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Chapter Text

May 30

At last, Thorin and I have done what we have been talking about since before he retired!

Frodo is four years old now (almost five!), and he is growing so fast! Too fast, it seems. And because of that, we thought that we might find some way to spend some real family time together before he starts school next year; so, we have bought a travel trailer! We haven't bought a new trailer, of course. They are far too expensive for our purposes; and really, the older trailers have so much more character than the newer ones. We actually bought an older Fleetwood. A 1995 Fleetwood Mallard, to be exact! It is thirty-five feet long, I think. And it cost us only $3200!

There is plenty of room for all of us, too! There's a cute little bedroom for Thorin and me up in the front (with enough space for a queen-size mattress, even -- though there's only about a foot between the bed and the wall on either side!). And in the back of the trailer, there's a room with two bunks (though Frodo will only be sleeping on the lower one)! Well, actually there are three bunks back there, if need-be; but one of them is really rather small, and it folds up into storage space, and it is pretty high off the floor, so I don't think we'll be using that one at all.

There is a bit of a separation between his room and ours, as well. There's the door to our bedroom that leads into the living-room/kitchen, then there's the bathroom (which has a door on both sides) then, at last, there is Frodo's room. And though when all the doors are open we can see to ether end of the trailer, at certain times the doors will most certainly not be open! Because, well, Thorin and I will be needing our privacy, won't we? 

Oh, and about the bathroom situation: there's only one, and in it there is only a small shower and no tub! But I think we'll be able to make do. It does have a strange toilet though. No one-flushing handle! You have to pull one lever to fill it up with water, then another to empty it. It will take some getting used to, but I'm sure it won't be long before it is second nature, even for Frodo.

The trailer is a little untidy at the moment, as it doesn't seem to have been given much love in several years -- but it won't be long before we have it nicely set up. Overall, anyway, it is in great condition, and there's very little rust and no leaks. Well, there was one leak in the bedroom closet, but that is all sealed up now. Surprisingly, even the awning looks good! Most of the other older trailers we looked at had rather ragged awnings, but this one seems almost new. We were really lucky, I think, to get such a deal!

We've already registered and insured it, and we are in the process of planning out our route (which will take us down the coast, from Connecticut to Florida, then back again). And some of the best news is that our Chevy can pull it, no problem! That was really rather a worry for us, of course! Not much sense in getting a trailer if you can't tow it! But when Thorin went up to Ware to pick it up, he said there were no troubles. It rolled well, nothing fell off, and everything seemed in wonderful working order.

So, there we have it! Soon, we will have the trailer cleaned up and stocked with food and ready to go. Oh, this is going to be so wonderful! It will be great for us, I think, to spend so much time together! And Frodo will get to see so many new places! Already, he has been going on and on about having an "adventure"!

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June 4

It turns out that the trailer is not as ready as we'd first believed. The refrigerator doesn't work, there is a crack in the fresh water tank, we don't have a key to the back door (so it'll need replacing), and the leak in the closet seems to have rotted a bit of the plywood floor away and caused some mold. All fixable items, to be sure, but it will take a little while (and a little money) to get it all taken care of.

Also, one thing we hadn't initially thought through was who would take care of our house in Hartford while we're gone. Fortunately, it did not take long to figure that one out, as Bombur and his family agreed to house-sit for as long as we needed. And they promised, even, to chase off Lobelia and Otho if ever they came snooping around (as I am sure they will!). Of course, because the kids are still in school, Bombur says they can't get up here until next week -- but that works out fine, because it gives us a chance to finish everything up.

In the meantime, I've been giving a lot of thought to what we'll be eating along the road. Unfortunately the oven is quite small; and after we hooked up the propane to it, I gave it a trial run and it heats terribly unevenly. Also, when we use the cooktop, it made the inside of the trailer stifling hot. So it turns out that we'll be making good use of a slow cooker, bread maker, rice cooker, deep fryer, grill, and maybe even a campfire on occasion! The old, old microwave will need to be replaced, of course (it has likely been there since the trailer was made, about 20 years ago!) -- although I don't really think we'll be using that a lot. Really, it's likely that by the time we get back, I'll be able to write a cookbook just for campers and RVers!

Still, we don't have much storage room for food, so we'll have to make frequent trips to the store. And really, if we can't get the refrigerator fixed, we'll have to stick to using a cooler for whatever shouldn't get warm. We at least have a chest-freezer in the garage right now, and it should fit in the trailer fine for travel, then we can set it outside when we settle in at a campsite. So even if we need to use a cooler for a while, we'll at least be able to keep plenty of ice on-hand.

I am a bit concerned, however, about how Frodo and I will adjust to being out in the country! I mean, we have always lived in the suburbs, and walks on sunny streets and running around at the neighborhood playground just doesn't have the same feel about it. At least it won't be too wild, though, since we will be at campgrounds near the coast, and not just out in the middle of the woods somewhere!

Thorin, at least, says that he won't have a problem with the outdoors, and I am inclined to believe him! He may have lived in the city for a long time, but he was raised near the woods up in Petersham. His sister and her sons still live there, in fact, in the house that has been in their family for three generations. But it really has been a while since Thorin got out into the country, and I'm a bit eager to see if he is able to readjust to it as easily as he claims he will be!

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June 12

Thank goodness for Bifur and Bofur! They lived in a trailer with Bombur for a few years when they were younger, so they knew what to do to help us fix things up just right! The hole in the bedroom closet has been patched, the mold has been cleaned up, the refrigerator is working (turns out it can run on propane, as well as electricity!), the microwave has been replaced, and we've changed out the handle on the back door. We've decided, though, that we can go without fixing the fresh water tank for the time being, since any place we set up camp is going to have a water hook up, and we have plenty of bottled water for drinking.

When all that work was done, Bifur and Bofur gave the place a better going-over. They didn't find any other problems (no leaks or anything) -- except that the sensor on the black water tank isn't working (it always reads full), so we can't tell exactly how much is in it. The black water tank is the sewage tank, so that news was a bit distressing -- but at least we're able to visually check to see how much is in it (I didn't ask, but Bofur told Thorin how to do it).

I'm going to admit here and now that I am relying on Thorin and Bifur and Bofur's skill in those matters, since I am certainly not experienced in repairs or mechanical anything! Meanwhile, the smaller organizational details, Thorin has left up to me. And so now the place is cleaned, the food is stocked, there are fresh batteries in the carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, the fire extinguishers are in place; and we have plenty of duct tape, paper plates, and plastic cups and tableware on hand!

Bombur and his wife and kids arrived yesterday so to begin house-sitting. Unfortunately--and against advice--he tried to come in to the trailer to give it a look, and he got stuck in the door (I guess he's put on a little weight since he lived in a camper!). It is a good thing that there are two doors, and that we fixed the back one, because everyone else was inside it at the time. A couple of us had to go out and around to pull on him, while the others pushed, and eventually he was gotten out (though he landed on Thorin!). I think he was a little disappointed that he couldn't give the trailer a good look, but we took pictures for (and of) him!

But he and his family are all settled in now -- though Bofur and Bifur can't miss out on too much work, so they'll be heading back to Torrington tomorrow instead of staying on to help watch the house. They will be sleeping here tonight, and they'll leave after they help Thorin connect the trailer to the car in the morning (I say "car", but a Chevy Suburban is more like a truck, isn't it?).

Sleep, though! It's come harder and harder for me and Thorin the closer we get to leaving! Last night, after a long day of planning and finishing-details, we managed some private time in the shower (we might not get to take a shower together again for a few months, since the stall in the trailer is so small!). Later, in bed, we spoke about all the places we were going to go, and what we were going to do, and what fun it is going to be!

We are so lucky, really, to be able to do this! Frodo is going to make so many wonderful memories!

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June 13

Today's the day! I was so excited, I forgot to put grounds in the coffee filter this morning!

Bofur and Bifur helped Thorin get the trailer hooked up while I was getting everything ready. I guess it all went well, but they suggested that we get something called a weight distribution hitch. Or maybe it was a sway control hitch. I think they mentioned both, but it might be the same thing just by a different name. I guess it's meant to keep the trailer from swaying, or some such thing. Anyway, I guess the hitch is kind of costly, but Bifur and Bofur said they'd shop around for us to find one that isn't too expensive.

So, I guess it is a good thing that the first leg of our trip will be a short one. We're just driving from Hartford to a campsite some thirty or forty miles to the north of here (just over the border into Massachusetts). It should be a fine trial run, I think, to get a feel for how it is to tow the trailer! But, well... I'm not going to be doing the driving! I admit that I can get a little anxious behind the wheel, even when the car is small and the traffic is light and there is no one else riding with me!

I still do my part, though. I've been looking through lists of camping places, because even though our itinerary is all ready, we might want to hop to other places once in a while. Most of the sites I have been checking out are military campgrounds, since Thorin is a veteran, and sites on bases cost a bit less than most of the "camping resorts" out there (though we will also be staying in those kind of places, from time to time, since they are better equipped).

Oh! But a few times in my searching, I have come upon campgrounds that I would certainly not enjoy! One even warned that because of "unexploded ordinances", only primitive camping (I assume, meaning in a tent) is allowed -- and that you MUST attend a safety course first. Not exactly my idea of a relaxing family vacation destination!

And we got a little bit of exciting news! We were telling some family about what we were planning on doing -- and, well, Thorin was on the phone with Gloin, and he gave me the strangest look! Then he got of the phone and mentioned how Gimli is eleven years old now, and that he's going into middle school next year. He's such an active boy, apparently, and he just doesn't ever get the chance to get out of the city (they live in New York, after all!), and Gloin said he wished that Gimli could go and have such an adventure.

So Thorin asked me if we might take him along, as well! Of course, I said "Yes"! Gimli might be older than Frodo, but still I think the boys will have fun together, fishing and hiking and swimming (I'm determined that Frodo will be able to swim, unlike me!). We'll pick him up when we head down that way in a few weeks.

And though we weren't going to do it, Frodo insisted that we bring along his two betta fish. We have to keep them separated so they don't kill each other; but we got a long bowl with a divider to keep them apart, and we duct-taped the top down so that it wouldn't come off. Then we put the bowl in the sink and wedged it in with towels, so they should be fine!

Well, and we're starting off at around 10:00 AM, and it is the 13th! No bad luck there, I hope!

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June 14

Heavens! Yesterday was awful!

Well, we started out just fine! We were singing road songs in the car, and Frodo was asking if we could toast marshmallows, and I jokingly asked Thorin "are we there yet?", and the trailer was just jiggling a little bit (nothing too concerning). There were a few tight turns getting out of the neighborhood, but we made it to the highway without any major problems.

Then we got to moving fast, and it seemed like every truck that passed us by was going to push us off the road with air pressure alone! So Thorin moved over into the slow lane; and I settled down a bit after a while, but then the wind started picking up. The trailer started swaying and (as Thorin said) fishtailing -- and I smacked my head against the window in my fright, and I yelled out some profanities that I am pretty sure I've never used before. And then Frodo started repeating the bad words after me; and so on top of worrying about dying, suddenly I felt as if I was being a bad parent because my preschooler was swearing like a sailor!

Then we got off the highway on the exit that led to the base where the campground is located, and (believe it or not) the situation got worse! The roads were curvy and tilted and so narrow! And we started wobbling again, and I guess we were going too slowly for the people behind us (or else they were afraid that we would fall over and block traffic), and they started driving around us, though it was solid double-yellow lines! A few times, they just missed hitting vehicles that were coming from the other direction!

