Hello friends and family! We are officially done with survival mode and back online. Two and a half weeks ago now, we arrived in Bethlehem, PA, and are almost all the way unpacked. The two months in between my last post and now are already mostly a blur in my memory, so I won't be recapping word for word. Looking back, we would have done things *much* differently. By the time we arrived here at the end of the two month-long fiasco, we were all pretty much blobs of grumpy mush. Not that we didn't have some fabulous times in the middle of it all. We got to see many of our most favorite people and do some of our favorite western things before being sequestered, vacationless for many months to come, far away in the east.
Jer calls what follows our "tripola." Heavens it was long. Our first stop after leaving Tempe was Vegas again. Yay Jer's family! It especially fun to see everyone after having lived there so recently. Scott ADORES his cousins there, and keeps telling me "when I'm big to a daddy, I'm gonna live to Las Vegas!" We swam and ate and ate and shopped and ate. We dearly miss Henderson shopping and restaurants! And our family, of course. One of our family + Henry and Jenn outings was riding "The Deuce," the double-decker buses in Vegas, all the way down to Cafe Rio (woohoo!):
Here are Tyler and the boys taking a break from planting the scarp at Grandma and Grandpa's:
And here are the 3 amigos:
James pulled up in his playpen for the first time in Vegas. He's made great strides since then -- literally! He's cruising everywhere and is walking holding only one hand. We think he'll walk soon. He was obviously pretty shocked at his accomplishment:
Next stop: GRADUATION! Jeremy is officially Doctor Jeremy. We got to see many (sadly not all!) of our favorite people in Des Moines in the short time we were there. Diana and I crashed an enrichment activity, and walking into that room felt like walking into a family reunion. I loved seeing everyone there. Graduation itself was actually very pleasant as graduations go: I loved the keynote speaker's address. In a few words, he said, "Ye shall inherit the earth. Now what are you going to do with it?" And the rest went pretty quickly. Despite being half a mile away, I nearly burst when the called Jer's name to receive his diploma. So many years! So much work! SO much money! It was very satisfying to realize it was really and truly all done. Here's the moment on the big screen:
Scotty even did well during the ceremonies. He "wooooo"ed for everyone but Jer (I think he was confused by them calling his dad's name) and got really, really excited when the guy called a Mario. Everyone around us for a few hundred feet knew that "my dad has that game!!!" Both sets of grandparents were there, which was *so* fun, and we ate a fabulous meal at Woody's on 25th and Cottage. Good thing we didn't know it was there (if it was at all) when we lived there: we would have been even more broke and chubbier than we already were when we left. yum. Jer even got to play a farewell few numbers at Sam and Gabe's where he had his weekend gig with Stu, the 81 year-old still-hip pianist.
The doctor and his wife:
All the Tiltons:And grandma and grandpa Hawkes:
A tassel tussle:
Victor #2: (too bad we didn't have some of these to play with *during* the ceremony!)
I thought these pics were hilarious. I promise they weren't staged. I think they demonstrate perfectly how we all felt: sleep-deprived, scared of the weeks of travel still ahead, and giddy. Serious Scott:
Dazed boys:Showing some love for the graduate:
And here Scott is officially done:
On return to Vegas, we made a quick trip to LA to bid farewell to the Pacific Ocean. It was cold, but so fun. I was reminded how addictive shelling can be, Scott and Jer played dodge-the-waves, and James enjoyed eating sand.
Note to anyone who might be tempted to get a four star hotel on priceline though: don't do it! It was cheap, but it was the first time in my life (I know, poor me) I've felt discriminated against. It was strange. Everyone kind of winced at the kids and we couldn't even get a queen size bed. The pool was the size of a hot tub and ice cold, the hot tub was smaller and luke warm. I could go on, but I'll spare you. We've since had a WAY better experience at 2 and 1/2 stars. That's what we'll do if we ever get to stay in a hotel again. It was a good food trip though: the Local Yolk at Manhattan Beach and Fresh Brother's Pizza were pretty much unforgettable food experiences.
