We didn’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary…but that doesn’t mean we did nothing extraordinary

We didn’t do anything out-of-the-ordinary…but that doesn’t mean we did nothing extraordinary.
This spring, we:

Celebrated life at 38 years old…

Explored the world…
We watched the Olympics Opening Ceremony and found ALL the represented countries on our map.



Appreciated fine workmanship…

The BYU Museum of Art hosted two wonderful exhibits simultaneously. One was E.C. Escher (famed “Impossible Constructions” artist) and the other was Tiffany stained glass. Nate’s a big fan of the illusions and I’ve always been a big fan of these lamps.
The kids and Rob were studying this display of different glass and I was elsewhere. Nate asked Rob to choose two favorites. A couple of minutes later I came over and Nate asked the same of me. 
Guess what? Out of all these samples, I happened to choose the same two favorites that Rob chose. Match made in heaven, we are!
Were awestruck by nature’s resilience (and OUR OWN!)…

Worked hard and went for it…

Visited the House of the Lord as an eternal family…
Played a prank on mom (who HATES PeeWee!)…

Expanded newly discovered brain cells…
Played at the Happiest Place on Earth in Utah…

Nate doesn’t look quite as happy here as he did on Cannibal.
Snuggled our peeps…


Created joy through craft…

Can you see Nate in his tank (with working gun)?
Every so often we clean out the fridge/freezer and pantry and let the kids “cook” 
with all the throw-away ingredients. They get such a KICK out of this tradition! It started when Nate was a wee lad of 2 and I caught him “cooking” in the kitchen with food he found.
  
Now he’s making stuff like this!
And we basically just keep growing up way too fast!
These are extraordinary days that will be cherished forever.

Not a Sit-Your-Butt-On-The-Beach-And-Don’t-Move-It Kind of Trip

I’ve been trying to decide which topic to write about this time (how vulnerability rather than strength allows us to connect with each other, or, musings on why so very few of our friends and family members “like” or comment on my blog posts, or, the enormous blessings that have resulted from therapy and a lot of hard work, for example) but I just wasn’t feeling any of those this time. Over the years I’ve learned that my best writing happens when my brain starts racing, sentences begin to form in my mind, a spurt of energy comes, and I feel a sudden rush of urgency. I’ve tried following those cues to guide me when it’s time to put thoughts onto pages.

As I was thinking about the above topics, I just wasn’t feeling any of these physical and mental signs this time. But what else is there to write about these days? Then, as soon as I started thinking about documenting our upcoming trip, all those feelings came. So that’s what I’m going to focus on today and I’m excited!

In a future post, I’ll go into specifics about my process of financing and planning our trips…because it IS a process! This time, one that’s taken 9 months to fund and 4 months to organize. However, since I finished all of that and am now in the waiting game (6 weeks to go!), I want to focus this post on the more fun side of things and just tell you want our plans entail. Eeee!! We are so excited!

Great-Britain

Through the sometimes arduous task of deciding where we go next (dependent upon airline and hotel point availability, easy flights, season and weather, where I’m not susceptible to getting sick, etc.) we settled on a road trip through parts of England, Wales, and Scotland. Ireland was included originally but it quickly became apparent how much we’d have to cut out of Great Britain to make it work. Something had to give. Actually, LOTS of things had to give. There are just too many amazingly incredible places to visit in these countries! We had to do a lot of focusing and zeroing in on the places we ultimately felt we would enjoy the most.

Here’s rundown of our itinerary, subject to any needed flexibility when we’re actually on the ground:

