Tuesday, May 31, 2005

On top of the world!

What fun it was to go out to dinner to celebrate 18 years of marriage! We wanted to go for a quick dinner so picked our favorite, more Mexican! Nothing more fun than sharing a plate of nachos while we laughed and reminisced about how quickly the years have flown by.

For those of you who didn't know us then, here's the love story...We met on my 16th birthday, September 8, 1981, the first day of school. We were in the same English class, and the way the room was set up three rows of chairs faced another three rows of chairs. Alan was front & center on one side, and I was on the other. So there we sat, face to face. We had to say something about ourselves, so I said, "I wasn't allowed to date until I was 16, and guess what, today's my 16th birthday!" (Nothing like a little free advertising!)

A few days later who should walk into my Sunday School class but the man himself! He had decided to go to church at a different place than his parents so came to my church, not knowing the future love of his life went there! Believe it or not, just a week later, I pointed him out to my mom and said, "That's Alan Raush. He's the one I want to marry!" There was just something about him that even at sixteen years old, I knew he had all the qualities I was looking for...he loved the Lord, came from a great family, was drop dead gorgeous, had a great sense of humor, and was so easy to talk to. I was gone!

So suddenly Sunday School and youth group activities became THE PLACE to be, and our first date was on November 16, 1981. The following July Alan left for the US Merchant Marine Academy, on Long Island, while I went back for my senior year of high school. The following year I started at Penn State (with parents that wear blue wigs to every Penn State football game, did I really have any choice?!)

Throughout college we had our ups & downs, but the downs never lasted too long. Alan always told me he'd never talk about marriage until he was proposing, so I never knew for sure we'd get married. My senior year as an Accounting major at Penn State, Alan had already graduated and was working in South Carolina at the Charleston Naval Shipyard. I was interviewing for jobs, and got a really good offer in Stamford, Connecticut. (Unbeknownst to me, Alan had asked my parents at Thanksgiving if he could marry me.) So at Christmastime they had planned to take us to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, AZ where Penn State was playing Miami for the National Championship. I had to give Arthur Young & Co. (in Stamford) a final answer by January 5th whether I would accept their offer. I told them I thought I'd get a diamond for Christmas and if not, I'd work for them. So on Christmas Eve, I met Alan & his roommate Joe Moran along 95N to pick Alan up on Joe's way home to New York. A funny thing is my parents didn't like me driving down through Baltimore on my own so late at night so they took a cardboard "stand-up" lifesize Joe Paterno and bent him at the waist to sit in the seat beside me so it looked like two people in the car!

Anyway, it's midnight, Christmas morning, and I'm picking Alan up with cars whizzing by on I-95, and he says, "Oh, I can't really hide your Christmas gift so here it is...a microwave. I knew you'd be getting an apartment and thought you could use one." Speechless. I was SO mad. Then, it dawned on me...surely the ring was hidden inside the microwave! So on Christmas morning with my whole family gathered around I made a huge production of opening the microwave and found, uh...a microwave. Nothing more. Now this was devastation. I told my parents, please, please, do NOT take him to the Fiesta Bowl, he's a freeloader and I know he's going to break up with me as soon as we get back from the trip!But they took the freeloader along anyway, and one morning out there we were going on a bus trip to the Grand Canyon. We got to the bus and realized I forgot to put my contacts in. So I ran a quarter mile back to the room to get my contacts, and when I got back to the bus they were boarding. Where were the tickets? Oh no, I'd left them in the room when I went back for my contacts! So another quarter mile run, and I get back and the whole way to the Grand Canyon Alan barely spoke to me. So I spoke to him, you bet I did! Told him he was lower than low and that I could read his mind and knew that he had decided to break up with me awhile ago but couldn't pass up a free trip to Arizona. He still was so quiet.

Finally we got to the Grand Canyon and I wanted to run out and see the vista with the masses, but he pulled me to the side and said he wanted to talk to me. Oh no, I was sure he was going to break up with me here and now. Instead, he took my hands in his, got down on one knee and asked me to be his bride. ooh la la! Well whaddaya think I said????????????? YES, YES, YES! And even now after 23 years of being in love with him (give or take a day or two here and there!), I still look at him and say YES, YES, YES! So on our anniversary I just want to say to him, "Thanks, Alan, for choosing me!" And thanks be to God, above all, for blessing us with a love that goes on and on.

