July 11, 2016-July 24, 2016
Pasadena, California to Phoenix, Arizona to Placerville, CA
Range of miles: 21,835-23,915
In the afternoon, we paid a visit to Marty and Carolyn Forte of Excellence in Education in Monrovia, California. What was supposed to be a few hours of visiting turned into a wonderful six-hour fellowship and ended at a yummy Mexican restaurant with killer salsa. I really appreciated this couple who has been serving homeschool families for the last 30+ years. They are in the trenches and have “seen it all” and yet they don’t shirk back from difficult circumstances. They offer their customers many solutions so anyone with a desire to homeschool can do it! I love their out-of-the-box thinking! Lord willing, we’ll be back to host a workshop.
We spent the day with family at my parent’s condo in Oxnard, California and did what our family does best: talking, eating, laughing, and soaking in the sun at the beach. I even got in a nice long jog along the shoreline and visited with one of my dad’s cousins I haven’t seen in years.
Wednesday morning we got up bright and early and packed up. Before we left the Southern California area, we have one more stop to make. I hadn’t seen my dear friend from junior high in years although we’re Facebook friends. We met at a local breakfast nook and shared homemade English muffins, french toast, grilled breakfast meats, and lots of laughs! We swapped homeschool and personal stories back and forth until it was time to go. I love this lady’s ability to embrace different points of views. She always challenges my thinking!
As we left Southern California and headed to Phoenix, Arizona, tall buildings turned into flat desert land while temperatures quickly rose to 113°. Yeah, you read correctly, 113 degrees!
Our friends from Eagles Nest Homeschool Supply blessed our socks off! They gave us the keys to a luxurious condo. They had plans to attend the Phoenix Convention but had to cancel at the last minute, and could not get a refund on their rented condo. They offered it to us. It was so nice being in a condo rather than a hotel. We flopped on the couch and reviewed the plans for the next day.
We were up bright and early to pay a visit to the Phoenix Arizona State Tax Board. Every state’s tax laws are different. Forrest, known as the “C.F.H. or Chief Financial Husband” of HTHL, negotiates the sales tax labyrinth. It can be tricky and definitely time-consuming. It has tested the patience of my man for sure! But he has persevered, and for that I am eternally grateful. I’m allergic to numbers!
The city streets are lined with saguaro cactus and wispy trees that help shade the 115° sun rays that assault the cement walkways. With tax paperwork complete, it was time for Team HTHL to set up our booth for the final time for the 2016 homeschool convention season.
After the setup, we hurried home to the condo where we met our dear friends Carl and Maria. Carl is a pastor at Verde Baptist Church. Our families go way back. When our kids were little, Maria and I co-oped together with another family. We picked up right where we left off! It seemed like time and miles had never come between us.
The Arizona State Convention Team (AFHE) is one well organized, well-oiled machine. Every detail was taken care, and we were so impressed by their hospitality and heart to serve.
I’m not sure how the AFHE Team found out, but they did! I love DOTS. It’s my favorite candy, just ask my kids. I am a closet DOTS eater, hoarder, and have been known to remove them from my children’s Halloween candy bags without asking.
Cindy, the AFHE speaker coordinator, delivered a box of DOTS to our booth. I was so impressed that she remembered.
My workshop, “Keeping Your Smart Cookies Challenge” for academically gifted kids resonated with the attendees at the AFHE. The workshop was packed, and people were standing along the wall. Unfortunately, there’s never enough time in a workshop to dive into the deeper issues. It has inspired me to put together a resource for parents.
The sun went down, and the vendor hall closed. It was time for an AFHE highlight event, Ladies Night Out hosted by Rachel Carmen from Apologia and AFHE. It was a wonderful time with games, heartfelt sharing, Bible study and just getting to know each other. There were lots of prizes and laughs too! A girl can’t ask for more: laughs, God’s Word, aaaaaand chocolates!
While I attended Ladies Night Out, Forrest, BusyGirl, and CountryGirl (BusyGirl’s BFF) went out to dinner with other vendors.
We arrived back at the condo later than usual, but that didn’t stop BusyGirl and CountryGirl enjoying a dip in the pool. After all, it was still 93 degrees at 11:00 pm at night!
CountryGirl discovered that just behind HTHL’s booth was the Mystery of History‘s booth. CountryGirl is an absolute fan and wanted to meet the author, Linda Hobar. I met Linda at the Indianapolis, Convention. She is one of the kindest, most humble ladies I’ve ever met. “You want to meet her?” I asked CountryGirl. CountryGirl hesitated. I think she was a little starstruck. BusyGirl provided the necessary coaxing by physically dragging her. The two finally met.
It was such a treat to meet this family (pictured below)! They’ve been using HTHL’s Writing Program for the last two years and absolutely love it! It was so nice to meet these young authors. Of course, we had to do the “Pencils up!” shout. The kids even inspired me with ideas about maybe offering a trophy to kids who complete all the writing projects. The dad and mom of these two wonderful children expressed their gratitude and even sold the program to attendees who were at the booth at the same time. I love when enthusiasm for HTHL from the kids match the parent’s passion for our program! That’s HTHL’s goal in a nutshell, a WIN for the kids AND a WIN for the parents!
I also had the privilege of meeting Krista Winn (pictured below) and Joyce Blankenship; both are Special Needs Consultants from HSLDA. Our passion to help struggling learners quickly united us! I think you can look forward to growing collaboration between HTHL and HSLDA, including supporting the Homeschool Foundation, the charitable arm of HSLDA.