  1. Fly nonstop red-eye from SLC to London.
  2. Take the train to our hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. After resting up, we’ll take a double-decker bus to Big Ben and Kensington Gardens. We’ll walk through the gardens to the Princess Diana Playground.
  3. Ride the River Thames ferry to the Tate Modern Museum and eat our way through Borough Market. We’ll also walk across the Jubilee Footbridge when it’s lit up at night.
  4. Explore the Mayfair and Marylbone neighborhoods (or Notting Hill?). Head to St. James Park to watch the Cavalrys Parade and Changing of the Guard. Then we’ll pick up our rental car and head out of town to Eastbourne, a Victorian seafront town on the south coast.
  5. Go see the white cliffs at Seven Sisters Country Park, walk along the beach, and do some rockpooling (tidepooling). That night, Rob and Nate have plans to do the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. The girls and I will relax at the hotel.
  6. Rent a punting boat in Oxford and do a self-tour. Drive/walk through a couple of the Cotswold villages and play croquet at Hidcote Manor Garden.
  7. Stop at Ludlow (medieval town) and walk across the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct on our drive through Wales to Snowdonia National Park.
  8. Play on the beaches of the Lleyn Peninsula (most Welsh part of Wales).
  9. Try our hand at crabbing and visit Conwy Castle.
  10. Drive Winnat’s Pass to Castleton in the Peaks District and on through to York.
  11. Stop at Hadrian’s Wall and wherever else suits our fancy on the northeast coast.
  12. Visit Edinburgh’s Old Town and Royal Mile.
  13. Explore more Edinburgh, Culross, and drive to The Trossachs National Park.
  14. Hike through the forest to see Braklinn Falls and Devil’s Pulpit.
  15. Fly out of Glasgow (possibly stopping at the Necropolis on the way) back to London and catch our late afternoon flight to Boston.
  16. Walk Beacon Hill and maybe Boston Common or Feneuil Marketplace. Fly home!

Oh! One more thing I want to do while there…keep an ongoing list of all the new words/slang we can use in our speech once we are home. Their verbiage is so great and it’d be so fun to sprinkle it in whenever we feel like raising some eyebrows!

Half of our lodgings are normal Holiday Inn type of places, but I did book us in a few gems:

  • Victorian seaside row house B&B
  • YHA (youth and family hostels)
  • Mobile home by the beach
  • Hut in the woods of Snowdonia
  • A vestry (little apartment attached to an 1800s church)
  • Stately luxury hotel on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
  • Converted manor house garage apartment in a mountain village

Animals we are endeavoring to see:

  • Shire or Clydesdale horses and Shetland ponies
  • Lots of starfish, crabs, etc.
  • Puffins
  • Highland cows

Food we are endeavoring to eat:

  • Fish and Chips
  • Scones with jam and clotted cream
  • Banoffee pie
  • Norfolk crab
  • Blakewell pudding
  • Hot cross buns
  • Rarebit
  • Jacket potatoes
  • Various cheeses
  • Sticky toffee pudding
  • Aberdeen angus beef
  • Scottish eggs
  • Lobster roll
  • Cod

That’s it! Easy peasy! Haha, don’t worry, I’m not daft. I DO realize that this itinerary (and menu) is NOT for the faint of heart or for those who actually like to RELAX on their vacation. This is more for the family who likes to see and do (and eat) as much as they can because they wonder if they’ll ever return to this part of the world again. This is for the family who loves the drive through the landscapes and towns as much as the destinations at the end of the road. This is the stuff that gets my blood flowing and my mood high. Ooooh, I LOVE it!

Maybe our next trip will just be a sit-your-butt-on-the-beach-and-don’t-move-it kind of trip…but I doubt it.

A Good Day for a Photo Jam

Today is a good day for catching up on Fall and Winter 2017 photos and happenings. Note that I used to do this monthly or so but now I seem pretty happy with myself if I get to it on a quarterly basis. Life…right?!

Caroline’s 7th birthday festivities (Please ignore the various tripping hazards):

Nate-er Gator turned the big 1-2 in December.

After, let’s see…10 years?…I finally convinced Rob to put on a jacket for church again. Doesn’t he look oh, SO debonair?

Whoops! Wrong picture. My bad! Here’s the one I meant to post. Of course, he had to throw in the ever-so-classy Hogwart’s tie:

Christmas woodland creature pjs.

What the…morbid massacre?!

See that giant trophy? Madeleine joined the school’s ballroom dance team and they won the sportsmanship award. I guess they don’t do “winners” but it was the second biggest trophy awarded so that must mean something, right?

 

She only looks a tad nervous.

This is the sweetest. Madeleine is helping her read.