After Vegas and LA, we stopped in Utah for a very, very short stay. I was sad to miss Matt altogether and only get a hurried evening each with Pete and Tim. So it goes. We did have a lovely visit with Janet though, which is rare since she's always so busy. James learned to squeal for dogs while we were hanging out with Elky. Now even if I can't see a dog, I know one is near by the tone of James' squeal. He LOVES them. Here's cute Caleb Huff and grumpy Scott during one of our very hurried visits:
We were able to spend a whole week after that with Katie and Van in Aurora, CO, which was oh-so-fun!
They are renting a cute little house now with tons of room and big back yard, so we took over the house for a while. We remembered how much we love CO while we were there. It's definitely at the top of my short list for places to settle. Too bad our families didn't get the memo that Colorado is the *place* to be! Katie will be gone by the time -- if we ever -- end up there :( Favorite Aurora pastime: the hammock:
Highlights of the stay: Historic Littleton, tornado sirens for real (not like our Des Moines sirens), Wendy and Richard's, fabulous sushi in Boulder, and last but definitely not least, the naked bikeriders. So strange, but true: we were walking down the pedestrian mall in Boulder, and there they were, at least 50 white, jiggly bodies, scantily clad if at all, on bikes. ??? I'll leave it at that. Here is the G rated version of Boulder:
Next stop (I'm exhasted recalling this!) Des Moines to pack the storage unit into our ABF pods. Everything was going fairly smoothly until Jeremy realized that we could save a mint by dumping a bunch of our bulky things and cramming our lives into one tiny ABF pod. So, with the GENEROUS help of Lynda to haul off and sell some of the big things, we actually fit into one pod and our two cars. The boys did learn to travel with junk at their feet and over their heads and all around them. And Jeremy and I both learned to drive with little if any rear view. I'm so glad that's over...
We stayed a day with my Dad and Ann in Nauvoo, which was a perfect "calm" in the middle of that storm. It was a lovely day! We visited a lot, toured a little, lounged a little, ate yummies, and played. Scotty had been begging for a ride on grandpa's tractor (remembering it from nearly a year ago without any prompting), and that was definitely the highlight of his day.
Jer took the boys out for a spin later, too.
Then that evening we went to the *Fun Zone.* Thanks, dad and Ann, for such a good time!
Next we stayed the night with Scott, Kate, and Sal in Cleveland. So fun! We forgot to take a single picture, but it was so great to see them. And it broke the remaining trip up perfectly, too.
Finally, we dragged ourselves into PA, trying to make it to the townhome office by 5, getting stuck in traffic, then having to deal with small town bank hours and all sorts of craziness. Our pod didn't arrive til Monday, but we survived the trip. The boys were troopers and we came out of it all fairly unscathed. We've spent the time since replacing the furniture we dumped on Lynda in Des Moines and scoring some *sweet* deals on Craigslist. We have also spent many hours and an unmentionable sum of money at IKEA. We have officially purchased furniture! Aside from our mattress, it's the first we've purchased since we've been married. And we now have actual places for people to sit and talk that aren't the floor or that miserable futon. And we have a table that can fit more than 4 plates and a little food. All within our budget. Cha-ching! Fun.
We LOVE Bethlehem. It's every bit as quaint as the name sounds. It's gorgeous and green, and picturesque nearly everywhere you look. The neighborhoods around us are full of perfectly tidy homes and yards, and I long for one more than ever. Some day, some day. We're 10 minutes from Amish country and only an hour from Philly and the Newark/New York metro area. We have a spare bedroom and a 2 bathrooms so you have no excuse not to come see New York now! Come stay with us. Open invitation. Especially during Jeremy's hard-core rotations and/or call. I'll be painfully bored, I'm sure. Jer loves his job so far, but it does look like he'll be busy. I guess I had to come to terms with the doctor thing sometime...
Hopefully soon we'll have some fun stories and pictures of our eastern escapades to share. Thank you thank you everyone that hosted us and helped us out so much during this year. We have loved how many of you we've been able to see and stay with! Fun times. We'll look forward to seeing you all again soon, and especially those of you we missed.