Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Latest Activities

Sorry for the lack of a new post, for so much has happened lately, but I've been a bit busy with school and youth group.

I'll start first with school. We all started school last week, though not on the same day. Seth and Mandy began their classes on Monday while mine and Mom's started on Wednesday (a bummer since I'd been waiting for school to start since June... no kidding). Mandy is bound and determined this year to win the Latin award, especially since Geneva's Latin genius student won't be coming back for a few more years, and we're trying to help Seth do better in English than last year. Geneva once more has shrunk in size and is down to nine students, but from what I hear, nothing has changed much from last year. Mom has less science classes to teach, as she's teaching advanced biology, physical science, and then human anatomy to the Geneva at Home students, so that leaves her with more time for her ecology and mycology college classes. My classes started on a Wednesday. Due to a problem with the English class I originally signed up for, my first class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is at 11 AM, at the same time Mom has her ecology class. So, that means I get to sleep in on those days. Physical science is going to be tricky, as there are two teachers, one who teaches chemistry and the other who teaches physics. I want to pass this class because I dropped chemistry and because next semester I would get to take Earth science and astronomy, provided I pass the class (which makes me wonder why they give us the hard classes first for physical science and not the easy ones... oh, well). After physical science, I had to endure a very long walk from building A to Building B for lunch (which is hard, especially when carrying a thirty pound bag), and when I got to the only cafeteria on campus, it was a traffic jam... without the cars. After quickly eating lunch, I hurried upstairs for my Spanish 2 class. To my surprise, Blair showed up for the class, so we have two classes this semester together. Spanish 2 is going to be fun, as it was last fall, and I'm looking forward to it. On Thursday, I had three classes: US history, music appreciation, and Transatlantic Literature. History is going to be interesting, but I've always liked history, so we'll see. Music appreciation is fun, and today we analyzed a Gregorian chant... and I mean analyzed. Then came the class I had been looking forward to: Transatlantic Literature. This class was packed to the gills with many people, and the teacher was excited to teach us. However, when she passed out and discussed the syllabus, I completely lost any desire. The class would be dealing with the theme of rebellion (and would portray it as a good thing), would study Christianity hybrids in the Caribbean and South America, and would read an erotic homosexual poem. I lost all taste for the class since we would not be studying literature and I had no interest in reading that poem. I dropped the class that afternoon, and I'm going to wait to take literature when I get to Christ College, where I can study real literature! Anyway, it's been nice to get back into schedule and not be lounging around.

On Friday, we kids were excited for the youth group camping trip to northern Alabama. Because I did not have a physical science lab that day, I went to school with Seth and Mandy, where I sat in the kitchen and did homework. After school, we waited for our ride to arrive. Our youth group leader Mr. Brown and his wife Chris finally arrived, and twelve kids piled into the Howlands' white van. Everyone soon got hyper with the Mountain Dew and the candy, but then that was expected. It took us about three, four hours to drive to Alabama, counting the dinner stop at Wendy's. On our way, we had a little surgery when Bethany asked Ben to pull her tooth, which he did (and I got it on camera too!). We ate dinner at Wendy's, where a few of us spoiled ourselves with frosties (which were sooo good, but mine melted too fast sadly). It was getting dark when we arrived at our campsite, which was about ten, fifteen minutes from the boarder of Georgia. The boys set up the tents then we all went exploring around the lake/marsh in the dark. After finding firewood and starting a fire, we all decided to play "Capture the Flag" in the dark and without the use of flashlights. Because I was wearing flipflops, I was mainly just a guard who did nothing except point out intruders. My team won when Cliff single-handedly crossed the enemy lines through the woods and stole the enemy's flag. Then, we had time for a second game so we switched sides. The second game was boring because no action happened. The only action was when Micah threw grass on Mandy and Bethany and made them scream because they thought it was bugs. After we returned to the camp site, a few people gave tree-tipping a try. We made sm'ores around the fire and were on the constant lookout for a hornet that was in the vicinity. I went to bed around eleven and crashed asleep pretty quickly. That night though was restless because it was so windy (probably due to Tropical Storm Fay in the south), so the tent was constantly moving. The next morning, we had a breakfast feast of donuts, muffins, and fruit. Because it looked like it was going to rain, we took down the tents and packed up the cars. Then Mr. Brown gave us some pages to read, and we all went out by ourselves to read them. Then we came back and discussed what we read, prayed, and then left the campsite. We drove to Little River Canyon, where we looked at a scenic point and then ate lunch before driving downstream to go swimming. I didn't go swimming because it was too cold (the temperature that day was in the 70's, which is unusual for August in the South), but I took several pictures. Everyone had a great time jumping from the ledges, and a few even had the courage to jump from a 40-60 foot tall cliff. After our swimming excursion, we piled back into the van and drove back to Atlanta. It was a shorter trip because we took a different route, but it was more entertaining. Mandy and Bethany were hyper as usual, but they soon fell asleep. While Mandy slept, Cliff took Noah's deodorant and put some on her foot and leg. When Mandy woke up, Cliff pretended to lick his lips and said, " you know your feet are salty?" Mandy, of course, panicked, but we assured her that it had just been deodorant. When she fell back asleep, Cliff took a pen and drew a face on her leg. We all laughed. After arriving in Atlanta, we stopped at Chick-fil-A for supper then drove back to church where our families waited to take us back home. It was a great trip, and I think we all had a blast.

