Sunday, July 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We have made our big decision after 13 months of travel to settle down at the farm in West Sand Lake, New York! Thom grew up here, and we’re all enjoying being with family again.

After about three days of living here and watching the boys enjoy every moment, Thom said, “This just feels right, and it’s great to be home.” The irony is that after many months of job searching, he was invited back to NREL in Colorado for a second interview. Had this happened a month ago when we were in Colorado, who knows what may have happened? I believe God wanted us to experience this time together at the Farm first. Thom called NREL and explained why he wouldn’t be returning for the second interview. It sounds crazy to pass up such an opportunity, but we’re all very satisfied and happy with the decision. Thom has some ideas regarding work or possibly starting a business here in NY, but that can wait.

What a great feeling to know this is home! We enjoyed our adventurous trip immensely, and realize it’s been the trip of a lifetime. We traveled through 33 states, 7 Canadian provinces and the Yukon Territory, along with 7 European countries over the past 13 months! The boys learned so much not only from our travels, but also from the challenging Calvert curriculum we chose for home schooling. Thom considered jobs in Florida, Colorado, Michigan, and Massachusetts but we ended up right back here where he departed 30 years ago for West Point.

Thom’s parents, Clayton and Louise bought 150 acres back when Thom was about 6 years old. Now there are three houses, a garage with an apartment above, a huge red barn, acres of hay, and an in-ground swimming pool on the property. Clayton and Louise live in one house, while Thom’s older brother, Clipper, lives in the main house where Thom grew up. He and his wife, Wendy have two children: Tucker who is 10, and Avery who is 8. Our boys love playing with Tucker and Avery and they all think this is great being neighbors!

The third house is ½ mile away and was built about 8 years ago by Thom’s youngest brother, Fred. Fred lives in Truckee, California and offered to sell his house to us! He rents it out to a wonderful couple who graciously toured us through the house and garage. It is a 5-bedroom house with 3 ½ baths, but 2 of the bedrooms and one full bath are currently unfinished. So while the tenants are moving out over the next couple months, we’ll be making plans to finish off the unfinished rooms. In the meantime, we’re living in the apartment and our motor coach. We’re used to living in a small space, so hopefully a couple more months will be manageable. Clipper and Wendy are very accommodating, and we appreciate everything they’re doing to help us during this transition.

Thom’s third brother, Eric lives in Maryland with Terry and their 4 children (ages 11-5). They came by for a visit this past week and we enjoyed a family reunion! Can you picture ten Besch children playing on a 150 acre farm?! Eric also brought two horses, Willow and Ricario who now live here permanently. Our boys are thrilled! My niece, Erin, invited me to ride up to the top of the hill on the horses. It was beautiful sitting on horseback overlooking the rolling hills and lush green countryside. I could see the tall buildings of Albany about 10 miles away on the other side of the Hudson River. Yet here I was on the highest point, and I could only spot about 10 houses as I looked around 360 degrees. So we have the benefits of living close to the capital city of New York, while living in the middle of the country. Yes, this is a wonderful place to call home!

Here we are at Frost Point, Ontario, Canada enjoying a family reunion. The cottages in the background have been in my mother-in-law's family for over 100 years! Our kids are the 7th generation, and they love spending time here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

West Sand Lake, New York

We drove for five hours from Buffalo to the Albany area, and had to pay $63 at the end of the toll road! That’s for five axels, and was by far the most expensive toll in our 13 months on the road. Welcome to New York!

We arrived at the Besch Farm late in the evening, greeted by Nana, Poppa, Clipper, and Wendy. Tucker and Avery were in bed, so playing with cousins would have to wait. This is where Thom spent most of his childhood years growing up.

We settled into the apartment above the garage the next day. Thom, Clipper, Eric, and their parents lived here about 42 years ago when they were expanding the farmhouse next door. Since then, it’s been the home for Thom’s grandparents, brother Fred, and also for Thom’s parents when their new home was being built across the pasture. Now it’s our temporary home, and boy is it nice to have space.

The kids love playing with their cousins, Tucker (10) and Avery (8). The built-in pool is right out our back door. The big red barn is only about 100 yds away, with chickens wandering around. The kids collect fresh eggs daily. I believe the farm has 150 acres. Thom’s happy to be here and is finding many projects to keep him busy. He drove up in a tractor yesterday after chain sawing a bunch of wood. The boys helped him stack it for Nana and Poppa. Robby and Will have been working hard using the power washer to get old paint off a fence around the pool. They’ll start painting soon.
We celebrated Poppa’s 79th birthday on July 16 with a chicken dinner in our apartment, followed by cake and ice-cream. It was the first time Thom was able to be with his Dad on his birthday in probably 4 or 5 years.

