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Parrottrek Journal 2007

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November 14th - Butterfly Beach -
There is an area here in Pismo Beach where Monarch Butterflies from all over North America come to nest. They fill the eucalyptus trees that line the coast and are amazing to watch. When you first look at the branches of the trees you think they have the oddest color of leaves, but then you realize that the butterflies are all closed up and sleeping in groups. When the wind begins to blow, all the butterflies flutter and their wings open a bit, which makes for some beautiful pictures. After we walked through the fields of butterflies we finished off our bike ride at a nearby park, where we packed the new removable basket on my new fun cruiser bike and took the birds on a picnic. Our old bikes were absolutely demolished by all the miles of riding  and most of all being carried on the back of the Jeep across America and back again and again and again. Having Cody ride on Frank's handlebars and chewing up his brake lines and gears, made Frank's bike a bit unsafe as well. Frank's new cruiser has only one gear and the brakes are on the pedals so there are no worries about loosing them on steep down slopping hills. This leaves nothing on the handlebars except soft padding, which we added, for Cody to hold onto, so hopefully this

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one will last for many years to come. As the sun began to set we headed home and watched it disappear behind the ocean as a flock of pelicans bathed in the pond near our campsite. We have once again set up our inflatable jacuzzi outside the house and have it warm and ready to climb into once the sunset is complete and the cool evenings hit.

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November 17th - Madison's 2nd Birthday The Santa Barbara Zoo

It was a great day with precious little Madison, or as she is known to some of us 'The Million Dollar Miracle' since she was 3 months premature and weighed in at 2 pounds on her day of birth. Her 2nd birthday was celebrated next to the Lion's Den at the Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens that overlook East Beach and the Bird Refuge. We had a soft little bunny rabbit come and visit for all the little ones to pet and a train ride around the zoo to see a few of the animals a little closer.

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All aboard!!

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Madison's favorite time was eating the cake. Yesterday, Madison and I were able to hang out most of the afternoon while Madison's mommy, Sharon, ran some errands for the party. We raced her very noisy but fun crocodile clapper all around the house and took a few self portraits. We played helicopter on the top of Aunt Suzy's knees and then she took a nap in my arms while reading a book. It was a very full day of fun which wore the little one out. Once Sharon got home, she and I stuffed the goody bags for all the guests of the party including fun zoo masks for the little kids and animal shaped bookmarks for the bigger ones. At the Zoo, I'm not sure who had more fun on the train ride or exploring,  the little kids or the adults. When the train passed the lion he was regally sitting atop a rock peering at us through a tree. Unfortunately he was behind a chain link fence and my camera would only focus on that and not him.

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November 16th - 19th - Emma Wood State Beach - Ventura, Ca.
As we slowly make our way South to Tustin, where we will spend Thanksgiving with family, we have stopped to camp with friends here on the banks of the Pacific Ocean. The camping is what's called 'dry' since you are on your own for water and electric, but you can't beat the rates or the views. Since our little home on wheels can hold it's own for about 3 weeks in regards to water and electric we are set. We have seen dolphins play every morning in the surf and again in the early evenings when we all sit outside on the logs and listen to Frank play the guitar. I tried to have breakfast out here a few mornings with Cody and Frank, but Cody would eat my breakfast faster than I could get to it, so it turned out to just be coffee for me in the mornings and toast for Cody. There are seals all around us as well. Our good friend Todd celebrated his 40th Birthday Saturday night, and the guys bar-b-qued the best carne asada tacos you have ever had. Everyone brought truckloads of wood so the bonfires have been great each night. One day as we all watched the trains go by, we decided to see if they really do flatten coins. We loaded up about 14 coins all along the track and waited for the next train to come by.

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We lined up a bunch of coins

The kids find the tossed coins

Yep! They're all flattened

Vanessa and Olivia collect shells

As soon as the train hit the coins they made a loud CLANG CLANG CLANG, the coins went flying and shot every which way. After the train had safely passed, we all raced up the hill to see what we could find and found out that yes indeed, the weight of a passenger train does flatten out coins. The dimes were of course the thinnest and the nickels were the best survivors. The one warm day of the weekend we hit the sand for some Boccie Ball and catch with Malibu, the ever faithful chocolate lab that has been camping with our group since he was 6 weeks old.

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Frank suits up

All four of us huddled together

After the guys crash, I took the lead

But was quickly passed again... darn!