For the past few days, Fay has hit our area with strong winds and lots of rain. Some days it looks like it will rain but it never does, and some days it does rain. This morning, it rained hard here, so hard it looked white outside, though not as white as I've seen rain fall before. It's certainly making everything look pretty and green again, and it certainly helps especially with Lake Lanier's low lake levels. The rain and wind has also kept things much cooler than usual, which is nice since August is usually sweltering. As I write this, it looks like the rain and wind are coming back with a vengeance after a few hour's break.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention something that happened Sunday. On Saturday night, Dad thought he heard a cat meowing outside, but it never came inside, so he didn't think anything of it. On Sunday morning, we were close to leaving when Mandy discovered Claws, our biggest and fattest cat, stuck up in a tree branch about 20 feet from the ground. We had to go, so we left her there for several hours until we got back from church. She was still there when we got home, and we could not get her to come down. Since Uncle Josh and his family were coming over for supper that night, we waited for them to arrive. We did get the cat down, and she's fine, but we hope she won't try it again anytime soon. Dumb animal...

Nothing else has happened around here. Tonight, we girls are going over to the Murphys' house to watch "The Notebook," the saddest romantic movie I've ever watched; Mandy and Amy haven't seen it, but I'm sure we'll all be bawling like babies afterwards. The week is almost halfway through (has time gone by that fast), and we'll see what happens next. Down below is a link to pictures from the youth group trip, so enjoy them!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Western Journey

I apologize, but I am not happy with my first description of our trip out West. I've decided to re-write it, so here we go.

Way Out There
On Thursday morning, after a delicious and filling breakfast at Waffle House, we finally got on the highway and began our long trip. To keep us occupied, the car had Sirius Radio (which we didn't use often; I mean, why use it when you got a 1 GB MP3 player full of music everyone likes?), a TV, and a power adapter to use for two laptops (though we later discovered that the adapter only half-worked and later stopped giving sufficient power for the laptops). Using all these technology made us wonder how we survived driving for three weeks without TV or Internet. Speaking of Internet, throughout the whole trip, it was entertaining to go war-driving through certain areas, though it really doesn't work when you're on the move. War-driving, as I learned from my fall computer class, is when you use your laptop to find a wireless signal in a certain area. I tried it on several occasions but most of the time couldn't get a signal until we had stopped and found a signal with free, easy access. Anyway, we had plenty to do to keep us occupied, including the complete second season of "Criminal Minds," which we enjoyed and actually finished on our way home. On our first day of driving, we drove over twelve hours from Atlanta to Houston, Texas and encountered a lot of lovely rain, something we had a lot of on this trip (I think it followed us everywhere just about everyday).

After our visit in Houston, we drove north through Dallas to Oklahoma City, then turning around and going to Amarillo. The day was very hot and very windy (even blowing some of my Pringles away during lunch), and we were surprised it was that hot for that area. Texas and Oklahoma are flat though not too unattractive. A common sight for that area are giant wind mills with blades six times as long as a car. On the drive that day, Dad accidentally went the wrong way, so we had to make an hour-long loop back to where we were supposed to be.

On Sunday, we drove from Amarillo, Texas to Pine, Arizona. The land turned from plains to shrubs and desert with large herds of cattle scattered everywhere. Much to our surprise, the temperature was only in the 80's the entire day (often dropping, depending on if it was raining or not), which was odd compared to Oklahoma's hot weather. One our way to Pine, we passed by the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, where we saw a reddish-colored dust storm developing and growing, and also by the town of Winslow where the huge crater is.