We’ll soon be looking at houses in the area. It would be nice to settle here, close to the family and farm. School starts in about 5 weeks, so we need to make some decisions. Thom’s brother, Fred owns a house on 13 acres around the corner. Fred moved to Truckee, CA and would like to sell us the house. So that’s a possibility.

Thom’s still pursuing a few jobs outside of New York. One is in Golden, CO where he had a good interview on July 9. The interviewer emailed Thom yesterday saying he’d like Thom to fly back for a second interview! Thom also interviewed for a job nearby in Pittsfield, MA and is hoping for a second interview. There’s still the possibility of accepting the solid offer in defense contracting in Tampa, FL. So we pray daily for wisdom as we make this important next step.

July 15, 2009 – Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York
We’ve put on hundreds of miles since our Denver departure five days ago. Now we’re in New York, the 8th state since Colorado. The bread basket of the Midwest has endless miles of corn fields!

We arrived in Nappanee, Indiana in the evening, parked the motor coach at Newmar, and jumped on our bikes to ride over to the Burkholder’s for dinner. Marlene had fresh green beans from her garden, along with coleslaw and hot potatoes awaiting us. Michael had cooked up burgers and hotdogs. It was wonderful spending time with our Amish friends again. We were last in this area at the end of May. Kari laughed as she played with the boys, and Larry compared stories with us about Pike’s Peak and other Colorado landmarks. To celebrate Thom’s 50th birthday, Marlene baked four desserts including chocolate cake, rhubarb pie, cream pie, and the kids’ favorite….peanut butter pie. We were all stuffed!

Newmar worked on our coach the next morning to replace a headlight part. While they worked on it, we headed to breakfast at our favorite local restaurant, the Corner CafĂ©. Amanda, the waitress, remembered us and even recalled that the boys like hot chocolate, Thom drinks decaf, and I prefer regular coffee…that’s great service! The boys were thrilled to return to the Burkholder’s home for the rest of the day where they helped with chores and rode bareback on Princess the Pony. Thom and I tracked down Sara with Jonas’ help, and boy was she surprised to see us! Sara was our first friend in the area who then introduced us to her family and friends two months ago.

That night, all three families got together at La Fogata Mexican Restaurant in town. Larry treated us to an open buggy ride with his horse, Rose leading the way. We all loved riding along on a sunny evening with our friends. Sara, John, Jonas, and Jonathon joined us also and we had a great visit while enjoying authentic Mexican food. Marlene shared so many gifts with us including homemade cookies, produce from her garden, pie, coffee mugs, key chains, and magnets, while Sara gave us 3 dozen fresh eggs, green beans, and more yummy cookies. The kids had so much fun playing together, and we enjoyed the conversation with everyone. It was hard saying goodbye to our wonderful friends as we headed out the next morning.

From Indiana, we continued east through Ohio, the NW part of Pennsylvania, and into New York. This morning we left the RV in the Sam’s Club parking lot while we popped over the border into Canada to see Niagara Falls. You can see the Falls from the US, but the best views are from Canada. Today was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for walking alongside Niagara Falls. Robby and Will were here about 10 years ago, but they don’t remember the trip.

What an amazing volume of water pouring over the Falls every second! We all threw pennies over the Falls making wishes. The greenish-blue water looks incredibly clear as it crashes over the Falls. I learned that the Horseshoe Falls, those on the Canadian side are receding one foot per year, due to erosion of the rocks.

Thom took us to the Dare Devils’ Museum, which not only tells about the crazy, courageous people who went over the Falls, but also displays the wooden barrels, steel barrels, and boats designed to accomplish this feat. I think 15 people intentionally went over Niagara Falls, and 10 survived. To read their stories is unbelievable. Many did it for fame. Some did it multiple times. I was surprised to read that at least 5 or 6 have done it in the past 25 years. It’s illegal and the US fines a person $25,000 for doing this, while Canada’s fine is a mere $10,000.

Sam must have asked me 10 times if I’d be scared to go down Niagara Falls. Of course I’d be terrified, I told him. What terrifies me even more is his curiosity about it, especially when he finished our visit proclaiming that he wants to go over Niagara Falls one day, or at least ride the treacherous rapids and whirlpool further down the river!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Newton, Iowa

July 12
Happy 50th Birthday Thom!!! We’re just waking up, and Sam can’t wait to give Dad presents. We’re going to celebrate his birthday this evening with our Amish friends, Marlene, Larry, Michael, and Kari once we arrive in Nappanee, Indiana.

