Texas: Home Again and Jiggety Jig

So the loop around the country was better than I could have imagined and I didn't worry about being away from home . . . until I saw the "Welcome to Texas" sign. I didn't know how much I missed you, you overly friendly, too-hot state!

Not long after crossing the state line, we stopped at a gas station. I knew we were close to home when everybody was holding the doors for each other.

 When we got out of the car in Texas, I immediately said, "Whew! It is too hot here!" Rowyn said, "I love the heat! It happens because it's such a warm-hearted state!" #perspective

When we got out of the car in Texas, I immediately said, "Whew! It is too hot here!" Rowyn said, "I love the heat! It happens because it's such a warm-hearted state!" #perspective

It took a couple days to unload. The first few days I was pretty sure we'd never be back to normal. Especially when this happened:

 Antibiotics for the whole family.

Antibiotics for the whole family.

The kids started acting sickish. It persisted past me suggesting they were just tired of unloading and unpacking. Finally I took them to the doctor and it was strep for everybody. (Their immune system pulled an Oprah--you get strep, you get strep, everybody gets strep!!!)

So our journey back to reality ( which included getting our fish back, paying toll tickets, washing one million loads of clothes) included disinfecting the house.

 Our Pennsylvania toll tickets. I still need to pay the tolls mailed from the east coast. I'm sorry, Florida! I'll do that today. 

Our Pennsylvania toll tickets. I still need to pay the tolls mailed from the east coast. I'm sorry, Florida! I'll do that today. 

As I put stuff away, I enjoyed recounting the trip from our books and souvenirs. Considering we had limited space in our fifth wheel, we don't travel light with our literature. 

 Books acquired during the trip on the right; books we brought with us on the left. Note: Not all books are pictured--I tried to get them stacked up, but we all kept sneaking them away to read them. For this picture, I grabbed the ones close by and snapped a picture.

Books acquired during the trip on the right; books we brought with us on the left. Note: Not all books are pictured--I tried to get them stacked up, but we all kept sneaking them away to read them. For this picture, I grabbed the ones close by and snapped a picture.

After everybody got better, we enjoyed the last bit of summer with swimming, video gaming, and a last minute traveling to Arkansas.

 Logan drying Lucy (the dog) after he "taught" her to swim.

Logan drying Lucy (the dog) after he "taught" her to swim.

Today the school break is over. Zach and I dropped the kiddos off at school; he left to engineer things and I'm sitting at my desk (in the extreme, somewhat creepy quiet) for the first time all summer. First I'm going to play email catch up (my inbox currently has 6,079 unread messages), then it is onto planning school visits, and I'm going to write. I'm working on my next project now. It's probably somewhere around draft twenty-seven--it isn't pretty yet, but its getting there!

Stay tuned! I'll still be posting to this blog--writing about all things author and updating the pages so I can hopefully come to a school near you!

New Mexico: Bookworks and Grandparents

The last stop before Texas. 

I had an event at Bookworks in Albuquerque. This was fun because we got to stay with my husband's parents and also see a lot of family friends at the signing.

 The crew in front of the Bookworks sign.

The crew in front of the Bookworks sign.

 Notice Logan's mischievous smile. This is because he's discover if you move that rock, a broken sprinkler head shoots out a stream of water. The first time he did this, Grandma was in the line of fire.

Notice Logan's mischievous smile. This is because he's discover if you move that rock, a broken sprinkler head shoots out a stream of water. The first time he did this, Grandma was in the line of fire.

While we were here, my mother-in-law gave me the AMAZING quite she'd made featuring my book cover.

 I love it!

I love it!

It was a short (but sweet) visit staying with family and squeezing in a little hiking, but we're all getting excited about our next stop: home!

Arizona: Grand Canyon and Happy Hikers

The Grand Canyon! This was one of the highlights of our trip and something we were all looking forward to seeing. We were so excited--Zach most of all--so he convinced us we should get there that night. He drove until 2am so we would already be there when we woke up in the morning.

As soon as we got to the campsite, we hopped out of the car and into the fifth wheel. We were all so tired, we didn't care that we were all sleeping at an angle since we didn't level the trailer that night.

But it was worth it.

 Ta da! Rowyn is showing off the Grand Canyon.

Ta da! Rowyn is showing off the Grand Canyon.

 Logan (with his survival pack) sat on a rock to look out over the canyon and contemplated its beauty as is the custom for all ten-year-old boys upon seeing such a sight. Or he was trying to decide if he could jump it.

Logan (with his survival pack) sat on a rock to look out over the canyon and contemplated its beauty as is the custom for all ten-year-old boys upon seeing such a sight. Or he was trying to decide if he could jump it.

 Zach snuck a little closer to snap a good picture.

Zach snuck a little closer to snap a good picture.

In the morning we hiked the rim. The all-night drive did zap some of our energy, but not so much that Rowyn was thwarted from achieving another Junior Ranger status.

 Ro was sworn in as a Junior Ranger. (I asked her if being a Junior Ranger at two different parks equally to a real Ranger. She informed me that it did not.)

Ro was sworn in as a Junior Ranger. (I asked her if being a Junior Ranger at two different parks equally to a real Ranger. She informed me that it did not.)

After lunch, Zach and Cole went farther down the canyon while I stayed up top with Logan and Rowyn. Zach said that Cole was a machine and did not stop smiling for the entire hike.

 Our happy hiker.

Our happy hiker.

We'll have to find a way to let Cole hike in Texas. Or maybe we'll just have to travel with the fifth wheel some more.

We only have one more stop before heading back to Texas. Can't believe the trip has gone so fast!

LA Area: Once Upon a Storybook and Frugal Frigate

After San Jose we made our way south towards Los Angeles. We had a brief stop at Pinnacles National Park and got to see some California condor. (A little history lesson: the California condor is the largest North American land bird. They almost went extinct in the 80s; the remaining California condor--22 total--were captured, bred, and some were eventually released back into the wild. There are now about 435 living in the wild or captivity).

 This was a cool tree on the way out of the campground, but we think these are another type of vulture and not California condors. We were able to see some California condor through the binoculars set up in the park. They were huge and awesome . . . and had a face only a mother could love.