I so desperately hope Bofur and Bifur can get us one of those sway control hitches soon! I can't imagine going through that again -- though I have all confidence in Thorin's driving, still I was scared out of my mind! And, well, at least we made it to the campsite in one piece (though with frayed nerves)!

So then we had to disconnect the car from the trailer and even it out with jacks, and we had to hook up the water and electricity and such; and by the time we were done with that, we were ready for a rest. But when we checked out the condition of the inside of the trailer, we learned that we (meaning I, since that was the job I had placed upon myself) hadn't stowed everything very well, after all! It was a mess! The refrigerator had opened and the food was all over the floor, the shampoo had fallen off the bathroom shelf and spilled everywhere, the cups had all tumbled out of the cupboard (thank goodness they are plastic!), and basically everything else was shifted about and displaced. At least the fish were still alive and well, though!

After we got done cleaning up, we were all even more tired and hot, and really not in too good a mood overall. We didn't start a campfire or toast marshmallows, but at least Frodo didn't mention it (nor did he repeat again any of the words he had learned from me on the road, thankfully!). We ended up having hot dogs for dinner, but we made them in the microwave, and that is not quite the same as over the fire, I think!

And despite the exhaustion, I did not sleep well last night (though the bed was nice and comfortable). Really, it was quite hot! Thorin seems to be able to handle the heat much better than I can, so he wanted to snuggle and cuddle, but I just couldn't do it! Even with the air conditioner running, it was way too warm. He said he understood (and I think he was quite tired, anyway), and we made a raincheck.

Still, there was cuddling! Frodo didn't sleep well, either, so he climbed into bed with me and Thorin sometime before dawn (at least by then it had cooled off somewhat). I guess it is going to take a while before he is used to staying in his own bunk in the back of the trailer, but he can always sleep on the folding couch-bed so to be closer to me and Thorin, if need-be.

Oh, and we were woken this morning by the sound of trumpets! Thorin said it was reveille, and that while we're on base we'll be hearing it at at 8:00 AM every day. I really didn't enjoy the wake-up call, as I wanted to sleep in after yesterday's discomfort; and I might have been able to go back to sleep after the music was done, but Frodo was suddenly wide-eyed and excited for the day! He's been chasing dragonflies and playing in the dirt for an hour already; though all I've managed to do yet is make coffee and serve us up some cereal for breakfast.

I hope at least that the next step in our journey will be more pleasant (we'll not be leaving here for a couple weeks). Still, despite the frustrations and those few moments of terror, it hasn't been that bad at all.

Chapter Text

June 17

We've had a few days to adjust, and it isn't really bad at all now! There isn't a lot of outdoorsy stuff here on base (some of the other campgrounds we'll be staying at will be much more "roughing it"), but it is at least getting away from the city! The only issue we have is that the hot water runs out too quickly when we're taking our showers. There is a shower-house at the campground, though, so it really isn't that big a problem. And there is a laundry room here, as well! I am going to admit that I had just figured that we'd have to make trips to the laundromat to wash our clothes from time to time. Glad I was wrong about that! 

I've done a bit of actual cooking, at least! Nothing fancy, of course; and I haven't come up with any new recipes yet. But I did make chicken in the slow cooker yesterday, and the day before that we grilled up some steaks! We'll be going a bit healthier tonight and having salad (Frodo loves garbanzo beans and croutons, so we brought along plenty of those!). Then, toasted marshmallows for dessert!

Oh! And it turns out that we're going to have a couple more mouths to feed soon! Dís called Thorin this morning, and she was really rather anxious and excited all at once. Something came up with work, she said, and it means a bonus for her -- but she's going to need to go out of the country for a few weeks. To Venice, in fact! And she said that normally she wouldn't mind leaving the boys at home (Fíli is, after all, seventeen now, and Kíli is nearly fifteen!), but weeks is really a rather long time for them to be on their own. So we offered to take them along with us for a while!

Truthfully, it will be nice spending time with them, since we've not gotten a chance to catch up since we adopted Frodo (a youngster does tend to occupy the time!). And since they do get out into the woods around their home a lot, they might even be able to teach us a thing or two (I still believe Thorin has forgotten what it is like to live in the country, though he denies it!). Of course, with them and Gimli coming with us, I suppose it will mean a lot less private time for me and Thorin. But it is nothing we can't handle, and I'm sure we'll be able to steal some moments -- and perhaps the older boys can babysit Frodo and Gimli for us from time to time, as well!

Bofur and Bifur got hold of one of those hitches we needed (for a somewhat decent price), and they were going to drive up this way to drop it off for us yesterday; but they did a bit of research, and found that to have it professionally installed on the car would cost upwards of $300! So, what they are going to do instead is come up to the campground in a day or two with the hitch and all the tools that they need to install it themselves. Either way, I just want it put on before we leave to pick up the boys from Petersham next week!

Anyway, it really is pleasant being here, now that we've gotten used to it. Last night, after a long day of playing in the grass and dirt, Frodo had a nice shower (there was enough hot water for him to take one on the trailer, at least) and actually went to bed in his own bunk. And since the temperature was relatively cool, Thorin and I were comfortable enough to manage some alone time. It was lovely, really, holding him while the summer breeze blew through the window (though the bugs and frogs outside were a bit loud)! I'm looking forward to many more nights like that!

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June 19

Last night was a strange one! Funny, embarrassing, frightening, and educating all at once!

Some time after about 9:00, Thorin and I had at last managed to get Frodo to sleep in his bunk, and we went to bed in a rush (well, and why not?). We were just sort of getting comfortable -- and suddenly we heard this blood-curdling scream just outside the trailer! I yelled and jumped, and I guess I must have jostled Thorin, because he fell onto the floor on his side of the bed! And maybe I should have tried to get him out, but I was, of course, scared for Frodo; so I threw the sheet around me (I had no clothes on, after all) and sped on to the back room!

And, well, Frodo had slept right through the noise! But then there was another scream, and this time it did wake him up! He started crying, so I grabbed him and held him tight while I looked out the window. It was completely dark outside! And I heard Thorin talking rather anxiously in our room, so I hurried there with Frodo in my arms, all the while trying to keep the sheet around me, and I found Thorin (the poor darling, bare-naked as he was!) stuck where he'd fallen into the little space between our bed and the wall!

He had managed to reach his phone, though, and was speaking with the base police. Then, all of a sudden, there was another scream, and he dropped the phone (on his face!) and the battery popped out of the back. Well, so I quickly threw a pillow over his... exposed parts; then I put Frodo on our bed, and Thorin did his best to calm him (since he was out of his reach and he couldn't cuddle him, all he could do was say "It's okay!" over and over!) as I went to the front door and turned on the outside light.

And, oh! In my life I'd never have imagined! It was just a fox! I never knew that they screamed, or that they made any noise at all! But there it was! Up until the light coming on frightened it away, that is! And I was still in a fright, as well; and so I did my best to gather my thoughts and I yelled into the bedroom, telling Thorin what had been making the noise! I heard him groan loudly, and I went back in there and I found that Frodo had wet himself on our bed -- and there was Thorin, still trying to wriggle out of his corner, but managing only to shift himself over onto his side a bit.

I started helping him to escape then; but I had just barely managed to get his feet down off the wall when the base police arrived! And so I had to explain our mistake to the officers while I was sitting on the picnic table -- still naked under my sheet, and holding a soggy and anxious four-year-old in my arms! And after the police got finished laughing (and kindly explaining that this wasn't the first time someone had made that mistake), they bid us good-night.

And I at last went back inside and managed to un-wedge Thorin, then we gave Frodo a shower and changed him (and we changed the wet sheets on our bed) -- but none of us slept for the rest of the night, so this morning we are really all quite exhausted. At any rate, some time after dawn, I finally thought to ask Thorin why he was so startled by the fox's yell, since I am sure that he'd heard it enough growing up in the country. Well, he turned beet-red and admitted that his years in the city and military had made him jump to the conclusion that someone was hurt and needed help. Oh, he is a sweetheart and a protector, after all!

But still, despite everything, Bofur and Bifur are set to arrive sometime towards noon to help install the new hitch. I hope they don't mind doing most of the work, themselves, since Thorin is really wobbly and loopy today!

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June 21

Well, Bifur and Bofur got here on the afternoon of the 19th and helped Thorin to get the new hitch put on just fine. The way the bars snap into place, though, is fairly terrifying! They needed a pry bar of some sort to lift the bar up and onto the hitch, and when it goes high enough, it slides over the curved end, and BANG! It shakes the whole trailer! But, well, if it keeps the trailer from swaying when we're towing it, then I can live with it. Oh, but I hope Thorin is careful when he does it on his own. It seems as if it would be far too easy to break a finger moving that thing into place!

Bofur and Bifur had dinner with us before went back to Connecticut. I was still tired from the "foxy" evening we'd just had, but they didn't mind hamburgers on the grill. I'm still trying to think up some good new recipes for a "camping cookbook", but I've had no ideas as yet. Last night, at least, I made some fried scones for dessert! They turned out surprisingly good -- especially with honey on the top, and a glass of cold milk on the side. But, well, it wasn't a new recipe. 

We'll be leaving to get the boys from Petersham tomorrow -- and because I am such a "white-knuckle" passenger, Thorin got me one of those "relaxation" coloring books to work on during the trip. I appreciate the gesture, but I really don't think it will help much. I can imagine I'll be gripping the colored pencils so tightly that I'll tear a hole right in the paper; and certainly I won't be able to color between the lines (though I hope Thorin won't have any trouble driving between the lines!).

The weather has been pretty dry lately, but it began to rain not long after we went to bed last night. It cooled it off somewhat, and it was nice listening to the patting of the raindrops on the metal roof -- and it even got me and Thorin feeling rather romantic! We'd just snuggled up, though, when Frodo came into the room! He said that he thought he'd heard "a whole army of squirrels" on the roof! 

We got him back to sleep in good time, but he refused to go back to his own bunk. So instead of any romance, Thorin and I just laid there in bed with Frodo between us, giggling and talking about how difficult it was to get any private time. And, of course, it will be so much more difficult when Fíli and Kíli and Gimli join us -- and so we decided that, perhaps, it might not be a bad idea to get a latch for our bedroom door!

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June 23

Oh! The trip to Dís's place was awful! The problem with New England, I think, is that there are too many curvy roads and hills! And while the "sway control hitch" does stop some of the wobbling, it doesn't prevent all of it by any means! I know that Thorin had everything well taken care of, but still I worried. And for good reason! With people zooming around us as we shook and shimmied!

I even tried to use the coloring book that Thorin gave me, but I just couldn't concentrate on it. Oh, and who could? At one point, there was a big truck passing us, and a drop-off into the woods on the other, and the car just in front of us suddenly braked, so Thorin had to slam on our brakes, and it startled me so much that I jabbed the (thankfully not sharp) colored pencil into my leg!

But we are here now, and the boys will be heading out with us in the morning. My, they have grown so much! Kíli is, I think, almost a head taller than his brother now -- and almost as tall as Thorin! Fíli is stronger, though, at least judging from the look of him. Either way, I feel so small next to them. They noticed this, themselves, and Fíli told me not to worry -- that they will always "look up" to me!