We camped out last night in a Walmart parking lot in Newton, Iowa. Today we’ll continue east through Iowa, Illinois, and into Indiana. More later…..

July 11, 2009
We’re now driving east on I-80 through Nebraska, seeing miles and miles of corn as well as grazing land for cattle. After being in the Rocky Mountains for a month, the flatness here is such a contrast. We hope to reach Nappanee, Indiana by tomorrow afternoon where we’ll celebrate Thom’s 50th birthday. Yes, it’s hard to believe that my youthful-looking husband who thrives on extreme sports will be fifty years old!

Let me back up a bit. Ben was released from Denver Children’s Hospital this past Monday, July 6. He’s had a thorough recovery, and his left eye looks back to normal. Our whole family prays daily that this was his final episode, and that the surgery perfumed by Dr. Friedman will prevent his left eye from ever again becoming infected and swollen.

We headed back to the lovely campground at Golden, along the beautiful Clear Creek. Sam mastered riding the wave, an active part of the rapids. He did it on his boogie board, beside the adult kayakers! Robby and Will rode the rapids in our inflatable red kayak. Robby also enjoyed riding his bike over to the tennis courts, where he played frequently.

One day while picking up trash for a Boy Scout community project, Robby met a woman named Jean. She was working in a community garden, and Robby loves anything to do with botany. So she invited him to help the next morning in one of Golden’s rose gardens. Robby got up at 6:30am and helped her for two hours pulling weeds! She then invited all four boys to her house, while Thom and I had an evening to ourselves! We went to the community center for our first ballroom dance class. We learned the salsa and the swing, and met some wonderful people.

We drove up to the top of Look-Out Mountain. Buffalo Bill is buried up there, and we toured through his museum showing highlights of his Wild West Show. He toured all over the US, as well as most of Western Europe. He had great respect for America’s Native Indians and included them in his show.
We also took the boys on a tour of Coors Brewery in Golden. Adolph Coors started this in the late 1800’s. It’s huge! It was a great tour where we all learned about barley, germination, mashing, malting, wort, and the fermentation. The boys liked the bottling and packaging portion. Their school studies covered the Industrial Revolution, and it was neat to see mass production with quality control in action. Thom and I did a little beer sampling, while the boys drank soda.

The Galvin’s invited us over for our Goodbye dinner. Regina, who would love to have us settle in Colorado, took us on a walk showing at least 6 gorgeous homes for sale or rent. Most had breathtaking views looking west at the awesome Rocky Mountains. If I could choose, I would love to live here. Our family loves the great outdoors, including the world-class skiing.

Thom had an interview with NREL the day before we departed. It went well, and we hope they call back next week for a second interview. In the meantime, Thom had a phone interview for defense contracting in Pittsfield, MA. Thom’s also looking into openings in NY and MI. He’s had one solid job offer in Tampa, FL but we’re hoping to land closer to home in upstate NY. We’ll keep you posted.

We departed Colorado and headed north to Wyoming. Just south of Cheyenne, we spotted a ranch offering trail riding. They boys were excited, and so we stopped for 1-hour of horseback riding. The horses’ names were Twister, Hoss, Princess, Outlaw, Twenty-two, and Colby. Our guide was McKenzie and she enjoyed talking with our boys. We made a big wide circle around the buffalo, small train, and beautiful open grasslands where the birds thrived.

Afterwards, we toured the ranch where we saw goats, 9 camels, llamas, alpaca, ostriches, turkeys, peacocks, more horses, and cows. Ben thought the little 4-day old Philly (female horse) was the most beautiful horse he’s ever seen. We also saw a week-old llama named Squirt.
Now we can add Wyoming and Nebraska to our map, which puts us at 33 states visited over the past 13 months!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Golden, Colorado

July 5, 2009
You won’t believe what’s happened since my last blog. Ben ended up in the hospital again for his third time with peri-orbital cellulitis of his left eye! Aahhhh…the saga continues! The good news is that he’ll probably be going home tomorrow morning.

It started last Tuesday just as we departed Colorado Springs on our way north to Golden. Ben complained of a headache and said his forehead really hurt. That night, he was nauseous and developed a low-grade fever, yet his eye wasn’t swollen. By 7am, things developed quickly, and we could tell he wasn’t opening his left eye completely. Because this happened in May ’08 and again in Dec ’08, we recognized the signs and headed to the Denver Children’s Hospital. The ER took it very seriously and got him started on IV antibiotics. They ran a CT scan, and determined that an abscess was developing in his left orbital area just inside from the nose. The doctors hoped the antibiotics would take care of everything, without requiring a surgical procedure.