This was a cool tree on the way out of the campground, but we think these are another type of vulture and not California condors. We were able to see some California condor through the binoculars set up in the park. They were huge and awesome . . . and had a face only a mother could love.

We left Pinnacles National Park, and stopped by Solvang, California after it was recommended by a family member. It is a cute Danish town (with GREAT gluten free stuff in their bakeries!)

 If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, sit inside it for a photo op.

If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, sit inside it for a photo op.

 We rented a surrey to ride around town. Every year we do rent one of these on vacation we gain an additional pedal-er (when everybody's legs get long enough, we will be a force!).

We rented a surrey to ride around town. Every year we do rent one of these on vacation we gain an additional pedal-er (when everybody's legs get long enough, we will be a force!).

I had two events/signings in the area.

The first was at Once Upon a Storybook in Tustin. This store was precious and so supportive--to both the patrons and to me! It was cozy and my kids loved it.

 The front of Once Upon a Storybook.

The front of Once Upon a Storybook.

 Rowyn immediately found her happy place.

Rowyn immediately found her happy place.

The next day I had an event at the Frugal Frigate in Redlands. This was a great neighborhood bookshop. (One of my best friend's aunts lives near it and I got to meet her--their fantastic-ness runs in the family.) This store also added a blurb about the signing in the newspaper--it's going in the scrapbook of the trip.

 The front of Frugal Frigate.

The front of Frugal Frigate.

 The inside of the store.

The inside of the store.

Both signings were so sweet and I got to have great bookish conversations!

As soon as we left Frugal Frigate we hopped in the car and started towards the Grand Canyon. Zach wanted to drive through the night to get there. I was not convinced this was a good idea (as I pictured us all sleep walking off the edge as we hiked the following day).

I'll reveal this winner of this nail-biting debate on the next post. Stay tuned . . .

San Jose: Hicklebee's and world records

So a duck walks into a grocery store and he asks the manager, "Got any grapes?" The manager says no and the duck walks away.

The next day the duck comes back to the grocery store and asks the same guy, "Got any grapes?" The manager says no. Again, the duck goes away.

The duck comes back the next day and asks the same guy, "Got any grapes?" The manager is so over this duck and his question about grapes that he says, "If you ever come back into this store and ask if I've 'got any grapes' again, I'll nail your beak to the floor!"

The next day, the duck comes back to the same guy and says, "Got any nails?" When the manager yells an aggravated, "No!" the duck says, "Good. Got any grapes?"

This is the joke Cole told at the event at Hicklebee's bookstore in San Jose. I loved this event! All the kiddos that came brought their favorite joke and got to tell it before we talked about Exit Strategy. My family and I are still laughing about the one where two sisters got up and the first said, "It's raining cats and dogs out there!" to which her sister said, "I know! I just stepped in a poodle!"

 The front of Hicklebee's.

The front of Hicklebee's.

 Exit Strategy was right up front!

Exit Strategy was right up front!

 Such a fun crowd--and a fun host!

Such a fun crowd--and a fun host!

 I'm signing Exit Strategy. Notice the (literal) writing on the wall. All the authors that visit the store get to sign it.  

I'm signing Exit Strategy. Notice the (literal) writing on the wall. All the authors that visit the store get to sign it.  

 For example, here is the signature of Dav Pikley and J.K. Rowling. So does the fact that they asked me to sign the wall put me on the same level? No, not at all! But I felt so proud to add my name.

For example, here is the signature of Dav Pikley and J.K. Rowling. So does the fact that they asked me to sign the wall put me on the same level? No, not at all! But I felt so proud to add my name.

We didn't have much time to fully experience San Jose, but we did do a couple of things worth mentioning. We saw the Guinness World Record Winner for the Largest Permanent Monopoly board. Logan and I were especially pumped about this. For Logan it was because of his deep and undying love of Monopoly. For me, it was a chance to do a little research for my next book!

 We ran laps around the World's Largest Permanent Monopoly Board.

We ran laps around the World's Largest Permanent Monopoly Board.

We also ate at a place called Crepevine. It is to my great sadness that I did not get of picture of such a magnificent establishment. I had the best crepe there (gluten free!). I've thought about it every mealtime since then. If you are ever in the area, please, please eat one for me.

San Francisco: Charlie's Corner and Crickets (Sour Cream & Onion Flavored)

San Francisco is the current title holder for "City with Most Pictures Taken through My Car Window."

I tried to stop taking them--to play it cool and stop looking like a wide-eyed, over excited tourist--but this city was just so awesome. It was all hills and color and Full House opening credits-style architecture.

 One of the hundred pictures.

One of the hundred pictures.

 Another of the hundred pictures. (Isn't it cool?!)

Another of the hundred pictures. (Isn't it cool?!)

I had a really FUN event at Charlie's Corner. Everybody that works in this bookstore was so nice and so warm! The owner puts on this great story time for kids--so I got to hang out with all ages here! They also have middle school students interning in the store. After the event the interns interviewed me for their newsletter that is written by kids for kids. I was very impressed!

 The front of Charlie's Corner.

The front of Charlie's Corner.

 They created a beautiful display for the signing!

They created a beautiful display for the signing!

 I'm getting interviewed by the interns.

I'm getting interviewed by the interns.

 Charlie's Corner has great quotes all over the shop.

Charlie's Corner has great quotes all over the shop.

 This sign in the children's area made me snort-laugh. The drool on the book is just the best.

This sign in the children's area made me snort-laugh. The drool on the book is just the best.

After the signing, we had wonderful (gluten free because of Celiac) pizza at Patxi's and took some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 The Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge.

Between the city, the bookstore, and the pizza, the night was perfect . . . until we got back to our campground and found the gate bolted shut with this sign:

 It was 10:30 when we got back. This was not good.

It was 10:30 when we got back. This was not good.