One thing I hadn't thought of or planned on, though, is that their cat, Rolly, is coming with us, too! That cat has never liked me, and this time when I walked into their house he was waiting on the bookshelf by the door just to bop me on the head. Then, when I looked up, he swiped at me with his claws! Really, what have I ever done to him? Maybe Russian Blues are just temperamental. Though Kíli said it is because "cats can sense evil". His mother gave him a cuff in the shoulder for that jab!

At any rate, Fíli and Kíli will be sleeping in the back room of the trailer (where the kitty-litter will be, as well, you can be sure!). I don't really want Frodo sleeping on the top bunk (he might roll off!), and since he likes being near me and Thorin, anyway, we've decided to let him sleep on the fold-out couch just outside our bedroom. And, oh yes... we are going to buy and install the latch for our door tonight!

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June 24

We are back on the road, heading south! Of course, I'm still not happy about the twisty roads we have up here; but I've been speaking a lot with the boys, and that has distracted me enough, I think, that I haven't had a single really panicked moment since we left Petersham. Though it does turn out that a couple others in our little group have their own troubles with traveling!

For one (and I didn't know this until we started out this morning), Fíli is prone to a bit of motion sickness. And it could be the Dramamine making him drowsy, I suppose, or it could be that he's just trying not to open his mouth for too long; but he's been quiet for a little while now, and he's spent a lot of time with his eyes closed. And though Kíli is often ribbing at his brother for one thing or another, I notice that he hasn't bothered Fíli at all about his stomach troubles. I can only guess why that would be, but it is perhaps because he knows better than to... rile his brother up when he is feeling out of sorts!

The other one with traveling troubles, it turns out, is the cat. Apparently, he's claustrophobic. We put him in a pet carrier (well, the boys did -- I would not get so near him, myself!) and set it in the back of the car -- but he would not stop meowing and jumping and hissing as we were going along, and he even spilled his water and food and kicked it out of the carrier's door! So we tried instead to give him (and us) a break by letting him out of the carrier for a while, but he ran all over the car, accidentally scratched Frodo's neck, jumped on Thorin's shoulder, then he tried to attach himself to the back of my head with his claws -- and that was much too distracting for Thorin to drive with!

So, in the end, we decided it might be best to shut him in the back room of the trailer. Everything is well-stowed so that it won't fall over back there, and his kitty litter is in that room, anyway! And we set up his food and water nice and snugly so that it won't move around, and there are a couple battery-operated fans going to keep him cool, and the windows are cracked open enough to give him some air, but not enough for him to get out. We've been stopping to check on him fairly often, and he seems okay now (he was curled up on Kíli's bed last time we looked).

At any rate (and trying to leave the subject of Rolly!), before we left this morning, Fíli and Kíli discovered that there is an old cassette tape player built into the trailer! And much to their surprise, it has an AM/FM radio tuner on it, too -- the old (or, as Kíli put it, "antique") knob-type. Of course, they wanted to try it out! And, well, apparently they turned up the volume knob up all the way before turning on the radio! Oh, it was loud! I think I jumped ten feet!

But besides their clothes and toothbrushes and the stuff they'll need for the cat, the boys haven't brought much with them. They did bring the small TV from their bedroom (they were kind of shocked when we said we didn't have one in the trailer), and they also brought their old PS3 (Dís wouldn't let them bring the new game player!), and some DVDs and game discs. But that was all they brought along for entertainment, as far as I'm aware -- unless they have something else hidden in their luggage!

They did, however, bring along a lot of snacks! And I suppose that is a very good thing, considering how much those boys eat! Oh, and if Gimli has as big an appetite as Gloin claims, then I can see us making frequent trips to the grocery store!

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June 25

Yesterday's trip wasn't too bad, all things considered! I didn't have any major panicky moments, at least, and Fíli didn't get sick-sick, and the cat did not seem to have a problem with traveling after we put him in the back of the trailer. 

The poor thing (strange, that coming from me)! Rolly probably had no idea what was going on, being cooped up in the car with so many people. Kíli suggested that it was because I was in the car that the cat was misbehaving in there. Humor at my expense notwithstanding, he may have been right about that. The cat slept in with Fíli and Kíli nice and comfy last night, anyway, and ignored me pretty much completely -- though he did attack my feet when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night! He's a good watch-cat, if nothing else, and at least he gets along with Thorin and Frodo!

We are at a campground in southern Connecticut right now. There's no sewage hook-up, but that shouldn't be a problem for such a short stopover (just a couple days). We hadn't initially intended on stopping here, but after some discussion, we decided that it might be best if we don't take the trailer anywhere near New York! I can only imagine the traffic we'd cause with this thing. So, I am staying here with the boys while Thorin drives down to pick up Gimli.

He's left already, in fact. And, oh! I hope he doesn't get lost! Bless his heart, I love him to pieces, but he has gotten lost once or twice in the past (of course, my own sense of direction is even worse, so I can't really say anything!). Thank goodness for GPS, really! Hopefully, he and Gimli will be back here by the time I take the roast out of the slow-cooker this evening.

Oh! It turns out that among the goodies that Fíli and Kíli brought from their house were some freezer-pops, and Frodo had one for the first time yesterday (we usually get popsicles with sticks). And he had an absolute fit because they were so cold in his hand! He said that his fingers were frozen solid, and now he won't even touch a "freezie pop" unless we put it in a sock! And a rag or washcloth won't do -- it has to be a sock. It is cute, really!

Slightly less cute is how... bold Fíli and Kíli are when it comes to killing insects. I've had to remind them a few times that it is best not to, well, punch the walls in a trailer while trying to "get" the bugs. The walls aren't as strong as the ones in their sturdy brick home, after all! And really, it sounds less like swatting, and more like a drum solo at times!

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June 26

Well, we learned an important lesson while Thorin was gone yesterday! We learned what happens when the "gray water" tank gets too full: it backs up and the little tub in the bathroom fills up with nasty, dirty water. Now, that is just the tank that holds what goes down the sink, thankfully, and not from the toilet! But the gray water tank is relatively small, and apparently Kíli has a habit of leaving the water running while he's washing the dishes. So... yeah. No problem, though! We towed the trailer over to the dumping station when Thorin got home (though he was tired).

And a good thing, anyway: Thorin didn't get lost in New York! But he did get caught up in the traffic after he picked up Gimli. Honestly, it took them hours to get out of it, and by the time they got back here it was after ten at night! I was worried sick, of course, but I tried not to call Thorin because I didn't want him to know that I was worried. But they did eventually get here, and (after we emptied the tank) they had a late dinner and went right to sleep!

We made the table down into a bed for Gimli, and we'll just have to set it back up in the mornings if we intend on using it as a table, but it isn't hard to do, really. But, goodness! He (like Fíli and Kíli) has grown like a weed since we last saw him! He has his dad's red hair and his tendency to snore loudly -- but it has yet to be seen if he also has his dad's appetite (Thorin got him a burger on the way, so he didn't eat too much when he got here). 

He's also a huge fan of Marvel comics and movies, and he brought a large chunk of his "collection" with him to the trailer. There's Avengers stuff everywhere now! He's even stuck some of his posters up on the walls, and there's a stuffed Captain America on the valance over the window by the door. Fortunately, he didn't have any problem letting Frodo play with his action figures. It seems like they are going to get along, at least, despite the differences in their ages.

Oh! And I guess his love for the comics gave Fíli and Kíli ideas, because they have decided to name the trailer "Howard". As in, "The Duck". Because it's a Fleetwood Mallard. The boys are really too young to remember the 80's "Howard The Duck" movie, thankfully, or else their choice of names might be even more awkward than it already is!

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June 28

We left Connecticut early this morning, and it turns out that we had to go near to New York, after all; though we did not have to go through it, thankfully! It was the GPS's fault, really. It didn't say that it would be taking us into so much traffic! Oh! There were so many cars, and none of the drivers were happy to see us there (and I don't blame them). But neither would the other drivers let us over into the right lane so that we could actually get out of their way, so we ended up missing our turn and we got stuck going in the wrong direction!

We had to go miles out of our way before we could get turned around, but even then we blocked traffic! And there were so many horns blowing at us, and so many rude gestures! And I felt so bad for delaying everyone, though Thorin just honked and gestured back in kind. And I'm glad that the younger kids were occupied playing games on Gimli's iPad -- because after how Frodo delighted in repeating the bad words I had said in my fright on the first part of our trip, he might have had a field day repeating what was yelled at us!

And worse, Fíli had forgotten to take his Dramamine before we headed out, so he had to spend most of the time with his head leaned back and his eyes shut. I thought it was odd that he'd be having so much motion sickness when we were basically sitting still, but I guess it might have been because of the other vehicles moving all around us. Either way, I am happy that he managed to not get too sick (we had ginger ale in the cooler in the car, and he sipped at that -- so it might have helped).

Well, of course we finally got out of the traffic, and we got back on the road we needed to continue on south; but unfortunately when we went to get onto the New Jersey Turnpike, for some reason the ticket machine didn't work and we didn't get one! So at the end of the Turnpike we had to pay $45 for the toll because they charge you for the whole trip if you lose your ticket, and the price goes up depending on the number of axles you have!

But we are away from all that now, and I am so glad today is almost over! We're stopping at the Air Force base in Dover for the night, so hopefully there will be a bit more comfort this evening than there was today!

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June 29

Well, last night was terribly uncomfortable!

We got lost! And just as the fault was on the GPS for leading us near New York, it was also the reason we got lost in Dover! We wanted directions from the highway to the Air Force Base, but for some strange reason it led us instead to a tiny little privately-owned airport on some skinny rural road miles away from where we needed to be. And it turned out to be Gimli that eventually got us going the right way. He simply checked the map on his iPhone, found a large airfield, figured out the way to go, and set us on the right course!

Still, it was well after dark by the time we got to the base. The gate guards tried to direct us to the campground; but, unbelievably, we lost our way there, as well! Though it was not so hard to do, really, since we were on an endless road that went all the way around the base. And when the guards told us "take a left, then at the light make a right, then go on around until you come to the next left turn"... well, the next left turn we took wasn't supposed to be a left turn, after all -- it was the end of a runway! And if one of the base police officers hadn't found us there, we might have never gotten to the campground!

Not that it did much good when we did get to the campground. It (like a lot of military camping places) is first-come-first-serve, and because it was so late, there there were no open sites. We had no idea what else to do, so we just wound up "dry camping" at the side of the road (the base police said it was okay). And, heavens! It was awful!

For one thing, we learned that Gimli is terrified of bugs. I guess he hadn't noticed the insects at our campsite in Connecticut (or else they were a kind that didn't bother him), but as soon as we stepped out of the car in Dover a big beetle flew at him. He screamed and jumped around, then he ran into the trailer as fast as his feet could carry him! All night long he was flailing his arms at anything that flew near -- and, oh, there were a lot of moths and beetles and mosquitoes, so that was a lot of flailing!

And it turns out that we should have fixed the fresh water tank, after all. We had nothing to drink except sodas (we'd run out of bottled water sitting in traffic), and there was nothing to clean up or cool off with. Except for diaper wipes, of course! Thank goodness we thought to bring some along, as awkward as it was to buy them with Frodo being out of diapers for years now. Honestly, though, I think that must be one of the most important things to bring along on any road trip with kids.

Also, though we have a auto-type battery in the trailer to run the small inside lights, it is not strong enough to power the air conditioner or any of the fans (though we did have the small battery-powered ones we put out for the cat when he's riding in the back of the trailer), so it was stifling all night long. And humid! And on top of it all, Thorin and I had to climb over the freezer to get to our room -- and I hope to goodness that the food inside is still frozen, since it has been unplugged for so long!  