There just may be some mountains...

We left Denver as rain began to fall. As we headed north through Boulder towards our final destination of Estes Park, it got heavier, to the point that visibility was extremely limited, which is just great when you are climbing up into the mountains! Not that we could really see them, but the fact that our ears kept popping gave us a clue. It was about an hour & a half drive to get up to Estes Park, and just outside town at the highest point we reached we saw Ravencrest Chalet, a Bible school that many people we know have attended. I wanted to stop in case someday one of the kids want to go there...we thought having seen it, the thought of attending a school so far from home might be a little less daunting to them someday. Hmmm...after our experience, maybe not. We turned off the main highway onto a gravel road and started climbing higher & higher. At this point we were in the midst of a full-fledged thunderboomer when we finally saw this old chalet at the top of the mountain. There were no lights on but we thought we'd knock and see if anyone was there. There were big old wooden doors with a big old knocker and just as we prepared to knock the biggest bolt of lightning and wild thunder struck. We felt like running....felt like a scene from a horror movie, really. Finally someone came to the door and was very kind and welcoming and gave us a nice tour of the place, which really seems like a neat place to go to school. The girl told us on the third floor she could take us out on the balcony so we could see the beautiful view of the town of Estes Park below. She obviously had not been outside yet that day, because in that thick fog you couldn't see your hand if you held it in front of your face! http://www.capernwray.org.uk/worldwide/ravencrest.html

We arrived at our hotel, the Best Western Silver Saddle, by 6 PM. I looked forward to this hotel because it had been picked as one of the Top 20 Best Westerns in the United States! You should have seen the kids when we checked into our room. I actually came in first, saw it, then ran out to get the video camera to record them as they saw the room. It was a nice suite, but the cool thing was that there were three queen beds in a row in the bedroom. After the tight confines of that "fancy" Hyatt, they were thrilled! Later I stopped at the front desk and thanked the agent for the room. They asked which room it was, and I said 153, and she said, "Oh, we call that the bowling alley!" http://www.estesresort.com/

By this time the kids were tired and hungry. Alan suggested that we get them a pizza & a movie and go out to dinner, since this is our 18th anniversary! This suggestion made everyone happy! While out to get the pizza, Alan & I stopped at Safeway to get some groceries. There were so many outlaw/cowboy kind of guys there. I wanted to ask them if they were playing dress-up or if they were for real. But many of them had holsters on too so I just steered my cart very clear of them and tried not to stare too much. If only they would smile now & then, they'd look a little friendlier. But I guess that wouldn't fit their image. It's funny how in Lancaster County I don't think twice about seeing Amish pull up in their horse & buggy and shop at the grocery store, but out here it really scared me to see these bandito guys in the grocery floor. Glad Alan was there with me.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Cowgirl Posted by Hello

Not more volleyball! Posted by Hello

Two volleyball stars

This is David Jackson, from NYC's Creole team. He's the best volleyball player we've ever seen. I asked him if he was going to the Olympics, and he said, "Me? Nah, I'm too old...I just play for fun!"

USA National Team Posted by Hello

Future players Posted by Hello

Colorado Convention Center Posted by Hello

Basketball Champ! Posted by Hello

Wild Boxer ESPN Zone Posted by Hello

Colorado Capitol Building

This place is so beautiful. It looks so much like the US Capitol except it has a gold-plated dome. The 13th step going up is exactly one mile above sea level, which is why Denver is called The Mile High City.
Colorado Capitol Building Posted by Hello

Downtown Denver

Although our plans were to leave first thing Monday for Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park, CO), we decided to go through Downtown Denver on the way. There's a place called the 16th Street Mall that sounded pretty neat. And it was. It's a mile long street that crosses the city and is closed to traffic, but there's free shuttle service with a stop at each block and a bus stopping every 2 minutes. There are stores and restaurants the whole way up and down the street, plus tons of benches with beautiful flowers and trees everywhere. At one end is the Denver Civic Center and the other end has the gorgeous Capitol Building, with it's gold-plated dome. It's definitely a place to just hang out and people-watch. http://www.downtowndenver.com/bid/16thstmall.htm