So we had a dilemma. The facts were these: the exit had tire-popping spikes for wrong way drivers, we had three very tired kids in the backseat, and there was a dog in our trailer that probably was in desperate need of a potty break. We began to get creative--making foolish plans that ranged from off-roading or hiking (with our two youngest slung over our shoulders) or a scheme that involved laying down the 2x4's, saying a prayer, and going over the spikes. It was then that the policeman showed up.

He was very nice. We explained what was going on and he helped us out. Though he did pause for a second and say, "Were you actually going to over those? I've never seen anybody attempt that before."

The next day was beautiful. The kids got to swim. We ate crickets as a family (see picture). And we made sure not to leave the campground at night.

 The kids got to swim and had fun playing with some new friends.

The kids got to swim and had fun playing with some new friends.

 We found these at the camp store. (They also had a bacon and cheese flavor, but we thought these sounded better.)

We found these at the camp store. (They also had a bacon and cheese flavor, but we thought these sounded better.)

I got the best video of the cricket eating (and obviously I couldn't eat them since I had to document the activity). I hope to figure out how to upload that soon!

Travel Days: Vegas and Sequoia National Park

After Denver we had a lot of time on the road to get to the west coast. We stayed one night in Las Vegas. The kids learned a valuable lesson about gambling when they lost all their souvenir money in the slot machines.

Just kidding.

They only lost half of it.*

 The view in Nevada as we were driving.

The view in Nevada as we were driving.

 The late-night view of the strip.

The late-night view of the strip.

The next morning we hopped back in the car and continued heading to California. We typically let the kids play video games for half of the long drives. When they are not in their Minecraft world, the inside of our car gets a little boisterous.

 Sometimes it is happy roughhousing. Sometimes it is definitely not.

Sometimes it is happy roughhousing. Sometimes it is definitely not.

We finally made it to Sequoia National Park. Zach saw the trees when he was a kid and he's been rooting for us to see them too.**

 A downed tree to Rowyn's right. Turns out a gigantic tree means it leaves a gigantic stump.

A downed tree to Rowyn's right. Turns out a gigantic tree means it leaves a gigantic stump.

We walked from our campsite to the General Grant Tree. We knew the kids could make it (we walked way more in D.C. and in New York), but the path definitely felt longer than we expected. Rowyn and Cole weren't so sure they were having a good time. However, this was not the case for Logan. He'd put together a survival pack and took the hike very seriously.

 We took a much needed water break while admiring the girth of Grant. Logan was sure fortunate to have packed all things necessary for life in the wild. He suffered an injury on the walk, but with all his own medical attention and his supplies it was turned into a scratch rather than a mortal wound.

We took a much needed water break while admiring the girth of Grant. Logan was sure fortunate to have packed all things necessary for life in the wild. He suffered an injury on the walk, but with all his own medical attention and his supplies it was turned into a scratch rather than a mortal wound.

 We drove to the hiking path for the General Sherman Tree. To change it up, we played chase down (and later back up) the trail. Cole was the winner.

We drove to the hiking path for the General Sherman Tree. To change it up, we played chase down (and later back up) the trail. Cole was the winner.

 Three goofballs sitting on a stump.

Three goofballs sitting on a stump.

Sequoia National Park was a beautiful place to stay. The campsites are very close together, so we had to remind our kiddos that the adults next to us might not to deal with the wildlife (aka Cole, Logan, and Rowyn) the entire time. Also while we were there, the kids really got into helping us cook.

 Rowyn was our potato cuber, Cole was our potato peeler. (Logan was probably poking at the fire with a stick.)

Rowyn was our potato cuber, Cole was our potato peeler. (Logan was probably poking at the fire with a stick.)

We got to see the coolest thing one of the nights we were there: Pandas in the wild!

They were so great! We got to hang out with them at their campfire--just chatting and munching on bamboo.

 Here are the "pandas" holding my bookmark. Since meeting these fantastic people, Rowyn has decided she and Zach need matching kitty onesies. And I'm pretty sure she'll make this happen.

Here are the "pandas" holding my bookmark. Since meeting these fantastic people, Rowyn has decided she and Zach need matching kitty onesies. And I'm pretty sure she'll make this happen.

One of the coolest things (besides pandas) at national parks is they give the kids an opportunity to achieve Junior Park Ranger status. Rowyn LOVES this. They boys begrudgingly join her. I thought I'd share this record of my son's deep thinking about how he experiences nature with four of his senses.

 Note: What his smells in the National Park. It was a legit answer though. We made him add another detail or two before he earned his badge.

Note: What his smells in the National Park. It was a legit answer though. We made him add another detail or two before he earned his badge.

*They did not actually gamble.

** See what I did there? Rooting for us to see the trees. Sometimes I like to be punny.

Colorado: Tattered Cover and Second Star

It was nice to be in Colorado for a bit. Since Zach is from New Mexico and his parents live there, we travel to the mountains a couple times a year. It was comforting to see something familiar after being in so many places that are new to us.

When we got to Denver, we hoped out of the car and our teeth immediately began to chatter. We'd come from 100ish degrees so we dressed in tank tops, shorts, and flip flops (except for Zach who always wears jeans and sneakers). We had to brake out the jackets.

I had two events near Denver. The first was at Tattered Cover in Littleton. This is a beautiful store. We got there early and walked around and I was happy to find several writing groups in action. (If you aren't a writer, this is when a few people get together, read their work aloud, and then give (and take) constructive critique.) Finding my fellow writer-types there immediately elevated the store to super-star status.

 The outside of Tattered Cover Bookstore in Littleton, Colorado.

The outside of Tattered Cover Bookstore in Littleton, Colorado.

 The display of Exit Strategy. I love the way they arranged this table.

The display of Exit Strategy. I love the way they arranged this table.

 The kids found a book and settle in immediately. Pretty sure this is indicative of an awesome bookstore.

The kids found a book and settle in immediately. Pretty sure this is indicative of an awesome bookstore.

The next day I had an event at Second Star to the Right.

Oh my goodness--this store is so great! It's an old house that's been converted to a bookstore. It's got full bookshelves from the ceiling to the (wooden) floor . . . and basically exactly what I want my own house to look like!