So, of course, none of us slept too well last night, and we are all thirsty and grumpy and sweaty and tired and bug-bitten today! There was, at least, a bright spot this morning when we all stumbled (and grumbled) out of the trailer. We saw that beside where we had "camped" there was a large grassy field, and it was covered with fog. And Gimli was fascinated by it, and since there were no bugs around at that time, he wandered into the mist. Then he called out that it must have rained overnight! Well, we hadn't heard any rain; but then I realized that he was mistaking the dew on the grass for rainwater! He has lived in the city his whole life, and so he has never experienced such a thing!

Anyway, we at least started the day off with a smile! And now we're on our way through Maryland, heading to our campground reservation spot in Virginia. We should be there before dark, thank goodness! 

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June 30

I really should stop tempting fate.

Of course, we got lost on the way to the Virginia campground! Even with the help of the GPS (why do we even rely on that thing anymore?), we ended up on a dead-end road on some skinny forested peninsula in the middle of nowhere. So, what could we do? We got hold of the campground people, and they said that we're not the only ones to have had that problem -- that the town name as given on the website doesn't "agree" with some GPS devices, and that we have to put in the name of the next town over. Well, why didn't they tell us that before we got lost, if it happens so often?

But anyway, there we were, stuck at the woody end of a no-outlet road; and so we actually had to back the trailer up for what felt like forever (thank goodness there were no other cars), because there were ditches on either side of the old cracking gray asphalt, and no room for a 35-foot trailer to make a big u-turn! We eventually ended up having to turn around on a golf course, and the owners weren't happy with us at all -- but since we didn't actually do any damage to the place, they sent us off with a scowl instead of a bill!

So, with the new (proper) address put into the GPS, we did eventually make it to the campground (after sundown)! And after we got to our reserved spot, we all went into the trailer knowing that we'd have a bit of cleaning-up to do, since some things always get shifted around in travel; but this time we found quite a big mess indeed! I guess turning around on the golf course must have caused a bit of excessive jostling, so everything had fallen out of the cupboards, and off of the boys' beds, and from on top of the refrigerator!

Well, at least nothing broke! But unfortunately, the divider that separated the betta fish got moved out of place. I imagine that the battle between them was fierce -- and Blue won, in the end. He now has the whole bowl to himself, and we had a little fish-funeral for Red in the dark last night. It was awkward, of course, but Frodo insisted that we do it right then and there! And then he scolded Blue for killing Red, but he told him that he still loves him.

And speaking of pets, the cat was not at all happy to see me when we got to the camp. Perhaps it is because he considers his "imprisonment" in the back bedroom to be entirely my fault (or perhaps he just wanted the fish and was mad that we buried it) -- but when I sat down for a bit and tried to relax after we managed to get the freezer out of the trailer and hooked up the water and power and such, he started clawing the back of my head. Thorin detached him from me, but Rolly still glared at me for a while after. Honestly, I don't know what that cat has against me!

Oh! This morning, though, we got a nice surprise! We couldn't see it in the dark last night, but it turns out that our camping spot is right near the water! We have a full view of the ocean (or perhaps it is a bay -- I'll have to check the map out later to be sure), and despite the humidity there is actually a nice breeze coming off of it. There is no beach to speak of, though, and no trees to block out the sun (and, goodness, is that sun hot!).

And, well, there is no sewage hook up here. There is a "dump station", at least, where we can drive the trailer to every few days to empty out the tanks. It'll take some doing, but it won't be that much trouble; however, the boys are going to have to restrict themselves from letting too much water run into the "gray water" tank, so it doesn't flood the shower-stall tub again! We'll perhaps do the dishes in a bucket outside, so not to overfill the tank, and also save us from having to drive over to the dumping station more than necessary.

On the bright side, all the food in the freezer was still good and solid when we got here! Well, except for some chicken on the top; but that was at least quite cold, so I'll be grilling that up for dinner tonight!

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July 1

The flies here bite! Why did nobody tell me that? Terrible little yellow monsters! But, no - they aren't little! They're huge, and they swarm and gather all around, and you just can't get rid of them. Thankfully, the irritation does not linger and itch as much as mosquito bites do, but still.

Anyway, Thorin put a water filter on the fresh water hose this morning, but now the pressure is really low (I tried to flush the toilet this afternoon, and there was only a trickle). Of course, we've been doing the dishes outside, at least, so the lack of pressure to the kitchen sink isn't too much of an issue. And we have a "hose splitter" that hooks up two hoses at once to the pipe, so we don't have to turn off the water to the trailer to use the outside hose - not that it does any good to have the trailer water hooked up at all right now, with the low-flow!

Oh, and more unfortunate news! Up until now, the campgrounds we've been staying at had laundromats so we could wash the clothes - but though they also have one at this campground, each wash and dry cost $1.75. That's $3.50 a load! Now, it isn't the money that is the problem, really, but the fact that there's no change machine here to get all the quarters we'll need for it. And we are in a really out-of-the-way place, so it takes 45 minutes to get to a store where we might be able to get some change, and that uses up a lot of gas.

So, what we're going to have to do is wash the clothes by hand in a bucket outside (like we do the dishes), and hang them up to dry. We're only going to have to do that until we take a trip to the store for whatever reason (we'll need milk before long), and we'll pick up some quarters while we're there. In the meantime, though, it is going to be hot work. And, my goodness! Six people make a lot of laundry! But the boys will certainly be doing their part, as there is little else to do here at the moment.

Really, they seem to be a bit bored. There are things to do at this campground (there's a pool and horseshoes and fishing and mini-golf), but it is really too hot right now to do much of it. And, of course, there are the flies, which make working and playing outside difficult. And on top of that, there is no internet here, which seems to be Gimli's main source of entertainment. And I guess he wasn't as afraid of flies as he was of other bugs until they started biting him. So now he won't leave the trailer at all, and I really can't say that I blame him!

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July 2

Well, the problem with the filter turned out to be that we forgot to run water through (or "flush") it for a while before hooking it up to the trailer, and so the charcoal dust clogged up the works. Thorin managed to clear out most of it, but he couldn't do anything about water line that led to the toilet, so we have to improvise when flushing (it involves using the water from the hand-held shower head). As if having just one bathroom with six people wasn't already awkward enough!

And then there's the issue of the kitty litter box that is in the boys' room, which is next to the bathroom, and happens to be the hottest room in the trailer. There's really not enough air freshener in the world to improve the atmosphere back there, and we're thinking of putting the litter box in the bathroom shower/tub, instead, where there is at least a ventilation fan. It isn't like we are going to be using the shower any time soon, anyway, because of the need to drive the trailer over to the pumping station whenever the tanks get full.

There is, at least, a shower-house nearby (next to the laundromat that we won't be using until we get quarters), so we're able to get ourselves cleaned up with little trouble. Well, except that it is fairly difficult to get Gimli out of the trailer at all, and there are quite a few spiders (and mosquitoes, and biting flies) in the shower-house, itself. And Frodo is rather scared of the place, in general, because there's an echo. And the flow in the showers there is really too low (and the water is pretty hard, as well) so it is difficult to get all of the shampoo out of our hair. But other than that, no problem!

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July 3

We managed to get Gimli out of the trailer today (after dousing him with bug spray), and we all went down to the water at low tide. We stayed there for a while, but it was really not as fun as we had hoped. Three reasons for that:

#1: The mud at the seashore is thick and black and smells terrible and tries to "eat" your shoes at every opportunity!

#2: The grass there can be quite painful. I think it is called "saw grass" or "razor grass", or some such thing; and when it rubs against your legs, it can actually cut you! We were all wearing shorts, and our legs are so scratched up now! And poor Frodo cried so bad when I cleaned his cuts and scrapes when we got back to the trailer!

#3: There are thousands of tiny little crabs out there by the water, and they look like bugs. In fact, Gimli swore up and down that they were bugs; and so he tried to run back to the grass. But his shoes got stuck in the mud and came off, so then he froze because he was afraid he would step bare-footed on the crabs, and Thorin had to carry him to the trailer on his back (and Thorin already has back problems!).

So, I don't think we'll get Gimli near the ocean again for a while, and in fact I don't think he'll leave the trailer until we make him. And I can't see us actually doing that, really. At least, not for a while. But, well, he was at least thrilled to see real palm trees for the first time in his life!

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July 5

The campground folks set off some fireworks last night, and it was quite fun! We had hamburgers on the grill, and even Gimli came out of the trailer (after we covered him in bug spray and lit a few citronella candles). Frodo, it turns out, was a bit frightened of the fireworks (probably the sound of them, more than the lights!) -- but the people a couple trailers over gave the kids some sparklers, so that cheered him right up, and it turned out to be a fun evening, overall!

Oh! Funny thing! I thought Thorin was tickling my face this morning, so I reached over and cuffed him! But it turned out to be a fly -- though this was one of the little, non-biting types! There are quite a few of them around here, actually, in addition to the biters. So we decided a trip to the store was finally in order (also because the kids eat a lot, and we've run low on snacks!), and we got some of those sticky fly traps. Though just after we hung the traps up, Kíli got his hair caught in one! Fíli practically fell over laughing!

Anyway, while we were at the store, we went ahead and got some mud boots (or deck boots, or galoshes, or whatever you call them) for all of us, to make walking on the seashore a bit easier. Well, except they didn't have any that would fit Frodo, so we got him swim shoes, instead. They are fluorescent yellow, and he loves them so much that he hasn't taken them off yet! We'll just have to make sure he doesn't lose them in the mud.

And we finally got some quarters, too, so we won't have to do all the laundry by hand. Still, to save a bit of money (and to reduce the need to run out and get more quarters soon), we're thinking that after washing the clothes in the laundry room, we'll still hang them up to dry outside (instead of spending $1.75 on the dryer). Goodness knows it is hot enough here! Though the humidity does sort of keep the clothes damp for a while.

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July 6

Because Gimli has gotten quite bored just playing the games he has on his iPad (there is no internet here, so he can't download any new ones), Fíli and Kíli are teaching him how to play chess! It is just a small chessboard, really – one of those magnetic travel games, and I didn't even know Fíli had it in amongst his clothes before he pulled it out today. Well, Gimli wasn't keen on the whole thing at first; but then Kíli explained to him that it is a game of war, where the object is to protect your king while capturing the other player's king, and now Gimli is quite enthusiastic about it! Unfortunately, so is Frodo, who constantly wants to steal the pieces off of the board while they are playing!

But anyway, Gimli got startled by a cicada that got into the trailer last night. I had to explain that it didn't want to eat him, just to keep him awake. He did eventually settle down to sleep on his table-bed, but he had his head covered with a blanket and I am sure he got quite hot and sweaty under there. And unfortunately the air conditioner doesn't work quite as well as it should, since we are in what amounts to a big metal box in the sun, and there is no shade around. Still, it is better than no air conditioning, at all.

On the subject of sleeping, for some reason the cat has begun settling in with me and Thorin at night! He actually seems to be warming up to me a bit, and he tends to sleep at my feet far more often than at Thorin's. It does make it hard to get comfortable sometimes, though, because he is quite heavy and wants to lay across my legs; and on top of that, he also sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night by either tickling my nose with his tail or outright sitting on my head! So, now that I think about it, perhaps his goal is just to keep me from sleeping well.