We had delicious omelets and coffee at The Corner Cafe, then hopped on the shuttle. First stop, ESPN Zone. http://espnzone.com/denver/ It's an arcade with lots of virtual reality kind of games/rides. We all loved it. Emily & Elly were in a horse race...you had to see it to believe it. They were in such a serious competition that for the rest of the day Emily said her hands & legs were sore! They all raced motorcycles...maybe that will take away Alan's hope of renting four wheelers in Utah since he got to ride at ESPN Zone! Before we left I challenged them all to a basketball pop-a-shot kind of game. It was very intense with four competitive Raushes at the line, all with our own basket to shoot at. When the final buzzer rang...I WAS THE CHAMP with 54 points. Next came Emily with 53, Elly with 51, and bringing up the rear was a very humbled Alan with 49. Haha, we teased him so bad...it was funny. Good for the guy to lose once in a while, especially to three women!

Although the day was overcast, the temperature was mild and we really enjoyed being outside. There was a neat outdoor art show going on. A lot of the artists had photography of the national parks, awesomely beautiful. And enough photography of mountains to make us think there really might be mountains out here somewhere! We made a quick stop into Niketown which the girls really liked.

We hopped on the shuttle again, and noticed a lot of volleyball players on board. After walking around and noticing even more v-ball players, I finally said I was going to ask one of them what was going on. Emily is sometimes embarrassesd that I "talk to everyone" but for once she was glad I did. Turns out that the USA National Volleyball Tournament was going on! We walked a few blocks to the Colorado Convention Center and there it was! Wow, the best of the best in volleyball! http://www.usavolleyball.org/VolleyballNews/news.asp?id=884 There were about 50 courts and thousands of players there. We got to watch the USA National Women's Team compete...past and future Olympic players! Emily and Elly were really thrilled to see this, so were Alan & I. Coleman & Caroline, on the other hand, were in disbelief. After spending the last 3 months watching their sisters at so many volleyball tournaments, here we were again. And this was supposed to be vacation?? Coleman sat on the floor with his head between his knees. Although the older 4 of us could have stayed all day, we only stayed an hour but got to see the most incredible volleyball of our lives in that short time. There was a men's team from NYC called Creole that really did look Haitian. They were so fun to watch...some of them had dreadlocks, all had huge smiles, which were displayed often as they spiked one killer after another, often knocking down the players on the other team with the power they put on the ball. Incredible. We got Emily to get her picture taken afterwards with the best player, David Jackson, who was not just dripping with sweat, but gushing with sweat. OK, so next year the nationals are in New Orleans, so any volleyball fans out there start planning your trip. You've never seen anything like it.

A Hyatt for $32, anyone?

We knew we wanted to spend our first night in Denver, but it didn't really matter where (uh, except the Big Bunny Motel, that is!) So last week I booked a room on Priceline. Not having ever used Priceline before, I had no idea how much to offer, but I found a great website, www.biddingfortravel.com which tells you how much other people have bid and what hotels they've gotten on Priceline. So the best I could figure was to bid for a three-star hotel and offer $32. You have to give your credit card number, and if they find a hotel that will accept you offer, it's a done deal. It's only after your credit card is charged that they reveal your hotel. So my big $32 bid was accepted, and the hotel assigned was...The Hyatt Regency! OK, we can handle that! As I showed the kids the website http://techcenter.hyatt.com/property/index.jhtml Emily was excited, but Caroline was disappointed. She said, "It sounds like this hotel is too fancy for my elevator tricks!" (See next post to learn them!) Actually, the truth is, it was fancier than even I would like. For a family of 6, the Hyatt is just a little too high falutin for us. The valet/doorman guy is the worst. I remember the first time Alan & I stayed at a fancy hotel...I think it was the Westin in Downtown Atlanta...as we pulled up some guy opened my door and I was sure we were about to be carjacking victims! I like luxury as much as anyone else, but I don't want the door opened until I'm sure no empty Coke bottles, cameras, or kids are about to fall out. So I told Alan to please just take the wide lane so I could get out without any celebrity fanfare!
But the Hyatt it was, and the truth is besides a very fancy lobby, the hotel was not that great. Definitely not deserving of the Hyatt name...maybe that's why I could get it so cheap on Priceline. But for $32, who's complaining?!