One story from Little Miss Literal:

Over the spring Caroline started complaining more and more about sore legs. She would collapse when she was running outside and would crawl inside to tell me, very sadly, that her legs hurt too much to play. At first I didn’t think much of it but it kept happening more and more and she was miserable because during those episodes she couldn’t put any weight on her legs. During one of these episodes I told her that I would carry her so she didn’t have to try to walk. I assumed it was growing pains, but then remembered she had some hip problems as a baby and her joints are loose like mine (which flare up occasionally).

After a month or two of these fits, and me carrying her around regularly, I decided to just have her checked out by her orthopedist (since she had hip issues before) because all this was happening right before we were headed to Europe where we’d be walking a lot.

At her doctor appointment, which Cara literally limped throughout, the diagnosis was…wait for it…growing pains. Betcha didn’t see that one coming! After the appointment Cara was walking juuuuust fine. I confronted her, asking “What the heck?!”

Her response…”You said that one time that I should rest my legs so that’s why I’ve always been having you carry me around, but they don’t really hurt.”

Cue the deep mom sigh…

Love this cuckoo crazy family of mine…even on days like today…

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Keeping You Posted on the Kidlings

It’s about that time…time to post an update on what the kidlings are up to these days. I tell ya, they’re fun. These ages (11, 9, 7) are super easy and Rob and I are revelling in it while it lasts.

NATE

 

He is almost 12 so we bought him a suit. Snazzy! I feel like I should win the Best Mom Award when he puts that thing on. Today was wear #2 and he came home from church covered in dirt and ketchup. Boys.

He is hilarious. He is so witty can rightly pull off sarcasm, puns, inside jokes, body language, sophisticated humor, and anything else in order to gain a laugh. He’s more of an introvert though, so it’s mostly us who gets to see this side of him but we relish it. Here is a fake movie trailer he made this morning. Rob and I laughed out loud so many times while watching it. Here is the link.


 He is doing well in school. He is still off the charts in reading and science. His handwriting has vastly improved. He has learned how to better handle his frustration when he doesn’t “get” something and is getting better at staying focused rather than letting his mind wander so much.

He worked hard over the summer, earning enough money to buy a used xBox. He’s learned how fun it is to have his own purchasing power.

He and his sisters have “Sunday Fort Day” every week. They first come up with a concept and a name for it. Past examples include animal sanctuary, haunted house, no giants allowed, carnival, etc.  After they do this they draw up plans and execute. It’s a giant mess. Furniture gets moved, toys come out, and pillows and blankets from the entire house are gathered. But…it keeps them busy for a couple of hours and it’s amazing sibling bonding time. I’ll take it.

MADELEINE

She is a solid 9 now and what a little lady she is becoming. She’s pretty mature and just seems to “get” whatever there is to get. She’s beyond the age of letting me buy her clothes without some serious input because this girl has her own taste and I can never seem to capture it.

She is observant and a very quick thinker. Her reasoning skills are unmatched. She will try her darnedest to win any disagreement and confidently makes the twists and turns required to succeed. Behind her pretty freckled face is a brain that is pretty unstoppable. Her memorization skills are one of her spiritual gifts. I’m not sure how that gift will be used in the future, but I’m positive it will somehow be a great blessing to her and others.

She has been exploring her feelings and emotions lately. Her natural tendency is to bury anything negative deep down and pretend they don’t exist. We are working on making her feel comfortable and confident enough to acknowledge them, feel them, and work through them. She doesn’t love it, but it’s brought her closer to me and Rob.

 

She is participating in Ballroom dance class at school twice a week. She is game for anything in the performing and creative arts. She has never been into playing with toys, even when she was little. All she ever wants is art or craft supplies. She keeps herself busy on different projects just about every day.

CAROLINE

She just turned 7 and lost her first top tooth tonight. She buried it under her four pillows and made a sign pointing the tooth fairy in the right direction. We tried to get her cavities filled this week but fought off the laughing gas like a champ and screamed and flailed her way out of it.

She is a good little student. Her teacher told me how quiet and obedient she is at school. They aren’t working too much on math yet but she loves it and has gone way ahead in her book. It’s pretty cute seeing her sit at the table all studiously and working through it quickly and surely. It reminds me of how her dad looked when working through his math problems in school. Good for her.