When Ben had this the first time, we lived in Alaska and he had to be medivaced by plane from Fairbanks to Anchorage. They performed surgery to drain a huge abscess that was growing on his left optic nerve. The second time he had it, we were in Maryland and took him to Walter Reed Hospital. That time, IV antibiotics took care of the problem without requiring surgery. So we didn’t know what to expect this third time around.

Here in Denver, by day #2 the doctors were concerned that his eye continued swelling and became purplish-red. The ophthalmologists said the vision was being affected detrimentally in the left eye, and recommended surgery to drain the abscess. In addition, the ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor recommended surgery simultaneously to remove some of the ethmoid sinuses up in the left nostril to help drainage and prevent this from happening again. All doctors agreed that it’s extremely rare for this problem to happen three times, and it’s time for proactive surgery to reduce a future recurrence.

Thom and I were allowed to go into the operating room with Ben, looking like part of the team in our surgical gowns, caps and masks! The anesthesiologist hooked Ben up, and Thom asked him to count backwards from 10. He only made it to 7, and he was out! After only about 15 minutes in the waiting room, the ophthalmologists came out saying the abscess was drained! They called it a “no brainer” and said the abscess was quite large. The antibiotics would have had a hard time getting it under control. The ENT, Dr. Friedman then worked on Ben’s sinuses for 1.5 hours. We were pleased to hear from him that all went well, and he said, “I took that little country road, and made a 2-lane highway out of it!” We’re all praying that this procedure is indeed exactly the solution to Ben’s problem with his left eye. We’re very pleased with the Children’s Hospital and the entire staff. They recognized that this problem needed fixing, and took it very seriously.

The swelling and discoloration has improved over the last two days, and the doctors believe he should be ready to go home tomorrow. Streptococcus pneumonia is once again the culprit….same as the first time around. Strep Verodan was the cause of his second episode. It looks like Ben will take oral penicillin for a few weeks, just like the last two times. I’m so glad we brought Ben to the Children’s Hospital.

The other boys loved visiting Ben because the floor’s “teen room” has Rock Band. Will rocks on the guitar, Sam’s a noisy drummer, and I’m the wild vocalist! We livened up that room a few times. It’s kind of strange singing old songs from the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi with my kids.

Thom and I have been taking turns spending the night in Ben’s room, while the other heads back to the RV with Robby, Will, and Sam. We’re camping in Golden, CO. It’s a beautiful campground, and we’re only a stone’s throw from the rapids of a fast-flowing river. The locals ride the rapids in kayaks and inner tubes in this warm summer weather.

To celebrate the Fourth of July, Ben watched at least 5 or 6 fireworks shows simultaneously from his hospital room window with Thom. It looks directly over Denver with the Rocky Mountains behind. Thom and Ben called us to describe the spectacular fireworks. In the meantime, the Galvin’s met us at our campground. Robby cooked up burgers and spicy sausages, which we ate around the picnic table with sweet corn.

Afterwards, the nine of us strolled next to the river along with hundreds of others. Antique cars convoyed through the darling town of Golden, as we watched from the bridge. In the park, Jim treated the kids to glow sticks, and by nightfall, it seemed that everyone was decorated with these bright and festive accessories. Finally about 9:30pm, the fireworks began and the crowd oohed and aahed at the colorful sky. I agreed with Regina when she said, “This is where memories are made.” Sam and Will had a brotherly spat, which was soon smoothed over by angel food cake, strawberries, and whipped cream.

June 30
My mom underwent knee replacement surgery last Wednesday in Lakeport, California. Ever since her car accident in 1997, she’s had a bum right knee which hyper extends and causes considerable pain. She lives with my brother, Glenn, his wife, Vanessa, and daughter, Cassondra.

The surgery went well and only lasted 1.5 hours. Mom says the pain is horrendous. She knows that she’s supposed to do the physical therapy and work through the pain in order to get the mobility back in her knee. At age 76, it’s a daunting task and her muscles aren’t strong. She reported that it’s easiest to simply lie still so the pain doesn’t set in. Unfortunately, that’s the worst thing she can do.

After four days at the hospital, Mom was moved to a rehabilitation center nearby. If she does her therapy, she should be able to go home in about two weeks. So she is in our prayers, and we hope she’ll be able to get around soon using her walker.