Cowboy! Posted by Hello

Mexican rock stars Posted by Hello

Full of tacos! Posted by Hello

Fun night at Casa Bonita Posted by Hello

Casa Bonita...we're here! Posted by Hello

The World's Most Fun Restaurant!

For 25 years I have been looking forward to returning to Casa Bonita, my favorite restaurant in all the world. I was there in 1980 with our church youth group, on our way to a week of volunteer work at the Navajo Mission in New Mexico. It is not so much a restaurant as an attraction. I have told Alan about it ever since we were dating, even considered going there on our honeymoon! When we first started to plan our western trip, it was the first thing I put on the calendar.

We drove half an hour to get there, through a pretty seedy part of town, including the Big Bunny Hotel, which had vacancy(at least for this hour!). Elly finally spotted it...a great big old castle...CASA BONITA! It hadn’t changed one bit in 25 years, which is a good thing! You go through an amusement park kind of line until you get to the counter where they give you one of about 6 different kinds of Mexican foods, all smothered in lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream & guacamole...adults $10.50, kids $3.50. Then they walk you through the halls of this dark old castle till you get seated near a huge waterfall. You enjoy your food while you watch the shows taking place around the waterfall area. There are pirate battles, western shootouts, and even cliffdivers! Every show has the bad guy falling 40 feet or so into the shallow pool below, to raucous applause from the audience.

Meanwhile, back to the food...whenever you want more food you raise a flag on your table, and within a minute or so your waiter is there, and you can order more of any of the foods you started with (assuming you can identify them, that is)! They bring you as much as you want, each time reminding you to save room for soapapillas, these airy fried dough pastries drizzled in honey. Mmmmm....Then while we were eating a band of mariachis came up and serenaded us for our anniversary, which is May 30...more about that later. We thanked them, "Gracias, gracias" (Note to Dad...learned it from the best!). Then we toured the castle, saw a puppet show, watched Coleman & Caroline try to break a pinata, etc. etc. Entertainment galore...fun for kids and their parents! On our way out Coleman & Caroline got old-time photos done. The thing is, everything is really inexpensive there...the photos were only $6.95 and you know how much you pay for them at the beach! Awesome night, what a perfect way to start our vacation!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Barely big enough! Posted by Hello

No Rental Car Big Enough!

We had a minivan booked through Thrifty. Now here is a problem for anyone wanting to book a minivan. I called about 5 or 6 different rental places to find a GRAND Caravan, with extra room in the back. I knew our family could never fit in a regular Caravan. No place would guarantee a Grand, but just said they would put our request in and we would get one if available. I offered to pay extra to make sure we would get a Grand, but to no avail. You just cannot reserve a Grand Caravan. We had a great $650 rate though, so I was pleased about that. Alan really wanted me to rent a big SUV, but all those rental prices came in around $2000. He really wondered whether we could fit all 6 of us plus our thousand bags into even a Grand Caravan.

We found the Thrifty shuttle bus at the airport and as we rode out to the parking lot we laughed how that big shuttle bus with huge windows was the perfect thing to rent!! So we get out to the rental office and tell the guy we really need a Grand, and he says "Oh, you only rented a Caravan...if you want a Grand Caravan that’ll be $900. Unbelievable. I explained my frustration at the rental agent who had given me misinformation. This guy understood our frustration and saw our thousand bags and told us that not only would we not fit into a regular Caravan, we wouldn't fit a Grand Caravan either. He then offered us a Ford Excursion, which we loved but couldn’t afford at $2000. Finally he said, "Look, you can have the Excursion for the price of the Grand Caravan." DEAL! All 6 of us happily piled into the big boat, which our bags barely fit into! Never mind that we’ll only get 6 miles to the gallon, we can fit! Hey, but there are no mountains, remember...so maybe we’ll get 8 mpg instead!

Yes it is! Posted by Hello

A thousand bags & a cowboy Posted by Hello

Ready for the flight Posted by Hello

We made it!