Texas Visit

We arrived in Houston, Texas late at night and were ready to go to bed. The next day, we just relaxed, talked, watched movies, and played with the dogs Shesou and Rozzo. Those two little dogs were cute, energetic balls of fur who loved following us around. After breakfast, we kids played with the dogs for a while and enjoyed it. Everytime we sat down, they would dash to us and settle in our laps. Sometimes, they even playfully fought each other for lap space, which was cute. However, we kids sadly wore the dogs out, and they were quieter for the rest of the day. Another memorable thing was Aunt Susie's little coffee/tea maker that we all enjoyed using during breakfast. Aunt Susie also gave Mandy some jewelry, which she loves, and Uncle Cal gave Mom his laptop, so she now has her own. The visit to Texas was short, but we all enjoyed it.

Touring Arizona

We arrived at Pine late in the afternoon and were greeted by Grandma Gail, Grandpa Tom, Uncle Jack, and his girlfriend Judy. We enjoyed a family dinner together and took several family pictures.

On our first day in Arizona, we woke up early to go to the Grand Canyon. It was the first time Mom and Dad had ever seen it, so it was nice for them to be with us. We enjoyed a tour that took us to several points of the canyon and allowed us several different viewpoints. At one of the places, we were on a ridge with no railings, which was terrifying and made me nervous to get near the edge. It was even more nerve-wracking to watch people nearby get dangerously close to the edge. I think whenever we go to the canyon we must impact the weather because it rained on and off all day, which happened last year when we kids took the trip. It took us two hours to get to the canyon, and it took us two hours to get back to Williams. On the way back, we were "robbed," and I had fun recording the whole crime. They won't get away! :) After a delicious dinner at a Pizza Factory on Route 66, we drove back to Pine.

Our second day in Arizona was a relaxed day. Grandpa Tom took Mom and Dad on a motorcycle ride, which they enjoyed, while Grandma Gail took us kids out for lunch and for bowling. We had fun bowling three games, and I think I may have finally figured out a method that works for me when I bowl. When we grilled out that night, we saw a small herd of elk across the street. I wish I could have gotten pictures of them, but they were too far away and I didn't want to go out into the rain to take the pictures. Lazy me.

On our third day in Arizona, we spent the day touring. We went to Tuzigoot, the old Indian ruins, Jerome, where we ate at the Haunted Hamburger and toured the shops, Sedona, large red rock formations, and Montezuma's Castle, a large Indian dwelling built near the top of a cliff. After driving back to Pine and continuing to flee from the rain that had followed us around all day, we relaxed. Grandma Gail showed Mom some pictures and gave her a few things to take back with us to Georgia. Our rental car didn't have room for the stuff Grandma and Aunt Susie had wanted to give us, so we only took a few things with us; Dad is thinking of going back out to Arizona this winter and picking up everything.

The Journey Home

We left Arizona early on Thursday morning, bidding farewell to Grandma and Grandpa. We drove from Pine to Oklahoma City, over twelve hours. We had an unending battle with flies who kept getting inside the car and annoying us. Every time we thought a fly had been gotten rid of, another one appeared. When we finally arrived in Oklahoma City, we went over an extremely bumpy road, which we didn't expect on a highway. When we went to bed, we were all awake and kept talking and laughing over random things.

On Friday morning after a delicious continental breakfast, we began our long, over twelve-hour drive to Atlanta. In Arkansas, we were happy to notice that we were headed towards more heavily wooded areas and coming out of the plains and deserts. When we stopped for dinner in Birmingham, we had an incident with a traffic light. The light refused to turn green after several minutes, so Dad turned, made a U-turn, and then made another turn that bypassed the light. We finally arrived in Atlanta after eleven PM and spent about thirty minutes cleaning out the disaster of a car (the car was filled with snacks, bags, DVDs, and the like, and it looked like a tornado had gone through it).

Foreign Bathrooms

Before I end the post, I wanted to mention something else on this trip: bathroom cleanliness. When you make a long road trip, you will inevitably end up using a bathroom at a gas station or rest stop that is not up to your standards of cleanliness. There were some pretty bad bathrooms at a few places. One place in Mississippi had yellow water, which freaked us girls out at first. One rest stop in New Mexico was infested with flies, which was disgusting. Another place had three bathrooms, all three of which were out of service. But not all bathrooms are bad. There was one place in a remote part of Texas that looked like it would be gross, but the place was actually one of the best bathrooms we stopped at on the trip. Strange gas station and rest stop bathrooms definitely make you appreciate your own clean bathroom.

All in all, it was a fun trip. We hadn't been on a family vacation in a while, it was nice to spend time together. It was also enjoyable to spend time with our western family, something we don't get to do that often. Thank you, Uncle Cal and Aunt Susie, for funding our trip, and thank you to them and to Grandma Gail and Grandpa Tom for letting us stay with them on the trip. Hugs and kisses to you all!