It began raining right as well walked up to Second Star, so instead of their outside space (which is all tents and cushions and is adorable), we were in what they called the Rumpus Room--ten points to anybody that gets the reference--which is a beautifully converted garage. As a Wild Thing myself, I truly appreciated this.

 The outside of Second Star to the Right. The outdoor space is to the right.

The outside of Second Star to the Right. The outdoor space is to the right.

 Reading from Exit Strategy in the Rumpus Room.

Reading from Exit Strategy in the Rumpus Room.

For this event, I read from my book and then I was interviewed. At the end of the standard questions, we did a lightning round where I was asked things like tea or coffee and unicorn or dragon. There is one question that still haunts me. Teleporting or flying. I answered teleporting, but I keep flip-flopping now. Which would you pick?

 I loved this interview..

I loved this interview..

 Signing books--and I messed up a name. Ah! Also, note the sweet gal on the right. Before the event she performed an impromptu play of her queen coronation--complete with singing and dancing. It was adorable!

Signing books--and I messed up a name. Ah! Also, note the sweet gal on the right. Before the event she performed an impromptu play of her queen coronation--complete with singing and dancing. It was adorable!

The kids also got to play at this stop. We were SO happy to find out that some of our friends from Texas were in town. It was such a sweet thing to see them.

  The kids playing at the park (right before the falling and tears).

 The kids playing at the park (right before the falling and tears).

 My kids with our friends from Texas. Soooo happy to see them in Colorado. Between our two families, we've got a lot of kids!

My kids with our friends from Texas. Soooo happy to see them in Colorado. Between our two families, we've got a lot of kids!

After Second Star, we drove to Frisco, stayed the night, then got up and drove to Grand Junction in the morning. Thankfully at our most recent stop, we got some much-needed downtime. Zach wanted to see the Colorado Monument but the kids and I were wiped, so he went alone and took pictures. It sure looks pretty in the photos, but at the time I was more interested in studying the backs of my eyelids--that was a nice view too!

 There are so many tunnels through the mountains in Colorado.

There are so many tunnels through the mountains in Colorado.

 The drive was beautiful!

The drive was beautiful!

 The Colorado Monument, courtesy of Zach.

The Colorado Monument, courtesy of Zach.

 

We've got a couple days of driving as we head over to California. We're stopping in Las Vega tonight. Since it gets so hot there, we can't stay in our trailer and we're "forced" to stay in a hotel. The kids are looking forward to swimming. Zach is looking forward to the sites. And I am looking forward to taking a shower with good water pressure!

Chicago: Sand Dunes and Snow Cones

Alternative title: When the Bad Thing Becomes the Best Thing.

After we left New York, we grabbed the trailer and the dog (she was very excited to see us--the feeling was mutual) and got on the road. We drove a couple hours and stayed a night a campground in Illinois. The next morning we got up and drove the rest of the way to Chicago.

As we travel, Zach and I both have to get work done. My work (content editing and/or writing depending on the day) is easy to do on the road as long as I've got a working laptop. My goal for the drive to Chicago was to finish a client's manuscript and then post on social media about my event the following day. The manuscript took me most of the trip, so as we pulled up to the campgrounds, I was verifying the details of my signing before I put it on twitter, crosschecking my notes with the store's event calendar. Except when I clicked on the bookstore's website, there was nothing on their calendar about my event.

This was a panic-inducing moment. We had literally arrived at our stop in Chicago--drove my family across the country--for an event that was never scheduled.

After talking with the bookstore and verifying that my although I'd gotten confirmation from them, the event had "slipped through the cracks," I definitely hit a low point.

I would have liked to stop and probably cry a bit, but the kids had been in the car all day and needed to run around. Plus, we had to eat dinner. So, setting aside the frustration for then, we took them to the beach at our campgrounds to see the Indiana sand dunes and to stick our feet in the cold, cold water.

It was so pretty, but looking back over the pictures now, I noticed we didn't take a ton. I was pretty distracted.  

 The view of Lake Michigan from the shore. Look at the bird in the sky on the right--it looks like the ones you draw as a kid.

The view of Lake Michigan from the shore. Look at the bird in the sky on the right--it looks like the ones you draw as a kid.

 View from the top of the sand dunes. (There were two sisters that ran down from the top and just bit it right before I took this picture.)

View from the top of the sand dunes. (There were two sisters that ran down from the top and just bit it right before I took this picture.)

By the next day, I was able to mentally reset. Still bummed. Still felt rejected. But better. And now the kids and I had an unexpected day to fill.

Earlier in the summer, Logan asked for a snow cone machine for his birthday. We decided to make that happen, and to get take it up a notch and get an industrial one that our family could share. (Side note: if you have kids with a gluten allergy, or really any allergy, I highly recommend buying a snow cone machine. You can use it for birthdays, parties, etc. It's easily paid for itself already and we've only had it a month.) So with our free time, we decided to have a impromptu snow cone stand at our campsite. While Zach went into town to work, the kids and I stayed behind and set up shop.

 The kids ready to give out free snow cones and free bookmarks.

The kids ready to give out free snow cones and free bookmarks.

 Business was slow at first, but eventually the guys pictured below came by (they will henceforth be known as my street team). Over snow cones, they asked tons of questions about my book. It was a great conversation. Then they decided, along with my oldest kid, they would go around the campground and let everybody know we had free snow cones and bookmarks.

 My street team. They are cousins at the same campground as us.

My street team. They are cousins at the same campground as us.

My street team really got the word out. After a couple hours, we'd given out around fifty snow cones and bookmarks. (And bonus: I got tons of experience talking about my book.)

This was so much fun. Better than I thought I could hope for.

 This was one of my all time favorite afternoons.

This was one of my all time favorite afternoons.

And it gets even better. After this picture was taken, the young lady in the pink hat came back on her skateboard. She told me she was a writer and asked if I had any advice on how to become a published author.

Of course, I did. So we got to talk books for a while. She was so impressive. I have no doubt if she keeps writing, she'll have a book on the shelves someday.

After we ran out of cups and snow cone syrup, we loaded up again. On our way to the next campsite, we stopped in Chicago.