On the last night of the convention, we finally had the opportunity to break bread with Hal and Melanie Young, authors of Raising Real Men and their children. We didn’t break just any bread; we broke fry bread! They introduced us to Navajo tacos, our new favorite food! Adults and kids chatted around the table. We finished off the evening by enjoying two dessert variations, chocolate drizzled fry bread and honey drizzled fry bread. Both taste bud experiences were amazing!
Team HTHL didn’t move very speedily on Sunday morning, but we did want to go to Pastor Carl’s church, Verde Baptist Church in Cottonwood, Arizona.
We arrived a little late but in time for the message. I’ll blame it on all the donkeys we had to watch out for on the road.
It was hard saying goodbye to our friends. I so wished we were once again living just a few houses down the street. Maria said it well, “It’s like we’ve never been apart. Heaven is going to be so much fun!!!”
CountryGirl had never been to a Cracker Barrel, so we decided to treat her to some country cooking, and of course, let her sip their amazing homemade frosted lemonade. Yeah, she even tried fried okra! Cracker Barrel has been our home-away-from-home when we craved homestyle cooking on the road.
Last stop before we drive home? The Grand Canyon! A fitting end for our grand finale!
The Grand Canyon is truly amazing. It takes your breath away and pictures cannot do it justice. The last time I visited the Grand Canyon, I was ten-years-old. Our family flew out from Long Island, New York (my hometown) and backpacked eight miles down the Kaibab Trail and ten miles back up the Bright Angel Trail. It was and still is a defining milestone in my life. I am thankful for my parents who embraced extraordinary experiences for their little family.
Great minds think alike! We turned a corner on the Rim Trail and who did we find? Hal and Melanie Young and kids!
Together, we marveled at God’s amazing creation and beheld the beautiful remnants that resulted from massive amounts of water, silt, and stone. Of course, we talked science! We’re homeschoolers after all!
The Young family parted for the east coast. Their convention trail had a few more stops to go. We already missed them.
Standing in awe of God’s wonderful creation!
Kisses are sweeter on top of a mountain, and Forrest and I couldn’t resist! He is my partner, my love, and my crazy dreamer, and without question, the visionary driving force behind HTHL. He is a true servant leader!
We got a picnic dinner at a local grocery store and perched ourselves on a bench to enjoy the sunset.
Our view on the left….
The sun was slowly squeezing itself behind the distant horizon. Hot rays leaked and illuminated the drifting clouds above.
Our view on the right…
Remnant sunbeams scattered towards the east and deepened the hues of the sediment layers. Vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows changed colors like a child’s kaleidoscope.
Within a few minutes….
A faint rainbow appeared in the distance, reaching heavenward and disappearing into the clouds that were beginning to blanket the canyon for its familiar night’s rest.
The view over our shoulders….
The full moon rose high in the sky and obediently lit the dark night just as God had commanded from the beginning of ancient times.
What a grand finale to our 2016 homeschool convention season!
Home was only a mere twelve hours away. Our perspective of distance has definitely changed since we started the convention season back in February. “It’s only this far on the map,” we often said to each other spreading our thumb and pointer finger a few inches apart. We decided to drive through the night. Forrest and I took turns driving and sleeping while the HTHL wheels hummed on Highway 40.
The full moon was shining brightly through the driver’s side window. It was 2:00 am, soft praise and worship music gently filled the inside of the van. I could hear smooth deep inhalations followed by an occasional snore from my passengers.
My heart turned to my King.
“Hi, Lord……<long sigh>……thank you.” I quietly said.
His quiet presence rested with me as he brought to mind moments from the trip.
I thought of each homeschool convention, the moms who came to our booth, and the convention leaders whose passion created a beautiful place for all of us to meet.
I thought of the conversations with different moms after the workshops, and the tearful, joyful, and hopeful moments we shared.
I thought of the new vendor friends we met, and ones who are now a part of our lives. It was fun to share the road with so many dedicated business owners who longed for home but stayed true to their calling.
I thought of my blogging friends and the friends we met who welcomed us into their church family every Sunday.
I thought of our friends who own homeschool supply businesses. I recounted their stories of pouring into new and veteran homeschool families day in and day out.
I thought of so many who have blessed HTHL with advice and resources. It was so nice to meet face-to- face.
I thought of you, my friends, who rode along with me from blog post to blog post.
I thought of the hard times when I just wanted to go home.
I thought of my family.
I thought of the lessons I learned along the way.
My thoughts grew quiet. “What’s next Lord?” I asked.
“Are you with Me?” the quiet voice replied.
“You know I am.” I whispered back. He knows my struggles with not knowing the details of future plans.
The wheels of the van hummed on.
On this night, my trust rested and remained in my King.
I smiled. The adventure continues….
We arrived at our home just in time for lunch. We said goodbye to CountryGirl. She looked so happy as she hugged her mom. We sent her home with a souvenir bag full of memories.
Life quickly returned to normal. We cleaned house and clothes. Our family gathered for our granddaughter’s seventh birthday and celebrated our son and daughter-in-loves sixth wedding anniversary. The following day, we joined our grand-daughter at a water park to finish her birthday celebration. (Birthday celebrations are never just one day when you’re seven!) For the rest of the week, Forrest resumed his work landscaping, and I dove into a pile of HTHL tasks. And of course, we began putting ideas on paper for our daughter’s upcoming wedding.
Thank you for sharing the road with us! It has been a pleasure to do life together. I have a long list of blog posts that I can’t wait to write and share with you. Keep your coffee cup or (tea cup) filled! We have lots to talk about!
From Our Home (On the Road) to Yours,
See our journey on HTHL’s Google Map (Click: HERE)