So here we are a mile or so up in the air...yes, really! Isn’t technology amazing. Actually what is even more amazing is that we made our flight! When we are on a road trip it takes us absolutely forever to get out the door; the truth is we often leave about 4-6 hours later than planned, because I feel like I can’t enjoy a vacation without all my ducks in a row. So the thought of making a morning flight made me just a little nervous...we have been known to miss flights a time or two in our married life! Did I tell you our flights were free? We earned them through spending money on our credit card...so at this point Alan would like me to remind you all that they were anything but free! He just rolls his eyes and shakes his head when I talk about our "free" tickets! Last night at dinner he asked me the amount we had to charge over the years to get these tickets...I told him that was confidential! Actually it's not as bad as it sounds because it's taken us over 5 years to accumulate the miles and I have charged just about everything...instead of writing checks I would charge whenever possible, then pay the bill off each month.

So anyway, when I booked the flight I had the choice to leave Harrisburg at 10:50 AM or 6:00 AM. Alan was mad that I didn’t book the 6 AM flight. Leave the house at 4 AM? Who’s he kidding! So anyway after 4 hours of sleep two nights in a row we made it to HIA a full hour before our departure time. This was the perfect day to fly...the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. The airport was deserted and we got checked in quickly...all 6 of us plus our 11 bags. That would be one duffel bag each, a bag of jackets and ponchos, one more for shoes, a bag for assorted books & stuff, and the cosmetic bag, Then we each had a carry-on and we were set! Man how much do you tip the guy for that? Alan thought $2, I thought $20, and we settled at $10. Next a quick stop for donuts and time to go through security. I need to take you back and remind you about our security nightmare at Orlando International a few years ago when Emily got searched & interrogated because the security guy found a pair of child’s scissors in her backpack. So as we packed up this morning, I reminded the girls, "NO scissors!"
One thing I’d looked forward to about our four-hour flight was a chance to work on my counted cross stitch project that I only work on every couple years on vacation. It is Elly’s birth project...really! I told her 5 years or so ago that I’d cross-stitch her something and she picked a very ornate cherub project. It’s been "almost" done for a year so I planned to finish it on the plane. Alan put all the carry-through bags on the conveyor belt and the kids & he went through the metal detector. As I came through they’re all pointing their fingers at me and laughing along with the security guard. I joined in their laughter figuring someone had just told a funny joke until I realized the joke was on me. Alan said, "She’s the guilty one...trying to get scissors on an airplane!" He said the security guard found scissors in my sewing bag & kept them. Oh man was I mad!! My sewing scissors! I really liked them...they were little and sharp and I’ve had ‘em for years. Didn’t the guy know these were sewing scissors and not a weapon?! It mattered not...they were his now. Probably take him home to his wife and give her a nice pair of sewing scissors. What do those security guys do with all those things anyway?? Now you see why I’m typing rather than sewing right now.

The kids did really well on the flight...after about two hours Coleman told me to open the window so he could "check it out." As he surveyed all the white clouds, he announced loudly (his only volume!), "Yep, we’re still in the air!" A comforting thought for everyone who heard (keyword here is EVERYONE).

As we made our final approach into Denver I told the kids to start watching for the mountains. Which probably made any native Denverites aboard snicker. Because the truth was as we looked out all we saw was reddish-brown earth, lots of ranches and dirt roads. Looked very desert-ish to me. After we got our bags and walked outside looking for the mountains we saw nothing...this came as a surprise and disappointment to us. I should mention it was extremely overcast so maybe we’ll see them in the morning...maybe.

Caroline's Elevator Tricks!

Funny girl can't take credit for inventing these, but she has pulled a few off! She was disappointed that the Hyatt was pretty empty and it was only our family on the elevator. So here they are...enjoy!