 This is the Navy Pier in Chicago. We decided I'm a New York gal, and my husband is a Chicago guy. He loved it here like I loved NY.

This is the Navy Pier in Chicago. We decided I'm a New York gal, and my husband is a Chicago guy. He loved it here like I loved NY.

 And we HAD to get Chicago pizza. They didn't have a gluten free deep dish pizza, but the one Logan and I ate was still excellent. The gluten eaters liked theirs too.

And we HAD to get Chicago pizza. They didn't have a gluten free deep dish pizza, but the one Logan and I ate was still excellent. The gluten eaters liked theirs too.

We're on our way to Denver now, though we do have a couple stops between here and there. I've doubled checked and double confirmed the rest of the scheduled events so we don't show up to another not-happening signing. But still, I think the way this stop went was way better than what I had planned. It's got me thinking a lot about how sometimes the things the seem no good and altogether rotten turn into the biggest blessings. If you've got your own example, I'd love to hear about it!

New York: New York!

I, like many others, heart New York.

Like a lot.

It is one of my favorite places, so I had been marking down the days on the calendar until we got to this stop. I will say it is a bit more stressful to bring the littles, but it was still worth going.

We were not crazy enough to take the fifth wheel into New York. From D.C. we drove the trailer to Pennsylvania and left it there. We also boarded Lucy (our dog) in White Haven. Once we had the fifth wheel and the dog taken care of, we drove to New Jersey, parked the truck, and took a ferry to New York.

 The New York skyline from the ferry.

The New York skyline from the ferry.

 The obligatory Statue of Liberty picture. I've seen tons of photos, but it really is amazing to see it in person.

The obligatory Statue of Liberty picture. I've seen tons of photos, but it really is amazing to see it in person.

 The World Trade Center Memorial. We told the kids more about our memories of 911. This was a hard conversation to have with kids. There's so much to explain and its just hard understand. And that isn't because they're kids. As an adult, I can hardly comprehend it.

The World Trade Center Memorial. We told the kids more about our memories of 911. This was a hard conversation to have with kids. There's so much to explain and its just hard understand. And that isn't because they're kids. As an adult, I can hardly comprehend it.

Our oldest, Colton, turned twelve the day we got to New York, so we were set out to find celebratory cupcakes. Luckily, there was a Sprinkles across the street from our hotel. We also made a special stop to Grand Central Station (which was AWESOME and I totally recommend doing, but it's not the kind of trains you normal picture in your mind).

 The kids were on their post-cupcake sugar high.

The kids were on their post-cupcake sugar high.

 Here we are at Grand Central Station. This was the first time we've even done an audio tour--it won't be the last. We had no idea our kids would like it this much.

Here we are at Grand Central Station. This was the first time we've even done an audio tour--it won't be the last. We had no idea our kids would like it this much.

While we were in New York, I got to have lunch with both my agent and my editor. It is to my great sadness that I totally forgot to take a picture. I did snap a picture of the publisher, Simon & Schuster, on the walk from our hotel to Central Park. I also popped into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue to look for my book.

 Simon & Schuster--the publisher of my book.

Simon & Schuster--the publisher of my book.

 EXIT STRATEGY at the Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue.

EXIT STRATEGY at the Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue.

New York has so much to see.  Unfortunately, the kids were still pretty exhausted from D.C. (where my watch said we walked ten miles!). There were definitely some sore legs before we even got to the trip.

 We were taking pictures in Times Square when a guy stopped to ask if we wanted him to take it. (We did!) It took about 10 seconds to figure out he was a fellow Texan and Aggie. Whoop!

We were taking pictures in Times Square when a guy stopped to ask if we wanted him to take it. (We did!) It took about 10 seconds to figure out he was a fellow Texan and Aggie. Whoop!

 At the Natural History Museum, I (sort of) got the husband to take a silly picture with me. (We are pretending the dinosaur is chasing us. In case you can't tell. Though you probably can because we are super good actors.)

At the Natural History Museum, I (sort of) got the husband to take a silly picture with me. (We are pretending the dinosaur is chasing us. In case you can't tell. Though you probably can because we are super good actors.)

 This is the expression of kids that are Over. It. They were also unimpressed by their parents antics.

This is the expression of kids that are Over. It. They were also unimpressed by their parents antics.

 They did perk up a bit when we saw this guy. Every kid that walked by said, "Dum-dum, give me gum-gum."

They did perk up a bit when we saw this guy. Every kid that walked by said, "Dum-dum, give me gum-gum."

 By the time we got to the MET, we officially had bribed them with a candy stop. They rallied, but the museum was so packed, this was about as far as we got.

By the time we got to the MET, we officially had bribed them with a candy stop. They rallied, but the museum was so packed, this was about as far as we got.

 We took a taxi and went to Dylan's--a three-story candy store (recommended by my editor). Their energy was slowly coming back--but the promise of candy made it hard to stop and smile for the picture.

We took a taxi and went to Dylan's--a three-story candy store (recommended by my editor). Their energy was slowly coming back--but the promise of candy made it hard to stop and smile for the picture.

Since my middle kid and I have celiac disease, we have to eat gluten free. Eating sans gluten isn't hard to do in NY, but it definitely does take some planning.

 S'Mac was delicious. This restaurant makes variations mac-n-cheese and you can get any of them gluten free. 

S'Mac was delicious. This restaurant makes variations mac-n-cheese and you can get any of them gluten free. 

 We also found this gem. Blooms Cafe understands gluten so well. My kids were thrilled to get chocolate chip pancakes. We all walked out of here stuffed!

We also found this gem. Blooms Cafe understands gluten so well. My kids were thrilled to get chocolate chip pancakes. We all walked out of here stuffed!

 Here they are smiling before they ate their weight in syrupy, carby goodness.

Here they are smiling before they ate their weight in syrupy, carby goodness.

 On the ferry back to our car.

On the ferry back to our car.

I was not ready to leave. There's just so much to see and absorb and do. Plus, I enjoyed my agent and editor so much.

I hope to come back to New York soon than later. (Though I think the next trip to New York will probably be when the kids are with their grandparents.) I'm already starting a list for what Zach and I will do and eat next time we're here.