And, still talking about animals, Frodo has fallen in love with the dachshund (I had to look up how to spell that!) that the old lady in the next trailer over owns. He plays with the dog all the time, and, well... the poor animal doesn't get as much exercise as she should, since the lady can't walk very well because of her creaky joints. Goodness, is that dog chubby – but so playful!

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July 8

Oh, I'm so embarrassed! Apparently, the trailer rocks and shakes when Thorin and I are having our private time! Well, we haven't managed to actually have much time together since we began the trip -- but in the middle of a moment that we managed to steal after everyone else was in bed last night, Gimli came frantically knocking on our bedroom door, saying that he'd felt an earthquake or some such thing!

And, oh! What could we tell him? We said that it might just have been the wind shaking the trailer, and that he should just go back to sleep. But he didn't, and we had to calm him down, and it took us nearly an hour! Afterwards, the mood was well and truly ruined, of course.

But, Frodo and Fili and Kili never said anything about feeling the trailer shake; so maybe they slept through it, or maybe at least the elder boys knew what was going on and just didn't say anything. Either way, it is so embarrassing -- though Thorin and I did have a bit of a nervous laugh about it! But I think that we'll have a difficult time from here on, keeping the trailer still, even if we do manage much more alone time, at all!


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July 9

Well, our unpleasant realization about the trailer's movements notwithstanding, we've had a few good days here!

Yesterday we (well, except for Gimli) went walking on the muddy seashore again. It still smelled bad, but at least nobody lost their shoes this time! After we got back, we put our boots under the back of the trailer (they brought some of the seashore smell back with them), and we found them this morning with dozens of tiny snails inside! It didn't actually bother us, and it was funny, really! I suppose they just found it to be a comfy spot to "camp" for the night!

But anyway, out of boredom and the need to fight the heat, Fíli and Kíli tried to make an extra "air conditioner" for their back bedroom out of a styrofoam cooler, a fan, and some ice from the freezer. They said that they'd read about some such thing before, and that it was worth a try. Unfortunately, it didn't work (probably because the ice melted too fast) -- and on top of it all, the cat decided that the cooler was an enemy of some sort, and he clawed it into little styrofoam bits. Well, at least the boys had fun making it!

We nearly got a thunderstorm last night, but it just missed us. Then a full moon came out, and there was a bundle of clouds just below it just spurting out lightning! I've never seen anything like it, and I wish I could have gotten some good video -- but all I got on my phone screen, really, was a little blur of light, while our voices in the background "ooh"ed and "ah"ed! Well, at least we have our memory of it!

And I'm glad the storm didn't hit us directly. We've had some rain while we've been out here, but I can't imagine what it must be like to be in a trailer with lighting all around! I mean, I'm sure we're safe, but it is a frightening thought! What with being in a metal box and all that!

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July 11

Well, the water heater stopped working, and that has added a new layer of complication to washing the dishes. We still wash them in the bucket outside, to save having to drive over to empty the  gray water tank every day -- but we usually fill up the bucket with the hot running water in the trailer and carry it outside. Now, though, we have to heat the water up on the stove, and that really makes it too hot in there! We use up a bit of propane doing that, too; but really, what choice do we have?

But anyway... on a lighter note, we went out picking blackberries today! Gimli went, as well (surprisingly), but he freaked out when a dragonfly buzzed near his ear (unsurprisingly). He ran into the blackberry bush in his fright and got a little scratched up by the thorns, started screaming at some spiders in the leaves, then sat down on the grass and put the berry-bucket over his head, refusing to come out until we said it was time to leave.

So, we gave up the blackberrying and went instead to the "Lodge" they have here. It is a game-house, really. We played pool (Thorin is really good at it!), and pingpong (I won that one!), and air hockey (we were both bad at that one). Fíli and Kíli challenged each other at the pool table, and since Kíli lost two games out of three, he has to clean the litter box for the next week! Even Frodo had fun chasing the pingpong balls around on the floor, and Gimli outdid everyone at darts!

Later on I made bramble jelly out of the blackberries we did manage to gather! So the day ended pretty well, after all, despite Gimli's scratches!

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July 12

There is going to be a new member of our family!

Thorin and I have been talking with Sally, the elderly lady next door, and – well, we're adopting her dog from her! Because it is hard enough for her to get herself around, she really can't walk Hershey (that's the dog's name, and though the name might suggest a boy dog, it is a girl) as often as she should. She loves her "pup", but she feels bad about keeping her cooped up all the time; and, oh, that dog is so chubby!

Anyway, the boys are all excited about it, especially Frodo! Already, he has been walking and playing with Hershey every day, and it makes him sad when he has to send her back home at night. As for where she will sleep when she moves in with us, she is going to have to stay in the shower stall for a while, until we can make better arrangements.

And Frodo doesn't want Sally to be alone after Hershey comes with us, so he is going to give her his betta fish to keep her company! Really, the whole situation is so sweet, though a bit sad. We are certainly going to keep in contact with Sally, and send her pictures of Hershey as often as we're able! Well, and we'll send pictures of the boys, too. She has practically become a grandmother to them since we've gotten here!

I don't know how the cat is going to react, of course; but he seems not to dislike me, at least, as much as he used to. He even settles in between me and Thorin most evenings (and he hasn't tickled my face with his tail for a while) – so maybe he's loosening up a bit, in general!

At least, I hope he is, since tomorrow we are leaving for a campground in North Carolina! I'm sure Rolly will not be happy about having to travel, at least; but perhaps he will forgive us, since the trip is going to be significantly shorter this time around.

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July 13

We're headed out to North Carolina today. Hershey is in the trailer bathroom, all nice and comfortable with a fluffy blanket to lie on and bowls of water and food. Sally says that the dog travels well, so I think the ride should be fine. Oh, Hershey and Sally had a long cuddle good-bye; and Frodo told the betta fish that he loved him before giving him to Sally. It was an emotional moment, all around!

Rolly, on the other hand, had a whole different emotional reaction. He is back in the boys' bedroom, with his food and water and litter, and he gave me a dirty look when I shut the door – and I am not sure if that is because he knew the trip was coming, or because we brought a dog into the trailer. The two of them really don't get along well at all, but that is to be expected, I suppose. I'm sure they will warm up to one another before long.

The morning went smoothly enough. The only real problem we had was that Gimli got a bit enthusiastic while securing everything for the trip. He wanted to be sure that the fan we have attached to the wall wouldn't fall down, so he stood up on the bench to get at it, and he fell and landed on the table. Gimli is okay, but there is only one leg on the on the table, and it broke. We'll just have to leave it made down into a bed until we can replace it. I don't think the kids will mind that, since they never eat at the table, anyway. And besides, the stand next to it is where the boys have their old PS3 and TV set up, so they can stretch out on the bed for their entertainment!

So, besides that there were no issues before we left. We pumped the tanks and got everything put away, and we've just left the campground – and this time we got proper directions, so finding the highway should not be hard! Still, the road from this place is winding and skinny, and there are no guard-rails, so I do hope Thorin drives carefully. And on top of that, we're leaving on the 13th, again.

Oh! We've been in the trailer for a whole month now, haven't we? It hasn't really been that bad, despite all the little troubles that have come up. And with luck, the next campground will have sewage hook-ups and a laundromat that is a bit cheaper. I have to admit, though, that a few times I thought that all of this togetherness was going to drive me mad.

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July 14

We had to go across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel with the trailer yesterday, and I was a nervous wreck! The bridge is something like twenty miles long, and there is nothing to keep the wind away, and we were swaying like mad. And I just kept repeating "I don't like this! I don't like this!" and clutching at the window... as if that would help to keep the trailer from blowing over the rail and into the bay! And, of course, the protective parent part of me kicked in really strong, and I kept on going over and over again in my head just what I would do to get the kids out of the car if that did happen – because at a few points, I was certain it would.

Then there were the two tunnel parts of the bridge, and somehow, those were even worse! They were closed-in, and there were only two lanes, and the vehicles had to pass by so close to one another that you could have high-fived the people driving in the opposite direction, and everyone was going (to my way of thinking) way too fast! I can only imagine what would have happened if anyone had strayed just a little out of their lanes. Heavens! I've never been claustrophobic before, but I think I am now!

Oh, and Fíli had it almost as bad as me. He'd forgotten to take his Dramamine, so he spent most of the trip with his head in his hands, mumbling about needing to "keep it together". We had some ginger-ale in the cooler in the car, but that can only do so much – especially with the lights in the tunnels basically strobing as we went by them. He made it through without "losing it", thank goodness, though he looked awful!

Fortunately, once we were across the bridge the going was much smoother! It was just a little ways south from there, over the border into North Carolina, and we were at the campground! This one is near the water, as well, but the beach here is sandy, rather than muddy; and there is quite a bit of nicely-tended grass and even a few shade trees.

And this campground has full hookups, so we needn't worry about driving over to the pumping station when the tanks get too full or being overly-conservative with our water usage. We can even take showers and do the dishes in the trailer, and I can't explain how happy that makes me! We haven't checked out the laundry-room yet, so we don't know how much it will cost; but at least here we are a bit closer to places where we will be able to get change.

So, when we got here, we were all able to relax a bit! Well, all, except for the cat and dog! But it was strange, really. The door between the bathroom and the back bedroom somehow got jostled open during the trip, and you'd think that Rolly and Hershey would have gotten into a fight when they were able to get to one another – but as far as I can tell, they didn't! All they did was switch places!

After we were parked, I opened the door to the bathroom and the cat was sitting on the sink in there; and when he saw me, he meowed, jumped on my chest, scratched my shoulder as he leaped over it, then he ran into the kitchen and hid under the table (well, the table-bed). For hours he hissed at us and clawed at our feet every time we walked near (and us with the family rule of no shoes indoors!); and when he finally came out, he just glared at me until bedtime.

The dog, meanwhile, we found sitting in the kitty-litter box in the boys' room; and she was just staring at us and wagging her tail like it was nothing unusual. I don't know how she managed to get in there–or out of the tub, for that matter–since she is so chubby that we had to lift her up to put her in the shower stall/tub in the first place! She got a bath last night, of course, as the litter and who knows what else was all in her fur!

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July 16

Well, we've had a nice couple of days here! It really is quite lovely at this camground, though staying so near the beach means a lot of sand in the bed. Never before have I had to vacuum my sheets at night, but here I do. Oh, but I can never get it all out, and it's so hard to try to sleep with that grit against my skin! Thorin doesn't seem to mind much, though – or else he doesn't even notice.

And the fire-ants! Goodness, I'd heard about them, but I've never been bitten (or stung? or pinched?) by one until yesterday. It hurts so much worse than getting bitten by those big horse flies does, and the irritation lasts longer! I'm glad it was only one fire-ant that got me, I can't imagine getting bitten by a bunch of them. We're going to have to be careful that the kids stay away from them, but fortunately the only ants I see just around the trailer are those big black ones (carpenter ants, I think), and I don't think those ones bite.

Surprisingly, Gimli doesn't seem to mind the black ants very much! Instead of freaking out about them, he just brushes them away when they come near. In fact, it seems that it is the flying insects bother him the most – though fortunately not all flying insects, since we went outside towards dark last night and chased fireflies. He had never caught (or even seen) fireflies before! And Fíli and Kíli taught Gimli and Frodo that it is best to sneak up on the fireflies, and gently take them in your hand (rather than running at them like mad, and squishing them). So, it was a good time for all!