1) CRACK open your briefcase or handbag, peer Inside and ask "Got enough air in there?"
2) STAND silent and motionless in the corner facing the wall without getting off.
3)WHEN arriving at your floor, grunt and strain to yank the doors open, then act as if you're embarrassed when they open themselves.
4) MEOW occasionally.
5) SAY -DING at each floor.
6) MAKE explosion noises when anyone presses a button.
7) STARE, grinning at another passenger for a while, then announce: "I have new socks on."
8) TRY to make personal calls on the emergency phone.
9) DRAW a little square on the floor with chalk and announce to the other passengers: "This is my personal space."
10) WHEN there's only one other person in the elevator, tap them on the shoulder, then pretend it wasn't you.
11) ASK if you can push the button for other people but push the wrong ones.
12) HOLD the doors open and say you're waiting for your friend. After a while, let the doors close and say "Hi Greg, How's your day been?"
13) DROP a pen and wail until someone reaches to help pick it up, then scream: "That's mine!"
14) PRETEND you're a flight attendant and review emergency procedures and exits with the passengers.
15) CALL out "Group hug" then enforce it.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Family!

Thanks to my 14-year old technobabe Miss Emily we now have a family picture and music on the site! This is a picture from last August at Central Manor Campmeeting. I know it's kinda blurry but I liked it. (Actually, if you click on it you'll get a larger image which is better quality.)

So this is us...Alan & me, 14-year old Emily, 12-year old Elly, 9-year old Caroline & 7-year old Coleman. Soon as we get out west I'll update it with a more current picture! Since we leave in less than 48 hours I better pack instead of writing...but this "getting ready" stuff is not fun. Mostly I hate to leave our dog Gracie...wish I could explain to her that we really will be back, because I know she'll be lonely. I have made all my friends promise to stop by & play some soccer with her (she loves it!), which will probably drive the neighbors crazy since they are good at keeping watch of our house while we are away. Also I lined up someone to clean while we're gone which takes a huge load off of me. It will be wonderful to come home to a CLEAN house! Gotta keep working...wish I could write instead.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


That squishing sound was another grape under my foot...ugh! Let me explain...

Last night was the Official Catch 'Em in Your Mouth Grape Olympics. And to think that I was the one who started it. I had just gotten a snack out for everyone and Alan was across the room from me, and I said, "Look, kids...did you ever know that your Daddy was the world-record grape catcher?" And I launched one huge grape across the kitchen, one throw right-on-the-money, and SCORE! He is so smooth at catching them that you never can be sure he's gotten 'em till he shows it off between his teeth! Elly went next and caught it just as effortlessly. So those two made it look so easy that all the kids thought it must just be in their genes and "Let the Games Begin!" Before you could say "Bob's Your Uncle" (the kids love this expression because they have an Uncle Bob on both sides), there were grapes flying everywhere, bouncing off chins, noses, foreheads & walls, hardly any hitting the target. So, enough was enough, I finally reminded them that the "no ball throwing in the house" rule now applied to grapes as well!

So for the next 10 minutes I made them scour the room, finding every stray grape in the place. Finally declared them done...until now...6:30 AM, my first step into the kitchen went "SQUISH!" And now, to add to my "to do" list before we leave on Sunday..."scrub the kitchen floor!" Oh wait, my to-do list? I know four (make that FIVE) kids who can add it to their list!

Enough writing for now...a new day awaits!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Getting Ready For The Big Trip

Just 6 days from today we'll be on the big bird flying from Harrisburg to Denver for the long-awaited Wild West Adventure! Decided to try this blog thing to keep everyone (especially you, Mom!) updated on our trip. Plus it will help us remember every little detail (assuming we want to, that is!) of our vacation. But for now, there's too much planning to do to spend any time posting.

Tomorrow the kids have their end-of-year homeschool evaluations and being the daughter of the school board president puts just a TON more pressure on me to have it looking good. Can't have the Prez embarrassed by his grandchildren's portfolio. So when that is outta the way, it'll be full speed ahead for total trip planning!

But I can't start the final work on homeschool portfolios until I get a huge meal made & delivered to the hospital for the Zook family, whose husband/father is in surgery right this minute for removal of a brain tumor. Makes anything in my life seem so insignificant in comparison to what they are going through. I know the hospital staff looks at this family & sees Jesus in them. Please pray for this precious family.

Just checked the 10-day forecast and guess what?? RAIN predicted for the first two days of our trip. Of course. Add to the packing list...the ponchos. Check. The mittens, since the lows are expected to be in the 30's. Check. Parkas?? NO WAY!! This is a summer vacation, after all!

Laundry is calling...can't you hear it? More later!