Washington D.C: Hooray for Books! and Fireworks

So, for this one, we actually stayed in Maryland, had the event in Alexandria, Virginia and spent the day in D.C.

As soon as we parked the fifth wheel, we loaded up and went to Hooray for Books!

We got up early the next day for our day in D.C. Zach was pumped about seeing the fireworks, but I wasn't as sure about it. I didn't know how the kids would do being out all day with all the walking and crowds. Also, I didn't know how I would do all day (with the walking and the crowds). But, I'm happy to say we all enjoyed it. We took the MET in to D.C., visited several museums, saw a parade, went to the monuments, and loved the fireworks.

 Rowyn and I waiting for the MET.  (I didn't realize the people in the background were in the photo until I posted it, but we rode the MET with them and shared jokes for the entire ride. Might be one of my favorite memories from this trip.)

Rowyn and I waiting for the MET.

(I didn't realize the people in the background were in the photo until I posted it, but we rode the MET with them and shared jokes for the entire ride. Might be one of my favorite memories from this trip.)

 When we got there, we walked by somebody giving a speech. To paraphrase, she said we should not give in to pessimism; instead we should work together. Loved talking about what this meant with the kids.

When we got there, we walked by somebody giving a speech. To paraphrase, she said we should not give in to pessimism; instead we should work together. Loved talking about what this meant with the kids.

 We visited the Natural History Museum. That was a big elephant.

We visited the Natural History Museum. That was a big elephant.

 The kids posing with the Hope Diamond. I told the kids this was at the top of my wish list for my birthday.

The kids posing with the Hope Diamond. I told the kids this was at the top of my wish list for my birthday.

 When we walked out of the Natural History Museum, there was a parade. (It was pretty good, but it can't beat the one in our neighborhood.)

When we walked out of the Natural History Museum, there was a parade. (It was pretty good, but it can't beat the one in our neighborhood.)

 Zach and I in front of the Washington Monument.

Zach and I in front of the Washington Monument.

 We went to the Air and Space Museum. The kids saw a real space suit.

We went to the Air and Space Museum. The kids saw a real space suit.

 We got to learn about a real space suit glove. I asked how the astronauts went to the bathroom when they were wearing the space suit. (Everybody was thinking it!) We were showed the diaper-type undies they wear during space walks. I tried to get some for the long-distance travel, but for some reason they wouldn't sell them to me.

We got to learn about a real space suit glove. I asked how the astronauts went to the bathroom when they were wearing the space suit. (Everybody was thinking it!) We were showed the diaper-type undies they wear during space walks. I tried to get some for the long-distance travel, but for some reason they wouldn't sell them to me.

 My favorite part was when we rented bikes. This meant we got to make it to several monuments. Here the kids are posing with Mr. Lincoln.

My favorite part was when we rented bikes. This meant we got to make it to several monuments. Here the kids are posing with Mr. Lincoln.

 I didn't know if we could do it, but the goal was to make it through the fireworks. The kids (and Zach and I) did it.

I didn't know if we could do it, but the goal was to make it through the fireworks. The kids (and Zach and I) did it.

 Totally worth it!

Totally worth it!

Virginia: Maymont and Trains

Still in Virginia!

And because the Maymont was described as "a Richmond treasure" it was on our must-see list. The entire place was beautiful. We took a tour of the mansion and the kids were surprisingly great!

 Zach, Colton, Logan and Rowyn in the gardens.

Zach, Colton, Logan and Rowyn in the gardens.

 The kids and I in the Japanese Garden.

The kids and I in the Japanese Garden.

 A monkey in a tree. (They said he is not indigenous to the area and made him leave.)

A monkey in a tree. (They said he is not indigenous to the area and made him leave.)

After the museum, we went to the petting zoo and nature center.

 The goat was having a heart-to-heart with the family. Or maybe he was just hoping for food.

The goat was having a heart-to-heart with the family. Or maybe he was just hoping for food.

After the Maymont, we stopped by the Railroad Museum. Our oldest loves trains and he was glad to see this.

 Colton driving the train. As the oldest, he's a natural at being in charge.

Colton driving the train. As the oldest, he's a natural at being in charge.

Virginia: Blueberries and Boosting

We stayed in Virginia for a couple days after the signing at bbgb books and got to enjoy the area. Fruit picking has been a long-term "want to" of mine, and with the mild weather and the green landscape, I thought it might be a possibility, so I started asking around. Both Jill (the owner of bbgb books) and Cara (my friend from high school) suggested blueberry picking. As soon as I told the kids this was a possibility, they quickly adopted my goal as their own. We went to Swift Creek Berry Farm & Greenhouse in Moseley, Virginia.

 There were so many blueberries. We grabbed the buckets and hiked through the field.

There were so many blueberries. We grabbed the buckets and hiked through the field.

 We started on the lower part of the bushes. (They are bushes right? Stand by. . . Yes. Blueberries do, in fact, grow on bushes. Googled it. I'm feeling super city right now.)

We started on the lower part of the bushes. (They are bushes right? Stand by. . . Yes. Blueberries do, in fact, grow on bushes. Googled it. I'm feeling super city right now.)

 Our first blueberry!

Our first blueberry!

 It didn't take long to discover that the biggest and sweetest blueberries were at the top. Rowyn got on Colton's shoulders.

It didn't take long to discover that the biggest and sweetest blueberries were at the top. Rowyn got on Colton's shoulders.

 And Zach and I thought it was such a good idea, we attempted it too.

And Zach and I thought it was such a good idea, we attempted it too.

 It might have been hard for Zach, but I was having fun!

It might have been hard for Zach, but I was having fun!

 Here are three for the greatest blueberry pickers in all the world!

Here are three for the greatest blueberry pickers in all the world!

Virginia: bbgb books and Richmond

The thing is: I love bookstores. They are My Place. I often lament that I have to buy food rather than books, and I am still brainstorming a way to create clothing from book pages (alas, I have failed so far).

But the bookstore I visited in Richmond--bbgb books--I love LOVE that one!