November 19th - Indoor Go-Kart Racing - Mira Loma, California -
Just down the road from our home at Prevost is a fun-filled indoor go-kart racing track. We raced at one like this in Las Vegas and once the guys heard there was one nearby, we had to check this one out as well. Sean came down for the night and Kurt and Philly are also camping here with us, so we all packed into Sean's car, went to dinner and then racing. The go-karts are quite low to the ground so you feel pretty safe, but a couple of the corners are very sharp, and the flooring is painted concrete which makes for some slick roads when you take a hairpin turn a little too quick. No worries we all had on lots of safety gear, including a Haans Device so when we hit the walls you could hardly feel it. In the first race the guys were all pretty much head to head. As they came by me, not wanting to be in the middle of the pile up, I pulled off to the side of the road and let them go by. Boys will be boys. Kurt ended up winning the race, but Sean had the fastest lap. During the second race, which Kurt sat out, Sean and Frank were a bit ahead of me the whole time, but neck and neck with each other. On the second to the last lap Sean came around the sharpest corner a bit too fast and ended up sideways facing the on-coming traffic. Frank, being so close behind him, had to slam on his brakes in order not to hit Sean head on, while I sailed right on by and managed to keep enough speed for the very last lap to stay just enough ahead of them to claim the checkered flag. Since Sean still had the fastest lap, and I the slowest,  at least it gave me a little bit of bragging rights.

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November 22nd - Tustin, California - Happy Thanksgiving -
We had a wonderful day with family. Aunt Janet and Uncle Curt recently installed a pool table in their living room, so after turkey dinner we all played 9 ball. It's quite fun. In order to score you must hit the balls in numerical order from 1 to 9. You don't have to necessarily hit them in a pocket each time, you just have to have the cue ball touch it. If you miss the numbered ball you are aiming at or scratch, you receive negative 3 points. If you knock in the ball you are aiming at, quite a bit of strategy because most of the time the ball you are aiming for is hiding behind two or three other balls. When this occurs you must then figure out how to bounce the cue ball off different sides of the pool table in order to get your ball where you want it to go. This is where your math teacher's infamous words of "You really will use geometry in the real world" ring true. That's when Uncle Curt and his infinite pool knowledge came in handy. He would instruct each of us on where to aim the ball, and most of the time it worked. The main reason it wouldn't work is because of 'miss cues' which is the term used when the darn cue ball goes in the opposite direction of where you attempted to tell it. I can think of a few more appropriate terms to call out, but 'miss cue' is much more family friendly. We played for quite a long time, as Scott and Frank serenaded us. By the end of the night we each had won at least one game. After our marathon game of 9 ball we all munched on the leftovers of turkey dinner and had another round of pie! Yum! Of course wonderful Aunt Janet saved all of the turkey bones for our feathered babies back at home, so when we did get back to the motorhome they were a little less upset with us for leaving them all day. Happy Birthday Mops!

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The early gift opening crime scene

Uh-oh, I've been caught!

I am king of the ship

Bradley finds the buried treasure

December 1st - Bradley Gets on Santa's Naughty List -
As Christmas approaches and the presents under the tree begin to pile up, Bradley's obsession of tearing paper apart could be halted no longer. One of the presents was of course for Bradley and since he figured out which was was his, he thought he could reward himself by opening it early. Since his love affair of pirate ships lives on as well, and the last two have been demolished, Santa was bringing him a new one. The first thing he found, as he unwrapped his gift, was one of the cannon balls and next a sword to fight the other pirates on the ship. Once the present was opened, set up and in working order, with sword in hand, um I mean beak, he attacked the pirates, threw them all off the ship and took all the peanuts that were in the treasure chest for himself. I sure hope Santa doesn't get wind of this.

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December 5th - Sawyer Brown - Fremont Street -
The National Finals Rodeo officially starts tomorrow, so tonight we thought we would spend our last non working evening with a fun music filled evening and a free concert. Sawyer Brown is a some what country band that has a great sound. Not to date myself here, but I remember these guys from Star Search. You remember Star Search right? It was the American Idol of the 80's, except that it had winner's each week which kept things exciting versus waiting 9 months straight to see who wins. Each episode had closure. Each week the previous winner was the opponent for the new competition so you could multiple weeks on end. I don't quite remember how many weeks Sawyer Brown won, but the fact that they won at all was huge for a new band starting out. After the Sawyer Brown concert, we had our annual Christmas Party with everyone we travel and work with, in some form, for the NHRA circuit. We had our usual fun and entertaining gift exchange including the Poopin' Moose, that has been under the Christmas tree the last three years. It gives you a whole new look on MnM's.

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December 16th - Santa Barbara - Christmas Party with Friends -
Tonight was full of holiday festivities. We spent the evening with a group of friends in Santa Barbara. Frank and I arrived early to visit with Tony and Allison and spend a little time with the kids before the rest of the guests arrived. Tony recently received a guitar for his birthday, so he and Frank spent some time learning Christmas carols as Kylie and Nathaniel sang along best they could with the songbook. We tried to convince the guys to go caroling later this evening but that was quickly vetoed, which was okay with me since it was a bit cold outside, well at least for California which we know isn't really cold for you North Easterners. We took a few pictures around the Christmas tree, and then ordered pizza for dinner. Once the party was in full swing we had all sorts of games and activities going on including pin the nose on Rudolf and craft time where all the kids made Christmas trees with sugar cones, green frosting and Skittles. However, most of the skittles were eaten before they went on the little trees. The evening was topped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself. All the kids went crazy when Santa came in knowing all of their names. They all took turns climbing on his lap and telling him what they wanted. Not even Kylie or Nathaniel noticed that their daddy wasn't there when Santa arrived, so there was no reason to be suspicious of Santa's true identity. Actually, it took Nathaniel a few minutes to warm up to Santa. This is one of the greatest perks of our career. The fact that we have over a month off around Christmas and are able to attend all the parties of the season. Back when we had the restaurant Frank was rarely ever able to attend any of them.