We should have thought twice about walking through North Carolina grass in bare feet, though! Besides the fire ants, there are sand burrs and prickers out there! Oh, and there are mosquitoes, too! Lots of them. Still, once we put our shoes on and sprayed our legs down with repellent, it was fine.

Then, of course, when we went back in the trailer, the older boys took turns playing some kind of game on the PS3; while Frodo watched Gimli play some fast-moving and flashy thing on his iPad for about an hour. So, Thorin and I lit a couple of citronella candles, then sat outside and enjoyed the (relative) silence and the wide view of the stars above us for a while. So, all things considered, it really was a nice evening!

Chapter Text

July 18

There was a bit of bad weather here last night, and it was scary! We usually roll up the awning when we know it is going to be windy, but yesterday we forgot to even check the weather report; and a little while after we went to bed, it started to rain and the wind started to blow, and the trailer began to shake to the point where I thought we were going to flip right over!

So Thorin and I went out in the rain to roll up the awning; but a gust caught it, and because I am quite a bit lighter than Thorin (and I have a really good grip) it lifted me right off my feet! Of course, we hollered for the older boys' help! With Fíli and Kíli doing their part, I managed to get back on the ground safely, and the awning got rolled up – and Thorin and I agreed that we need to keep a closer eye on the weather reports so that we can be sure to take care of it earlier next time!

But in our fussing and fretting over the awning, we accidentally left the ceiling vent open above the shower (which we usually leave open to air it out back there). And since Hershey sleeps in the stall, she got all wet! She didn't bark or whine, though, so maybe the wetness felt nice in the heat. Anyway, we dried her off and gave her a nice clean blanket to snuggle up in, and she was just fine. The cat, on the other hand, just hid in Fíli's bed until the storm passed.

And, well, Thorin and I woke up to the smell of coffee this morning; and though we'd thought at first that the boys had made a pot, it turned out that Frodo had gotten into the coffee can and was sitting on his bed surrounded by the grounds! So we went to the store to pick up some more coffee and other food-stuffs, and I saw that they had these noodles with Sriracha in them. Well, I'd never had them, and I like spicy things, so I thought to give them a try – and, goodness! I've fallen in love with them! I really hope I can find them in a store back home.

Oh! And speaking of Hershey again, she was adorable yesterday! There are a lot of geese at this campground, and we took her for a walk (she seems to be enjoying getting out and about), and she started chasing them! Well, she was waddling after them; but it is a start, and I think she'll be in good shape soon. And it was really funny to see Frodo being pulled along, trying to get Hershey to stop chasing the poor geese!

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July 19

We went swimming this morning! Well not really we. I've never actually gone into the ocean before, and so when we took the kids down to the beach and I saw how much fun they were having, I thought I would give it a try. Sad to say, I didn't actually get very far due to panicking when some seaweed "attacked" me (that is to say, it wrapped itself around my ankle and I thought it was a jellyfish or some such thing). So I ran out of the water, sat on the sand, and there I stayed while Thorin and the boys continued to play in the surf.

We went walking for a bit after the boys were done swimming, and it was the funniest thing! There were a few crabs running here and there on the beach; and Kíli walked over to one that was lying still, and he loudly proclaimed, "Oh, look! Here's a dead one!". Then he went to nudge it with his toe, and it jumped at him! Well, Kíli screamed and fell back onto the sand, and the crab ran down its hole – and even though it wasn't dead before that, there's a chance that Kíli scared it to death!

And, well, I did get a sunburn this morning. Turns out I forgot to put sunscreen on myself when everyone else was putting theirs on (probably because I was busy applying Frodo's sunscreen). It isn't too bad a sunburn, at least; but bad enough to make lying down uncomfortable. And leaning back when I'm sitting is kind of unpleasant, as well. As is wearing a shirt, because it rubs against my shoulders. I can't imagine how difficult it will be to get to sleep tonight.

It's funny that Thorin never seems to burn, regardless of how much time he spends outside! And it really does tend to get quite sunny and hot here. Sometimes it is just too hot to go out, so we stay in the trailer, watching movies and cartoons on the PS3. Fíli and Kíli and Gimli do play chess together a lot lately, as well -- and Gimli is getting quite good at it! At night, however, when the sun goes down, we often brave the bugs so to have a fire and toast marshmallows.

Oh! The boys were gathering wood for our campfire last night, and one of the sticks they came back with was a nice long (only slightly-crooked) one. For some reason, I fell in love with it and I claimed it as my own! And while we were all cooped up in the trailer today, away from the heat (and Thorin was rubbing aloe on my burned shoulders), I wrapped the top of it with twine for a handle, and made a walking-stick for myself. Now to see if I will ever actually use it. Perhaps I could loan it to Kíli, so he can poke at things on the beach to see if they are really dead!

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July 21

Last night was the longest of my life! Oh, it was such a nightmare!

Since the windiness the other day, we've been keeping a close eye on the weather reports, and for yesterday it said possible thunderstorms. But it was only about a 30% chance of rain, and maybe some relatively high winds; so we rolled up the awning and secured everything outside; and this time we checked to be sure we didn't leave the ceiling vent open above the dog's bed / shower stall, so she wouldn't get wet.

By then, it was getting close to nighttime, so we all decided to stay out to enjoy the breeze. Out over the water, the clouds started swirling a bit, then we saw a few far-off flashes and heard some distant rumbling. We watched on for a time, thinking we maybe should go in soon, but it looked like the storm would miss us. So the kids started playing tag out on the grass while Thorin and I sat at the picnic table and had some coffee and a cuddle. After a while, though, Gimli started laughing and pointing at Kíli; and we all looked over and saw that his hair was standing on-end.

We all giggled a bit at first – then we realized what it meant! Well, we ran into the trailer quick as we could, and there we all hunkered down together as far away from the walls as we were able (the trailer is grounded, thankfully, but still it is metal!). Then, it began! The rain started coming down in sheets, and the wind picked up, and the trailer started rocking, and lightning lit up the place! From the windows of our trailer we can see the water, and we watched on as the bolts danced all over it!

For about the first half hour, the dog barked every time the thunder sounded (which was a lot!). And since we hadn't gotten to walk her before the storm hit, she made a bit of a mess on the floor before we managed to get her into the shower stall. The poor thing! I wonder if she always reacted like this to storms, and if Sally had her ways of calming her; but Frodo patted Hershey's head and told her over and over that it was okay, even though he was scared out of his own wits, and she finally stopped barking.

Rolly, though! He kept jumping in his fright, and he hissed, arched his back, and tore holes in the window screens! And nothing any of us could do would calm him down in the slightest, so we just tried to keep our distance so as not to get clawed. For some odd reason, he ended up jumping into the shower stall with the dog! Hershey was a bit scared by him at first, but somehow I guess they were united against this common "foe" of a thunderstorm, because they actually laid down next to each other in the tub, and they stayed like that all night!

Then the rest of us tried to calm ourselves and go to bed; but both Gimli and Frodo were scared and fretting, and so they joined me and Thorin in our room (and it made me feel secure having them in there, too; though it was terribly crowded and hot, and my sunburn was rubbing on everyone and everything in the bed, and the kids tracked in sand!). The older boys, meanwhile, settled in on the couch- and table-beds, where Frodo and Gimli usually sleep; and after a while, Fíli and Kíli actually managed to drop off (judging by the snoring, which was somewhat louder than the thunder at points), but the younger boys and Thorin and I didn't get a wink until the storm eased up some time after maybe 1:00 AM.

When we went out to check out the damage in the morning, though, we saw that it really wasn't so bad out there! A few things got tossed around, and Frodo's wading pool had gotten off somewhere (maybe it flew out to sea!), and the grass all around the trailer was a boggy mess; but we hadn't lost power, no large branches or trees had come down near us, no windows were broken (either on the trailer or on the car), and the day was bright and beautiful (if excessively hot and humid and–to Gimli's dismay–buggy).

But, Heavens! I never want to go through anything like that again!

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July 22

Tomorrow we're headed south once more. This time, we're going as far as Georgia; but we will still be camping near the shore, so I hope we don't have another storm like we did the other night! I swear, I've never seen anything like that. Or maybe I have, and I just didn't realize just how bad it was because I was in a nice safe brick house. Honestly, I've never realized just how much living in an actual house cuts you off from the outside world.

And I'm not sure if it was because of the storm or not, but the refrigerator has stopped working again. Thorin doesn't know what is wrong with it, so we're going to have to improvise and make do. I mean, we have a cooler, at least; and we've begun freezing gallon-size zipper-bags full of water in our outside freezer to keep everything nice and chilly. It should last for a while, anyway, and we'll keep a constant rotation of ice-bags going if need-be. Inconvenient, perhaps, but you do what you have to do!

I wish that my sunburn was so easy to take care of. It's not as bad as it was, of course, but it has made sleeping a bit of an ordeal – especially with all the sand that ends up in the bed. If we were at home, you can bet that I would be taking nice long cool baths every night. That is certainly out of the question in the trailer, but Thorin did let me in on an old family trick. He dabbed cold, wet tea bags all over my shoulders and arms, so to cool the skin and help the burn heal faster. It made me a bit sticky and stiff (oh, and how shocking they were on my burned skin!), but it really did help!

Anyway, since the other night, the cat and dog have been constant companions! But, unfortunately, the dog has started eating the cat's food. And every time we try to put the cat food bowl somewhere that Hershey won't be able to reach it, Rolly will knock it over and bat the food around until it is somewhere the dog can get at it! And, well, as happy as I am that Rolly is "sharing" with Hershey, I don't know if it is good for her to eat cat food. I have to look that up. I haven't had a dog since I was a kid, and always it was my parents who took care of ours! I hope I'm doing this right.

Goodness! That sounds just like me, doesn't it? I remember worrying so much when we first adopted Frodo. "Am I doing this right?" I'd ask Thorin whenever anything went wrong – when I scolded Frodo for reaching for something hot and he ended up crying because I'd frightened him, when he slipped in the tub and bumped his head, when I didn't notice him getting into the baking chocolate and he got a tummy ache after eating it all up...

And Thorin would always kiss me and tell me: "Of course you are!" – then he'd correct himself and say "Of course we are! Frodo is healthy and happy and safe... and that's what really matters."

But I wonder still. Frodo and Fíli and Kíli and Gimli are always getting bruised up and nicked and scratched and stung these days! This trip was supposed to be fun – not painful and scary. Sometimes I think we should have long ago bought stock in Band-Aids and bug spray and sunblock, as we've certainly used a lot of them since we began this adventure! But, well... bruises and nicks and scratches and stings notwithstanding, I guess they are still healthy and happy and safe. And I do hope they remember the fun parts of this trip more than they do the frustrations!

Oh, listen to me, getting all emotional! I have to go get everything stowed away for the next leg of our trip!

Chapter Text

July 23

As per the norm, things did not go quite according to plan today.

Right after entering Georgia we blew a tire on the trailer. Literally. The tire exploded! The sound was terrifying, and the trailer jerked to the side, nearly running us into the path of a pickup truck! Thankfully, though, Thorin managed to get us off the road safely. He and the older boys then got the trailer disconnected from the car and up on a jack so they could get the tire off; then everyone but Kíli and I left to get a new one.