I so enjoyed the signing here!

 This is outside of the store.

This is outside of the store.

 The inside of bbgb books. Isn't this wonderful?! I could sit in that chair and lose hours.

The inside of bbgb books. Isn't this wonderful?! I could sit in that chair and lose hours.

 I'm talking about my middle grade novel, Exit Strategy. (Note: I tend to make strange faces while I'm speaking.)

I'm talking about my middle grade novel, Exit Strategy. (Note: I tend to make strange faces while I'm speaking.)

 I loved talking to everybody during the signing. At this event, there was a young man that had already read my book. He could name all the pranks done by the main character. It was a new and awesome experience.

I loved talking to everybody during the signing. At this event, there was a young man that had already read my book. He could name all the pranks done by the main character. It was a new and awesome experience.

 The conversations I get to have with readers are my favorite part. (Here my son joined into the chat.)

The conversations I get to have with readers are my favorite part. (Here my son joined into the chat.)

 My friend, Cara, from high school came to this signing. It made it even more special! It was her suggestion that made me put Richmond on the route. And I am so thankful we did!

My friend, Cara, from high school came to this signing. It made it even more special! It was her suggestion that made me put Richmond on the route. And I am so thankful we did!

This event was so much fun--I think I'm going to have to write more books so I can come back!

South Carolina: Fiction Addiction and Camp Fires

The event in South Carolina at Fiction Addiction was small and very sweet. One thing I am loving during this trip is seeing how every bookstore has its own personality. If Fiction Addiction was a person, I'd definitely want to be her friend. My kids loved this store too! They are typically running full throttle and a pretty loud (my neighbor texted me yesterday tell me she misses our next-door noise--haha!), but within a few minutes of walking into Fiction Addiction, they'd each found a book they liked and settled into a cozy spot. They became huge fans of the owner, Jill, as well. From the time after the event until they went to bed, my kiddos kept talking about how nice Jill is.

 The event at Fiction Addiction.

The event at Fiction Addiction.

The campsite in South Carolina, Paris Mountain State Park, was BEAUTIFUL! We were bummed we didn't get to stay there longer. We did get to build a fire though--something we hadn't been able to do yet on this trip. (The fire pit in Louisiana was flooded and the site in Florida didn't have one.)

 We did our version of stories around the campfire. Here I'm reading The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt.

We did our version of stories around the campfire. Here I'm reading The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt.

 Lucy (our devoted dog) snuggled up with Colton to enjoy the fire.

Lucy (our devoted dog) snuggled up with Colton to enjoy the fire.

 The boys didn't have marshmallows to roast, so instead they used Skinny Pop Popcorn. I don't think it was a culinary success, but the boys were in it for the experience.

The boys didn't have marshmallows to roast, so instead they used Skinny Pop Popcorn. I don't think it was a culinary success, but the boys were in it for the experience.

We've almost made it to Virginia. The drive is going well--except I think it just broke something on the floorboard when I slammed on my imaginary passenger brake.

I have two events in the state. I'll be at bbgb books in Richmond, Virgina today, June 29, at 7:00. Then I'll visit Hooray for Books! in Alexandria on July 3 at 2:00. We'll have a bit of downtime while we're here. We're planning on fixing the part of the trailer that got damaged from our blowout and hopefully have another campfire or two (this time with chocolate and marshmallows). I'd also like for the family and me to visit some of the historical sites here. If you know of any must-do things in Richmond, please let me know about them!

Florida: Sundog Books and the Beach

I've been looking forward to our Florida stop since we first decided to go on this cross-country trip. The biggest surprise here was that I had super fans that traveled there to be at my event! (Or maybe my groupies were actually my sister with her family and my awesome neighborhood friends that just happened to also have a trip scheduled at the same time--who really can say?)

The set up at Sundog Books was unique and so much fun! I sat on the porch and talked to the store's patrons. It took me a minute to get the hang of it. At first I was afraid I made too much eye contact. Then I was worried it wasn't enough. Then I overthought whether I should sit down or stand up. But when I finally relaxed and realized I could just enjoy and chat with a bunch of interesting people, it become one of my favorite things. It was like interactive people watching.

 Here I am outside of Sundog Books.

Here I am outside of Sundog Books.

 I briefly left my post to snap a picture of the inside of the store. Doesn't it look like so much fun? Oh, the hours I could lose in here . . .

I briefly left my post to snap a picture of the inside of the store. Doesn't it look like so much fun? Oh, the hours I could lose in here . . .

 My sweet sister and I posing on the porch.

My sweet sister and I posing on the porch.

 My kids and their cousins being silly outside of Duckies (a great little shop in the same area as Sundog).

My kids and their cousins being silly outside of Duckies (a great little shop in the same area as Sundog).

We all (kids and adults) loved playing with our friends at the beach. The sand was white, the water was clear, and we were not eaten by sharks.

 This swan was my favorite way to ride the waves--though sometimes I had to share with my daughter, Rowyn.

This swan was my favorite way to ride the waves--though sometimes I had to share with my daughter, Rowyn.

 Logan and Dylan boogie boarded.

Logan and Dylan boogie boarded.

 Logan was pumped to catch real-live sea creatures. He was relatively sure this is a sea cucumber per the nature shows he loves. (We through them back in the ocean after we took look.)

Logan was pumped to catch real-live sea creatures. He was relatively sure this is a sea cucumber per the nature shows he loves. (We through them back in the ocean after we took look.)

 We went with our friends to The Hub for dinner. (I'm digging the photo bomber in the background!--The kid, I mean. Not the posterior.)

We went with our friends to The Hub for dinner. (I'm digging the photo bomber in the background!--The kid, I mean. Not the posterior.)

One of my favorite parts things to do when I'm in a new place is to go on a jog and snap pictures with my phone. I was taking pictures of the beach and a family fishing--when I got closer, I realized the family was my own.

 The boardwalk to the beach. This is at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

The boardwalk to the beach. This is at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

 A different angle of the boardwalk. I really should have recognized my own family by the time I was this close.

A different angle of the boardwalk. I really should have recognized my own family by the time I was this close.