She has started dance lessons at a little neighborhood studio and just loves spending the time with her friends and doing something on her own. She is naturally so strong and flexible that it all comes incredibly easy for her. She is still a strong singer. I only wish she’d sing in public the way she does at home.

She is a giggly girl. Whenever she is with her bestie cousins or bestie friend she turns into a crazy person, laughing so hard she can barely stand. She just thinks they are all so hilarious and she can’t physically handle it.

 

SCOUTS

My kids now read this blog every so often and they’ll be so happy if I take a moment to write about their beloved cat sibling. So here it is…

He’s super aggravating with his excessive meowing every morning at 6 am. I’m guessing daylight means nothing to this animal. He also hates this time of year when it’s getting cold outside and he doesn’t want to go out when it’s offered. Then he meows to go out. Then he doesn’t go out. Then he meows to go out. Then he doesn’t go out. On and on every morning from 7-9am and every evening from 9:30-11:30pm. It drives the adults in the house absolutely crazy.

He still lets the kids snuggle right up with him, carry him around all over, dress him up, play with him, and any other whim they come up with for him. He’s gracious and selfless and couldn’t be more sweet.

THE END

A Drowning Duckling Dies: How We Deal with Sadness

One beautiful summer evening our family walked around a park full of trees, flowers, and a pond. In the pond lived some fish, turtles, and ducks. The children love prancing around the perimeter of the fenced-in pond, interacting with the little creatures as much as humans can.

Rob and I wandered off and left the kids to play. I returned a short time later and all three children ran up to me, frantic and full of feelings. They told me of tragedy, taken place right before their innocent eyes.

One of the little baby ducklings was missing patches of down (probably the result of bullying, the kids concluded). This little guy had caught their eye and they’d been keeping a close watch on him all evening. Suddenly, the duckling found himself too far from the shore and unable to catch his footing on the rocks. Stuck in deep water, he tried, helplessly, to swim. Still new to this sport and being further impeded by his missing built-in flotation device, his bitty head slowly dipped lower and lower into the water.

With big eyes and the inability to save the duckling through the fence, Nate, Madeleine, and Caroline looked on in helpless horror as the dear little duckling drowned to death.

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Now, a few different morals to this story could be had here, but I’m not here to talk about morals. Instead, I want to focus on the dissimilarities in emotional response encountered by each member of my family. For an event that was experienced together, it’s interesting how they individually coped with it.

Once the retelling of the event took place and the initial shock wore off, each child was left with the horrible (yet completely natural in nature) scene stuck in their brains. I found myself empathetic to their plight and immediately initialized my comforting-mom mode.

When Rob arrived at the scene, the children frantically retold the happenings once again. Caught off guard and unprepared to respond appropriately, Rob laughed. I chided him with “the look” and he composed himself, then offered due comfort. Once the children’s trauma was acknowledged by both parents, each of their true distinctive emotions became evident and began to show and seep.

Each child reacted to the same trauma in starkly unique ways. Nate became suddenly quiet. He was solemn. He worked hard to hide his tears, even after Rob and I assured him it was okay to cry. After some minutes of allowing himself to feel really sad, he was able to come back up for breath and refocus on moving forward.

Madeleine, through brute force, instantaneously allowed her spunkiness and goofiness to override any of her sorrow. She didn’t want to feel anything unpleasant so she ignored the fact that something bad even happened. She became hyper, silly, and tried so hard to get everyone else on board. She wanted to move on, pretending nothing was wrong. Even though her brother and sister were feeling deeply, she wouldn’t allow herself that opportunity.

Little Caroline openly bawled, unconsolably, for 30 solid minutes. No amount of hugs or listening ears or words of comfort had any effect. The terrifying image replayed itself over and over again in her head and she kept saying, “I just like the word death…I don’t actually like death in real life!”

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Don’t you find it fascinating how each child responded to the same event? Of course people cope with hardships differently, but to see these three contrasting emotional responses by three different children at the same time was an eye-opening glimpse into their hearts.

Nate needed reassurance that it was okay for him to not be a “brave” big boy, and that feeling sad isn’t something shameful. Madeleine, in addition to learning how to allow herself to feel a completely natural response, also needed to understand that others may have different emotional needs to be acknowledged instead of ignored. Caroline needed to feel the full extent of her grief and given enough time (and patience on our part) to do it.