Certainly, they didn't all need to go, but I didn't want the younger kids stuck out at the side of the road in the heat, and with so many vehicles zooming by! At any rate, Kíli and I were enough to keep an eye on the trailer. It wasn't as if anyone was going to steal it, after all – not with only three tires! But, well, the eye we kept on it was from a safe distance, since it was up on the jack the whole time, and it was so wobbly that I was afraid that it would fall over whenever a truck went by and the air pressure shook it.

We were a bit concerned about the animals, of course, with them being in the trailer when it jerked and jostled. So we (carefully, so as not to shake the trailer) went in through the rear door to the back bedroom and bathroom area to check on them. The dog was fine – still in the tub, sleeping like a puppy! The cat was also fine, judging from the way he jumped on my shoulder and dug his claws into me as he bit my ear and screamed. That's his normal reaction when he's traveling, after all.

Anyway, Thorin and the others eventually got back (it took a couple hours, so they grabbed lunch for everyone while they were out, and brought me and Kíli burgers). He and Fíli then put the new tire on the trailer while I got back into the air-conditioned car with Kíli and the younger kids. Unfortunately, it turned out that our jack isn't actually strong enough to lift the trailer as high as it needed to be in order to get the tire on. So Thorin let the air out of it so they could slide it on, and we were going to have to limp to some place where we could refill it with air; but a nice truck driver saw our troubles and he had an air pump, so he gave us a fill!

So, then we got back on the road, and the rest of the trip was rather uneventful. Still, when we got to the campsite, we found that the front door was jammed shut, likely from when the trailer got jostled by the exploding tire. The bottom of it now sticks tight, and to open it from the outside we have to shimmy it with a screwdriver and lever it up. But from the inside, it can't be opened at all, so it is easier just to go through the back door for the time being.

I don't think the cat likes us stepping over his litter box in our coming and going, though, as if he wasn't already angry enough about getting stuck in the trailer when we were traveling. The dog, at least, came out wagging her tail and yapping happily. As for the rest of us, I think we are going to sleep well tonight!

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July 25

It is way too hot here! Hotter even than North Carolina, though I didn't know that was possible! It feels a bit like melting, or camping out in the heart of a volcano. And there's not really much we can do about it, since there are not many shade trees in this park. We did try putting foil over the windows to keep the sun's heat out, and though it has cooled it off somewhat, it feels a little like we're inside one of those old 80's TV dinners – the type that always made the food in them taste like aluminum.

In an effort to take at least some advantage of the unending sun (and to fight off some boredom), the older boys tried to make a "hot box" for cooking in. They lined a cardboard box with foil and put plastic wrap on the top, and duct-taped it all up (sometimes it feels that duct tape is all that's holding this trailer together anymore!). For some reason, the hot box didn't get quite hot enough to cook in, but they had fun trying!

Well, and the water heater still doesn't work; but one advantage of the blistering sun is that it at least makes the water in the hose hot. So we let that into the kitchen sink so we can wash the dishes properly. It doesn't do us much good for taking showers in the trailer at night, but at least last night the cool shower was refreshing after a long, hot day!

I think I'll be needing another cool one tonight, as well. Some time around noon today, after spending a good chunk of the morning outside, I found a rock that looks just like a potato. I proceeded to loudly and proudly announced to the family that it is my rock – my pet rock that I had immediately and irrevocably named "Rocky".

After a while of watching me giggle at it, Thorin suggested that the heat was getting to me, and urged me to get out of the sun. He had me go into our room in the trailer, then he gave me a nice glass of lemonade and cranked up the air conditioner and turned the fan towards me. And I really do think that the sun was starting to get to me, because when I cooled off, I began to feel a bit silly about the whole rock thing.

Still, to humor me, Thorin brought "Rocky" inside and gave him a place of honor next to the bananas in the fruit basket.

I'm keeping it. It's a nice rock.

Chapter Text

July 26

Well, today was at least a little bit cooler than yesterday, though it remains ridiculously hot out. I'm still a little bit embarrassed about the rock thing, though Thorin hasn't said a word about it. Oh! And I caught Frodo playing with Rocky this morning! He was so cute! And by "he", I mean Frodo – not Rocky. Anyway, there aren't many other entertainment options here; at least, not unless someone wants to get a sunburn and possible heat exhaustion.

So, on that subject, we picked up some Play-Doh for the younger kids to use inside when it is too stifling to go out. I say it is for the younger kids, but Fíli and Kíli (and, I'll admit, even Thorin and I) have been playing with it, as well. The Play-Doh is everywhere, of course – on the floor and ground into the couch and in the bathroom sink and on the doorknobs. And because of the humidity here, it doesn't harden very quickly; but while it was a bit disconcerting stepping on it on my way to the bathroom in the dark last night, it was also a relief when I realized that it was not a "present" that the dog left on the floor!

Oh, and about the dog! She is getting more fit by the day, and no longer stays in the shower stall to sleep (or else stepping on the Play-Doh wouldn't have been such a fright!). In fact, she can even get up the stairs into the trailer without pausing to work up to a leap! We've even taken to sticking the dog leash to the velcro on the hands of Gimli's stuffed Captain America by the door, so we can get to it easily when she wants to go out (which is more often than we care for in this heat!).

I did take some advantage of the weather, and made sun-tea for the first time this afternoon (usually we boil the water for iced-tea, then chill it). It turned out tasty enough, though I think I either didn't add quite enough tea bags, or I didn't leave it in the sun long enough, so it was just a touch weak. I'll try again tomorrow, and hope that I do it just right this time!

Thorin has been on a bit of a repair kick lately. He fixed the stuck front door with some brackets yesterday, since we couldn't keep scrambling over the kitty litter and all of the older boys' stuff to get through the back door. While he was at it, he also tightened a wobbly step, then he figured he'd replace the screens that the cat had torn holes in during the storm the other day.

And speaking of holes – I was complaining that I couldn't get comfortable in bed because my sheets were "pilling", making it feel like sleeping on gravel; so Fili and Kili, in an attempt to help, tried to "shave" off the bumpy parts of the fabric with a knife. They accidentally ended up putting about a dozen little holes in the sheet, so I had to put duct tape on the underside to keep the holes from getting bigger. It isn't really that noticeable when we're laying on them (except when we stick to the exposed duct tape), and the boys did at least get a lot of the pilling off! It's just too bad we didn't think to bring a spare sheet (we figured we could just wash ours when we needed to – we didn't count on holes!).

Oh, and when we all went to the shower house tonight, Gimli started battling against what he claimed was a giant mosquito. Unfortunately, in an attempt to hit it with a wet towel, he ended up breaking the light fixture on the shower-room ceiling. We'll have to pay for that, of course. But, well, the bug got away; and it turned out that it wasn't a mosquito, after all, but a crane fly. They don't bite, but we couldn't convince Gimli of that.

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July 28

There was some nice cloud-cover today, so Thorin took the kids swimming – and this was the first time that he let Frodo do it without a life vest on. Thorin stayed right next to him the whole time, of course, but still I worried! Frodo is just too fearless, and I kept thinking that he would go too deep, or get caught up in a riptide or some such thing! So, I was a shaking, babbling, nervous mess; but Frodo did manage to swim a couple yards between Thorin and Fili a few times!

And while Fíli and Thorin were helping Frodo to swim, Gimli and Kíli were digging out a "wading pool" in the sand – so when Frodo needed a break (and I couldn't take the stress anymore), I watched him play in that while the rest of them had a great time splashing each other in the surf! Gimli can swim quite well, apparently. He said that his parents take him often to a pool in the city, and he even had lessons at a youth center! I suppose it might do me good to have some lessons, as well – but, really, I am not very comfortable in the ocean. The thought of seaweed wrapped around my leg still makes me shudder!

It was nice to see Gimli out and about, in any case. Except for the whole not-a-giant-mosquito incident, he seems to be getting a bit more comfortable with the whole bug thing. He hasn't gone too overboard in chasing flies in the last week, at least. In fact, yesterday Kíli rescued a drowning bee from a cup of iced tea that was left on the picnic table, and when he showed it to us, Gimli didn't even flinch at all (though he also declined to pet it).

And speaking of iced tea, I made more sun tea today, and it turned out much better! Though tonight is another one for a simple meal, since I am just too hot and tired to do any "real" cooking. Honestly, I haven't made anything nice in a long, long while, despite all the plans I had for coming up with some "travel food" to collect into a book. Seems all we really ever have these days are hot dogs, tuna sandwiches, and freezer pops. Thorin and the kids say they don't mind, but I feel as if I am somehow losing my touch!

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July 30

Kíli learned a bit of a lesson today, and that lesson is: You cannot beat Uncle Bilbo in an eating contest!

Well, it was not quite an eating contest, though more one of endurance. It started because the older boys have somewhat slipped into Gimli's love of Marvel Comics, and so it got Kíli to asking if he might paint Howard The Duck on the side of the trailer. Of course, I said "no!", but he persisted. Eventually, he asked if there was any way to convince me, and I half-jokingly suggested that if he could keep a tablespoon of Sriracha in his mouth longer than I could, I'd let him paint it!

To my surprise, he took me up on it! Well, I couldn't back out then, so (witnessed by the others, of course), we both took our tablespoons full. And since, as a cook, I am used to spicy things (and because I have been greatly loving the Sriracha noodles lately), I outlasted him. And how! He could not take it nearly so long as I could, and he had to drink down a quart of milk after, and still he got the hiccups! Well, I got the hiccups, as well – but it was worth it, since I had won and there is to be no Howard The Duck on the side of the trailer. Though because he gave it such a valiant effort, I did compromise a bit, and told him that he could paint the name "Howard" on it.

But really, that is the kind of entertainment we have come down to in this place, because the heat index has been around 106-degrees, and I'd rather not have anyone get a really bad sunburn or heat stroke (or have a repeat of the Rocky incident – though I am not yet prepared to get rid of the rock). We're just not used to summers in the south, and I am so glad that we have an air conditioner in the trailer.

Most our indoor entertainment consists of reading, playing with Play-Doh, chess competitions (Gimli is getting really good at it!), and watching each other play video games. And since the older boys have been playing so much Skyrim on their old PS3 these days, and Frodo has become quite interested in it, every time he doesn't want to do something we tell him to do, he yells something like "Foos Row Duh!" at us. I'm not going to pretend to know what that means, but Fíli and Kíli assure me that it is not a swear-word.

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August 2

It was overcast and drizzly and somewhat cooler today, and so we spent a good deal of time outside! In fact, Thorin convinced me to let him give me a swimming lesson; and I guess Fíli and Kíli sensed that it was a thing best left for us to do alone, and so they took the younger kids for a walk instead of joining us.

In truth, I think it would have been embarrassing for them to see me as I flailed about in the surf, panicked at every swell, and constantly screamed that I was going to go under (disregarding the fact that the water barely got higher than the middle of my chest). I managed, at least, to learn how to float on my back. Though then a bit of a wave came up, and I got a nose full of seawater and I came up sputtering – and so ended the lesson!

But still, we did not leave the water right away, and instead moved to the shallows and sat there on the sand, holding to one another and just enjoying being close without the worry of getting too hot! Of course, it wasn't all comfortable cuddling – the salt water was sticky, and there was sand everywhere, and seaweed kept drifting towards us... but still it was lovely!

Before long, though, the boys came back from their walk, and it turned out that Gimli had tried to stomp on a sand flea, and ended up cutting his foot on an oyster shell. And so we went back to the trailer, took our refreshingly cold showers, and I treated Gimli's foot (the cut wasn't very deep). Then we all relaxed for the rest of the night, and it was just an all around wonderful day – except, of course, for the cut on Gimli's foot!