 The boys fishing in the ocean. They didn't catch anything.

The boys fishing in the ocean. They didn't catch anything.

 Rowyn was more successful than her brothers. Notice the bait is bigger than the catch. Also, this fish might be my spirit animal.

Rowyn was more successful than her brothers. Notice the bait is bigger than the catch. Also, this fish might be my spirit animal.

 Her second fish was a bit bigger. but getting it close enough to take a picture . . .

Her second fish was a bit bigger. but getting it close enough to take a picture . . .

 . . . was a little terrifying. This picture is officially in the running as a trip favorite.

. . . was a little terrifying. This picture is officially in the running as a trip favorite.

We were bummed to leave our friends and family, but we are also looking forward to the next stop. Headed to South Carolina!

Louisiana: Octavia Books and New Orleans

Louisiana was a great stop and provided quite the education for our kids.

Octavia Books is lovely and charming and absolutely everything you’d want in a bookstore. (I just asked my engineer husband for one word to describe Octavia Books because I was afraid of sounding cliché, and he immediately said “charming” too—so I’m sticking with that very sincere description!)

 This might be the prettiest bookstore I've ever seen. And everybody is so nice--I highly recommend stopping by when you are New Orleans.

This might be the prettiest bookstore I've ever seen. And everybody is so nice--I highly recommend stopping by when you are New Orleans.

 My Aunt Susie and Uncle Eddie drove in to be at the event. I was thrilled to see them and give them a big squeeze.

My Aunt Susie and Uncle Eddie drove in to be at the event. I was thrilled to see them and give them a big squeeze.

We also did the tourist thing during our stop. We loved driving around and seeing the city. The Garden District is amazing with the swirl of colors and the older architecture. I wish I could have walked through all the long narrow houses. We also visited a cemetery. When I lived in Louisiana as a kid, I remember my parents telling me that bodies are put in above ground tombs instead of buried. The reason, they said, is because New Orleans is built below sea level, so if people were buried, they’d literally float out of the ground. As I kid with a vivid (and not always reasonable) imagination, I pictured this like tons of bodies hovering and bumping into each other. (Related: I had a lot of trouble going to sleep when I was younger!)

 Logan and I walking in the Garden District.

Logan and I walking in the Garden District.

 This was such a neat experience. Didn't know if we should smile or not considering the location--but also figured we shouldn't look stoic. Logan decided to go with some expression in between.

This was such a neat experience. Didn't know if we should smile or not considering the location--but also figured we shouldn't look stoic. Logan decided to go with some expression in between.

We also went to the French Quarter and trekked down the Mississippi Riverwalk to the French Market. This is where the educating started. The first thing was a pickpocket attempt. This was only thwarted because my son, Logan, and I stopped to look down over the railing at a football that’d gotten stuck on the rocky shore. Zach (my husband) asked what we were doing, and when I looked up to answer him, I saw a guy a we’d just passed had turned and was way too close to Zach’s back. I, being super chill under pressure and all, I screamed, “Zach!” The guy stopped reaching for the wallet and held his hands up, showing his innocence. Maybe he wasn’t going for the wallet—just a little snuggle with my hunky hubby. (I can’t really fault the guy for that.) Due to his color coordinated red boxers and jeans, we now fondly refer to our pickpocket as “Ole Red Britches.”

Afterwards, Zach put his wallet in his front pocket. I later noticed most people already knew to do that.

 Shopping in the French Market. The boys were mesmerized by the dried alligator heads (but thankfully decided to go with the little marble sculptures instead).

Shopping in the French Market. The boys were mesmerized by the dried alligator heads (but thankfully decided to go with the little marble sculptures instead).

 On the Mississippi Riverwalk (right before we met Ole Red Britches).

On the Mississippi Riverwalk (right before we met Ole Red Britches).

Then we went to the French Market and the kids got to learn about bargaining. I’ve tried to get them to do this before (although I don’t love to doing it myself, I think it is important to know how to and to okay if the answer is no). My previous attempts to push them in this area haven’t been realized, but yesterday, they were feeling brave (or maybe just high on life after stymieing the near wallet theft). Thus, the kiddos secured the first of their trip souvenirs: carved marble turtles and a dolphin, a mortar and pestle (Logan likes grinding candy to make concoctions), and a fan complete with sequins--befitting any true southern gal.

So complete was the elation from getting such a deal, my oldest kid (Colton) recounted the whole experience as we walked. He got so caught up in story telling, he didn’t notice he was getting very, very close to a man that had a distinct brown stain on the seat of his pants. I was forced to interrupt his retelling and ask him to stay closer to us. After a few steps, Colton said, “Oh. I think that man pooped in his pants.” To which Zach, full of fatherly wisdom responded, “I think it is more of a #3 situation.”

The kids quietly reflected on this as we walked back to the car.

We are headed to Florida now—though our trip is temporarily stalled. We are on the side of the road due to a blow out on the fifth wheel trailer. While the tire is being changed, I’m alternating between writing this and making sure the kids don’t even think about opening a door.

We’re all pumped about staying near the ocean, though we all have different ideas about what we want to do. Logan wants to fish. Colton wants to boogey board. Rowyn wants to find sea shells. Zach wants to get new trailer tires. And, I want to sit on the beach and read a book. Stay tuned to see who will win.

#exitstrategy #justshowupbooktour

My debut middle grade novel, EXIT STRATEGY, just came out last week.

It was the realization of a dream and a hard-sought-after goal.

To celebrate, my husband and I decided to make another dream/goal happen. We might have lost our minds. We probably have. Because we have this plan. And that plan is this:

A loop around the country along with our kids, a dog (the fish are staying home) and a fifth wheel trailer.

 Here is our route.

Here is our route.

 I am jumping with excitement about the trip.

I am jumping with excitement about the trip.

 The husband and main driver (and my logical half).

The husband and main driver (and my logical half).

 Here is the Kid Crew (aka my loyal sidekicks) at my book launch.

Here is the Kid Crew (aka my loyal sidekicks) at my book launch.

We'd love to see you when we are on our trip. Check out the Events page to see our stops.