As the father and mother of these sweet souls, Rob and I are working harder than ever to not only listen to them, but to feel with them. We are working harder than ever to not only be in their proximity, but to truly connect them to us through honesty and a sense of emotional safety.

Rob and I both used to believe that this type of parenting would raise weak personalities. However, we are slowly learning that the opposite is true. We are now beginning to see the differences between coddling and comforting, cajoling and communicating. We are now beginning to understand that the intentional act of consistently offering a feeling of emotional safety and emotional acceptance are, indeed, at the core of confidence.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I’m really sorry that an innocent little creature had to perish and that our children had to witness it, but I’m also grateful for the glimpse it gave us into who our children really are and what they each really need. It is an understanding that we will need to tap into throughout many future occasions, I’m sure.

For the last 6 months, Rob and I have been working so hard at becoming emotionally whole human beings.  We have a long way to go, but these little moments of clarity are the fruits of our labors and the motivation that keeps us moving forward together.

Europe: Where We Walked and Walked and Walked

Rob and I love to walk on our vacations. Our kids don’t but they learned to do it anyway.

Rob tracked it and we walked a total of 85.6 miles over those 19 days (avg 4.5 miles per day). Not bad for little legs!

Walking is the best way to see and experience all the new sights. Plus, we had to work off all the dozens of pastries we devoured.

Other than a couple of cities, we really wanted this trip to highlight the natural landscapes of each country. Of course, those parts turned out to be some of our very favorite places. We just love the feeling of freedom and wholeness that comes from spending time in God’s incredible creation.

Caroline walked about half as much as everyone else. She really enjoyed the view from up top!

New York

 

France – It rained on us a lot here.

 

This area outside of Fontainebleau was such a nice respite after the craziness of NYC and Paris.




Luxembourg

We climbed a TON of stairs in each country. We climbed 214 flights of stairs total but one day alone was 48 flights (hiking in luxembourg).

We all LOVED our hiking day in the Echternach area of Luxembourg!

We found ourselves among trolls.

And a troll bridge.

This area is called Wolf Cove. The story goes that when people settled here, there were many wolves in the area that would eat the farm animals. To solve the problem, the people lured the wolves into this canyon, trapped them, and then stood on top and threw boulders down at them, killing every last one of them.

Caroline found this story fascinating and had me tell it to her over and over again while we were walking…Strange girl.

 

Germany

I’m not sure why this is a go-to pose for this man. It always has been and I have a sneaky suspicion he’ll be 85 years old one day doing the same thing.

We were dumped on for a few minutes in Germany while walking the hills above a hamlet.

 

Netherlands







 

Our kids loved this beach. They could just dip their hands in the edge of the water and pick up handfuls and handfuls of shells.

 

Belgium

 

Well, everyone…we did it! Not only did we get through Europe…but we got through posting about it. Ha!

Looking at these pictures is such motivation for me to keep writing and slowly, slowly saving up for  another trip someday.

When in Doubt, Do Disney

When in doubt, do Disney.

If you’re really ready to rock it, bring on BSB and the beach.

I’ve already posted about this Springtime trip, but now it can be enjoyed by my family via video.

So go ahead. Enjoy it. Enjoy it, I said!

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San Diego and Oxnard 2016 Video

One of the things I asked from Rob for my birthday was to catch up on making some of our family vacation videos.

Here’s our vacation from last year with his family. It’s so fun to watch and remember!

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P.S. I promise to start blogging “real” life and not just “vacation” life again real soon. If I’m going to be honest, “real” life has been real messy as of late and “vacation” life is just so much more pleasant to talk about. So don’t get the wrong impression that our life is nothing but fun and exciting. It’s not. And maybe once the kids are all in school full time (WOW!) in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to come out of survival mode, have a moment to decompress, and write.

In the meantime, enjoy the music on the video!!

Road Tripping Northwest Europe: Planes, Trains, Buses, Cars, Boats, and Bikes

I love road trips. Taking one in Europe sure gives you one pleased-as-punch gal!

