods; I feel so insignificant when I am in the middle of them. Everything is calm and quiet and meaningful.

20110703-105551.jpgWe took a wild ride on Hwy 1 to the coast, and through Ft. Bragg. That was awesome, but the winding roads (20 mph corners, no exaggeration) made Jen and the kids sick. Naaman puked on the way toward the coast and Olivia puked on the way back inland.

Despite the sickness, the landscape was impressive. Out by the coast it was 60 degrees, and windy, inland it was 100 degrees and dry. We drove through thick forests, steep barren hills, rocky coastlines, intense sand dunes, flat grasslands, grape vineyards, and even some desert. The closer we got to San Francisco the nicer the houses were and the more heavy the traffic got.

We listened to Livy’s Disney music (Miley, Selena, Jonas, etc.), watched Spiderman, and started a kids book on CD called “The Wish”.

We stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center, and it was crazy windy there. Almost everyone there was speaking a language other than English, and some I didn’t even recognize (Eastern European, I would guess). The view was fantastic, though I was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the city across the bridge — whoa!

20110703-105620.jpgIn reality, San Francisco was not too bad; I only took one wrong turn. Jen loved the architecture and buildings downtown. The kids were more interested in getting to the hotel than seeing the boats, buildings, etc.

The Radisson on Sierra Point is pretty nice, especially for the price. Our room has a door to the room next to it, and Naaman was geeking with the door. The guy next door opened his side and scared Naaman, it was funny — and I thought it was fairly good natured considering the noisy kids.

Jen got dinner at the hotel restaurant while the rest of us went swimming. The hot tub was not friendly to my sun burnt legs :-). Dinner was good, and going to sleep was great.


So, we started our California coast trip, and I am planning to keep you all posted.

We left Boise around 7:30pm right after the kids got out of gymnastics.

The kids watched Hannah Montana, which got us well into Eastern Oregon. Then I listened to Final Cut, Meddle (Echoes is amazing), Brandon Flowers (with Jen), Owl City’s new album, Death Cab for Cutie’s new album, Muse, and a few songs from Marty Willson-Piper, Coldplay, Jack Frost, and Florence & the Machine.


Jen and I had some great conversation around 1am. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time, and it was quite nice to have nothing else to do, nowhere else to be.

We got to Medford, OR around 4am. We had intended to check it out, rest, and get groceries there, but everyone else was sleeping. I just cruised around the downtown a little and then got back on the road.

Naaman woke up, watched a Spiderman cartoon, and then went on an early morning hike in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods. They were just as amazing as I remembered — peaceful, grand, and inspiring.


We ate in Crescent City, CA at a little breakfast place, it was pretty good. Then we hit a bunch of coastal overlooks, which was fun. The weather is cool, so we are going to wait until further south to get in the water :-). Amazing views, and with the cool temperatures and the Redwoods along the coastal areas, this will probably be my favorite part of the trip.

We went to Sequoia Park in Eureka, again WOW! They have a Redwood reserve as part of the park and we hiked around there a bit. I took a nap (long night) and got sunburned on one side of my legs. It’s not too bad, but smarts a little.

We’re at the Red Lion in Eureka. It is decent, but the Ocean view would be better if there wasn’t a trailer park and diesel repair shop between here and the ocean :-). The staff here wasn’t exactly friendly — sorry, no glowing review for Red Lion Eureka.

Wrote the following while I was in Kalispell (the second time):

Finding hope, finding guidance
It’s not easy, you know
The wires between unto and into are cut
The door without a handle remains closed

It is my doing that undid me
Yesterday it was snowing uphill
Today it isn’t snowing at all
No explanation, no excuse

And I’m standing in the trees alone
Mountains are majestic from the valley
When you are in the thick there is nothing to see
From the top everything seems far away

People love shades of grey
Stark is dangerous, there’s no wiggle
I knew an honest man once
I changed when he met me

So, I keep on pretending that I’m good
It’s a Vegas show in here
It seems I’m good, but not that good
Not good enough

So I walk the content but driven line
Happiness and hopefulness allude me
But I never get a straight answer
No I’m not that good…..yet?

I know what I have to do
Been gone too long
Burned too many bridges
And repairs require intensity

It’s not hard to get on the floor
It’s only that you don’t want to stay there
Perhaps a new cup is required
Conventional ignoring will not satiate

What is keeping the water at bay?
A rusty wire that holds the anger in
There should be hope
After the dam breaks and the flood stops

The reckoning is I can’t force Him — it just happens