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December 21st - Christmas Musical - Presbyterian Preschool -
Too cute! We went to the most darling preschool version of the Christmas Story ever! Our dear friend's little girl, Shelby, was one of the cutest little wise man along with a family friends little boy, Conner. Another class was dressed up as the sheep, one as the angels and another as the shepherds. After the musical we all took a tour of Shelby and Conner's classroom which included three sweet little parakeets and saw how each child had made a reindeer out of their handprint.

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Frank IV, II and III

December 24th - Christmas Eve -
As we find ourselves back around the Christmas tree singing carols and visiting with family, we are grateful for all we have and enjoy sharing everybody's memories of 2007.Frank and I sat at the kids table during dinner which was fun since we got to catch up with our nieces Hayley and Torrie and the many adventures of elementary school. They are now 10 and 12 and growing like weeds. I remember when they were both itty bitty babies. It's great to have everyone in one room for an entire evening. Frank's hard work of learning Christmas carols for this evenings festivities truly paid off. I again can't believe how fast this year went. It feels like only a couple moths ago Frank could only play a few chords and now he's making beautiful music and his library of songs increases every week. Even though we do get together each year for the holidays, for some reason none of us have any pictures of the three Franks aside from the one we took at our wedding, 11 years ago. Now the scrapbook is up to date. I should dig out the first one and compare them side by side as my Frank has acquired a few gray hairs since then. I guess I got my wish, of growing old and gray with my husband! : )

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December 25th - Merry Christmas to All and to All Great Night -
One of God's greatest gifts is family. A family that loves you because you are just that... family, whether it be through blood or marriage. Since it is Christmas Day and we shouldn't need any other gift than the gift of love, one might wonder what is a greater gift than love of a family? Well the answer is - the gift of those he surrounds us with, that love us just as much, if not more than our genetic family because of no other reason then the fact that we are who we are. I've heard so many people say that the bond of a great friendship is hard to find and yet Frank and I have been blessed enough to find it in so many different groups of people literally all over the country. So because of this we feel beyond blessed. Some of our dearest friends that are as close to our hearts as our own family, are right here on the Central Coast of California. The six of us got together today to celebrate this great holiday. We started a tradition last year where we each bring a gift to exchange. The way you are chosen to pick a gift is done through elimination in Texas Hold'em. No it isn't sacrilegious since in the end we were all winners, so there! :-) Joe, who is always the most eager to open a gift, was the first one out, since the first one out opens the first gift and so on and so on and then the winner of the game is allowed to steal whatever gift they want since now all the presents, but one, are open. Frank was the runner up, and since there are never any bad gifts under our Christmas tree, we all ended up with a nice gift. Frank's was Die Hard 4, which ironically completes the series of his most favorite movies. I received some very fun, make them yourself, photo coasters and a nice BBQ set, which goes perfectly with my new Cuisinart Griddler that I received last night. It's the perfect motorhome kitchen accessory. It is an indoor grill that transforms into a panini maker and a griddle and an open grill to make everything you need from a breakfast of pancakes and eggs to lunch where you can make quesadillas or paninis or grilled cheese sandwiches, to dinner where you can make anything imaginable from chicken to salmon to grilled veggies all on the same item, and it's perfectly compact enough to fit in almost any drawer. It's wonderful.

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December 27th - Another Christmas Filled Evening - Grandma and Grandpa Saulsbury's -
Tonight's Christmas dinner was celebrated with Frank's family from up north. Uncle Steve bar-b-qued some great steaks, chicken and salmon, and after dinner Frank and Sean played a few duet Christmas carols with Sean on the piano and Frank on the guitar. After everyone opened their gifts we had a joke-a-thon with Spencer's new corny joke book and all the corny jokes that the adults could pull from their childhoods as well. Once we were all out of jokes we played a game that the family received from Aunt Linda called Apples to Apples. It brought many good laughs, and a lot of creativity. The object is to compare one of the seven description cards you have in your hand to the one that the dealer/judge chooses from the deck. The dealer/judge then reads each of the words the other players have submitted and chooses his/her favorite or best suited description or the one that gets the greatest laugh. For example one of the words was melodramatic. The options the other players submitted were Daytime TV, Whoopi Goldberg, Canadians, the 1970's and Darth Vader. No, a few of these don't make much sense, but keep in mind you can always plead your case to the judge and try and explain exactly why your word should be chosen over the competition. Of course in this instance Daytime TV did win, but the judge was almost convinced to pick Darth Vader due to the deep breathing and all.

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