We decided to stop in NYC on the way to and from Europe for 3 reasons:

  1. Break up the long flights
  2. Help curb jet lag (it worked!)
  3. Why not?!
I will admit that the reason this plan worked so well for us is because our airport hotel allowed us to check is super early (8am!) and super late (3pm!). If we hadn’t been able to sleep off our plane rides then it would have been a LOT more difficult.
Once in Paris, we stayed put for 5 full days. Then we picked up a car (HEAVEN after all the public transit!) and spent a week and a half driving through parts of 5 countries (France, Luxembourg, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium). We spent 2 days in each, soaking up as much as we possibly could within our timeline.

Here is a snapshot of our route, not taking into account any side trips.

When posting about all the doings we did and the sights we saw, it’s easy to think that we overbooked and overextended ourselves. However, it really didn’t feel that way. Each day we would sleep in and eat breakfast at a leisurely pace before driving an hour or two to our first destination. We’d eat and explore before driving another hour or two to the next destination where we’d eat and explore again before settling in for the night.

We love seeing the lazy landscapes and the little towns. We love the freedom only driving can bring.

Here is a collection of our “traveling” pictures.

Planes

We look so happy to catch our flight!

2 hours later…

There was a 2 hour flight delay so we didn’t take off until almost 2am.

Of course once on board the kids were too hyped to go to sleep for quite a while.

That’s why we looked like this when we landed.

Our flight home also had a 2 hour delay, this time it began after we had already boarded. Argh! Oh, and there were multiple crying babies surrounding us so we got to relax real nice-like the whole way home.

Trains

Our kids decided they are not fans of subways. Usually I don’t mind too much but for whatever reasons, this time around I wasn’t feeling it either.

Buses

We opted for the bus most of the time in Paris and it was a great, convenient way to get around. Plus, you get to site-see on your way.

Cars

There is a story about picking up our rental car:

Per Rob: “We booked through Dollar and it turned out that the rental was serviced through Hertz. Nate, Madeleine, and I took an Uber to the address listed but it was not the correct address. We had to go into the train station and walk a long way to the counter only to find it closed. I called the number and was directed to walk across the street and go two floors below ground in a parking garage to find the counter. On the way into the garage, a parking gate came down on me, smacking the top of my head. Luckily it wasn’t a heavy gate and the kids sure had a good laugh.

After that, I found out that I needed my passport to get the car. It was located back at the hotel with Julie and Cara. I booked an Uber to bring them, the luggage, and the passports to the car rental location. After a dreadfully long processing time we finally drove away in our car… two hours later than planned.”

We thought the Autobahn was cool, especially the acceleration part! 175 kph = 105 mph.

But our hearts are with the country roads of Luxembourg. The winding, forested, meadowy, empty back roads where you are free to drive like you mean it.

Driving in the little towns was interesting. Those older European women have a stellar finger wag! I suppose they have much practice with tourists driving down the wrong way all the time…

Circling and circling, sometimes it took forever to drive 1 mile. The roads are tight and it’s not easy to get anywhere.

And parking! Never free. Always tight.

Boats

We went on a couple of boats. The first was our Seine river cruise. I like doing this at night so you can see the architecture all lit up. Plus, what a killer view of Ms. Eiffel!

Our next boat we captained ourselves. This was a fantastic way to see the canals of Utrecht. The kids loved piloting the s-l-o-w boat themselves while Rob and I relaxed. Toward the end we got caught in a storm at sea. The waves weren’t quite billowing but we all got drenched. Add that to the memorable list!

Caroline worked very well as an anchor… Just kidding, we tied her up because she wasn’t following orders…Actually, she was dishonoring the pirate’s code. No, that wasn’t it. Why was she tied up??

Our next boat ride was to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.

Bikes

Utrecht could be renamed Planet of the Bikes. They surrounded us at all times and they were like swarms of flies coming straight at us. Pedestrians definitely don’t have the right of way there.

The next day we rented bikes and rode to the windmills in Kinderdijk, Netherlands. It was a seriously fun way to spend time touring. The thunderheads were threatening and we weren’t keen on riding a couple of miles back in another storm so we headed back early (and it never did rain).

Transport stats:

  • 20 = Train and bus rides Taken
  • 22 = Parking Meters Paid
  • 150 = Roundabouts Driven Through

So over the river and through the woods we finally made it back home!!