And soon we'll be moving on again. We're leaving tomorrow, in fact... for Florida. I confided in Thorin that, though I've never been to Florida, the thought of it rather frightens me! I've heard, after all, that they have giant mosquitoes, snapper turtles, biting flies, fire ants, massive flying cockroaches, alligators, sharks, and far too many other things that want to eat you!

Thorin tried to convince me I needn't be so concerned, because we'll not be near the swamp or any such thing; and I told him that while I do trust him, still I worry! And to that, he smiled and chuckled, and assured me that the worst that is likely to happen to me or the kids is that we'll get a mosquito bite on a sunburn, and regardless as to how irritating that would be, we'll certainly survive it!

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August 4

We're in Florida now, and the trip was not so bad this time – probably because the roads were much straighter, our destination was closer, and we didn't have to go over any big bridges! Fíli did get an upset stomach, though, because we forgot his Dramamine again; but he just shut his eyes and took a nap for most of the trip.

But though the getting-here went well, when we got to our campsite we found that not all of our things had been stowed as well as we'd thought. Some of the dishes had shifted and broke the mirrored front of the cupboard door, and we forgot to latch the refrigerator shut, so some of the food fell out (not a lot, thankfully, and it must have happened towards the end of the trip, because the food was still relatively cool). Also, the dog had apparently had a bit much to drink, and so there was somewhat of a puddly mess in the bathroom; and the cat, being himself, decided to scatter his kitty-litter all over the back bedroom, then tracked it onto the boys' beds.

So, while I was cleaning that up, Thorin and the boys set up the outside of the trailer; then he took Gimli and Frodo kite flying and swimming at the beach. He asked me to go, but I didn't want to go out in the sun; it is, after all, even hotter here than in Georgia – though I didn't expect any different, it being Florida and all! Unfortunately, Gimli has been complaining of a small earache since their swim.

Anyway, while they were swimming and I was cleaning up, (and enjoying not being out in the heat) Fíli and Kíli took the car to the grocery store to pick up a few items. While they were there, though, they caught someone trying to steal our trailer hitch. I didn't even know trailer-hitch theft was a thing! Regardless, Fíli grabbed a can of baked beans out of one of the grocery bags and threw it at the guy. He missed the thief, but he managed to scare him off (and also dented the side of our car with the baked beans).

Then they came home (Home? I mean the trailer!) and put away the groceries – but I guess they didn't remember that the light under the cupboard gets pretty hot, and they chose the spot just above it to store the chocolate bars they got for s'mores. So the chocolate melted, and while it stayed inside the wrapper, it was basically chocolate syrup!

So, we stuck that in the fridge, and when it finally hardened we got to have our s'mores! But, well, Kíli burned his mouth when he gobbled down on one without giving the marshmallow a chance to cool. He didn't care much, though, because it made him remember that there were popsicles in the freezer!

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August 6

Well, Gimli's earache didn't get any better, so we took him to the hospital to get checked out. Turns out that he has swimmer's ear, and he'll be needing drops in it three or four times a day for a week. Problem is, he has to lie still on his side for five minutes after he gets the drops, and that isn't easy for him! He also can't get any water in his ear for a while, and he was upset that he couldn't go swimming – but the doctor said that we can just use wax earplugs to keep the water out, and he can swim after all.

We had another thunderstorm last night, but for some reason it didn't scare me so much this time around. Maybe because it was somewhat milder, or maybe because we have gone through it before – but for whatever reason, I managed to fall asleep while it was going on. It was really rather soothing, actually, hearing the thunder rumbling and the wind blowing through the palm trees. For a while, even, Thorin and I thought of getting romantic; but Frodo, of course, decided to sleep in our room last night because he was frightened of the thunder, so there was the end to that idea.

It's okay, though. We've gotten rather used to not having any alone time these days, due to the cat's odd habits. We can't shut the door to our room at night, because if he is in there he meows to get out; and if he is not in there, he meows to get in. I honestly don't know how he went from attacking me every time I looked at him to wanting to sleep on my feet; and stranger still is how, on the rare occasions when he doesn't sleep with me and Thorin, he curls up next to the dog.

Anyway, in the morning we went outside to find the ground all muddy. Well, we couldn't waste that! We all had a marvelous mud-fight, and afterwards we were coated with dirt; and it was in our ears (Gimli was careful to avoid that, though!), and our hair was matted and gritty, and Frodo was such a mess that all we could see of him past the mud was his eyes and his wide smile! And we just couldn't go back into the trailer like that, of course, so we took turns chasing each other around with the hose, until we were relatively mud-free! And, well, we couldn't get all of the mud out of our hair with just water, so we scrubbed up with shampoo a few times, then we all sat out in the sun to dry while we played 20 Questions!

A little while later, Thorin and I went to the store with Frodo and Gimli to pick up some more shampoo (and to get some more laundry detergent and some quarters for the machines, since after the mud fight we definitely had a few extra loads), and while we were gone, the older boys made us lunch. It was nothing fancy (grilled chicken sandwiches and a nice slaw on the side), but it was really tasty and nothing went wrong!

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August 9

We're once more close to the beach, and so the sand in the bed is still an issue. I don't understand, though, where it all comes from. We sweep the floor all the time, we wipe our feet, we don't wear shoes in the trailer, we shake our clothes and towels out before we bring them inside, I dust off and vacuum the bed before we climb into it... and yet, in the middle of the night, I still wake up to the feeling of grittiness under me! I just don't get it. Is the sand just hiding somewhere until I get comfortable?

But anyway, poor little Frodo ran afoul of a nest of fire ants today! He got bit a few times on his legs and feet, and how he cried! I felt so bad for him. And what could I do, but put calamine lotion on the bites and give him an ice cream sandwich and cuddle him? We both got sticky from the ice cream, but that didn't matter!

There are more fire ants here than there are further north, unsurprisingly (and also more sand burrs); and it was probably because of that that Gimli decided that from now on he is going to "make friends with" as many frogs and toads as possible. And so Fíli has named him "The Frog Whisperer"! I had to remind Gimli, of course, that it's a bad idea to bring his frog and toad friends into the trailer, since Fíli and Kíli told us that Rolly had eaten a frog just this spring, and had gotten quite sick because of it.

And, well, I suppose in response to Gimli's new "title", Kíli has declared himself to be "The Moth King" – because, for some reason, moths tend to gather around his bed light while he is reading at night. He long ago gave up trying to chase them away, and now he just lets them do whatever they want back there. Sometimes he will even let a particularly large moth crawl onto his palm, then he'll bring it out to show the rest of us. Of course, Gimli threatened the most recent of Kíli's moth buddies with a toad.

In a bored moment yesterday, I started messing with the radio/tape deck, and I came across a classic country music station. I left it playing for a bit, and when the song "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson came on, Fili and Kili went absolutely giddy! They even felt the need to look up the lyrics, then they "serenaded" the rest of us! Frodo, being the little mockingbird that he is, started singing it, as well; and he's barely stopped since. And though I am getting a little tired of the song at this point, there is something quite adorable about a preschooler trying to sing the right words to anything.

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August 11

Fíli and Kíli found an old dirty and torn tent in the dumpster at the campground – and when they pulled it out and looked it over, they declared that it is in good enough condition to "rescue". So now they are planning on cleaning and fixing it up (with a lot of duct tape, I assume!) in order to make it useable again. They'll have to do most of the work in their back bedroom because of the heat, I think; but the tent really isn't all that large, so it shouldn't get in the way or anything. At any rate, it gives them something to do!

Boredom has been a bit of a problem lately, to be sure. You'd think that being in Florida in the summer would offer more opportunities for fun; but really, it is too hot and humid to do much of anything outside. So what are we supposed to do? We spend more "together" time inside the trailer. Unfortunately, though we packed a lot of outside toys before we left Connecticut, we didn't think we'd be needing as much inside entertainment as we do.

That means we're stuck playing games (Gimli is getting really good at chess!), making food that doesn't require heat (pickles!), watching movies on the PS3 (though most of our discs are scratched at this point, and the PS3 heats up the trailer even more), reading (the same books over and over), and making things with Play-Doh (I've gotten good at making little replica food items!). The younger kids tried to play hide-and-seek, but there aren't many paces to hide in here!

And, well, since he had little else to do, Thorin at least got the broken cupboard door fixed. Well, not fixed, really. It used to have a mirror on the front, and now it is plain plywood. It isn't pretty, but it works. He also tried to do something with the stubborn water heater, but that was not so easily taken care of. Not that cold showers bother us lately.

Gimli, for his part, is seldom bored. Since he can't bring his frogs in the trailer, if he sees even one fly in there he grabs two swatters and stalks around as "a dual-wielding mighty hunter of bugs"! And when all the insects are disposed of (except for Kili's moths), he celebrates a job well done with a snack, then he pulls out his iPad and plays whatever it is he has on there.

Oh, and Frodo got a bit upset when he got pinched on the finger by an ant today. But it was just a carpenter ant, and it was likely that it just nipped him because he'd just eaten cherries and his fingers were still covered in the juice!

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August 13

It's been two months since we started our adventure, and I still don't know what to make of it! It has been fun, yes – but also terribly frustrating and hot, and at times mind-numbingly dull. There are a lot of things that I would have done differently, I think, if I'd have thought it through better. Things such as heading north instead of south in the summertime; or simply going west, towards the mountains and the woods instead of spending so much time near the beach.

The cat seems to be going a little stir-crazy, as well. He wants to escape all the time! He pulls down the screens and slips out the windows when we open them to let in a breeze. He doesn't seem to want to go far, though, because more often than not we find him cowering under the trailer a short while later. In order to get him back in, we usually have to entice him out from under the trailer with kitty treats or a laser pointer, or else bring Hershey out for a walk (Rolly will often run up to her when he sees her!). He got out during the rain last night, though, and he must have immediately thought better of it, because before we even realized he'd escaped, we found him hanging on the outside of the screen door and crying to get back in!

Today is Gimli's last day of ear drops, and he's quite happy about that! He didn't like having to lay still for five minutes three times a day. He's has, at least, gotten rather used to the wax ear plugs he wears when he goes in the water; though because of the heat he hasn't gone swimming much lately. He says, anyway, that he is going to keep wearing them whenever he goes swimming so that he won't get swimmer's ear again.

At any rate, we'll be heading back north soon; and strange though it is, the one thing that keeps repeating over and over in my thoughts is "I hope I can find Sriracha noodles in Hartford!". I think I've grown a little addicted to them. In fact, I noticed that there are a lot of foods down here that they I have never seen up north. For that matter, there are a lot of things they have in New England that I can't find here, either.

It'll be best, though, finally getting to be alone with Thorin again! Really we have about as much privacy as a pair of goldfish here; but even if we did have privacy, we're usually too tired and sore and itchy by the end of the day to actually do anything. We do love having the boys around, and it has been quite the experience for everyone, but I miss us (though we sleep next to one another every night, and spend almost all of every day within sight of each other). I'm afraid that we'll have completely forgotten what it feels like to be together by the time we get back!

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August 14

We've been out fishing a few times since we've been in the trailer, and we did so again this morning – and the difference this time out is that someone actually caught something! Granted, the fish was only about three inches long (so it got let go afterwards), and I'm not even sure what kind it was – but Kíli was very proud to have reeled it in, nonetheless! 

Gimli, though, got very down in the dumps about it. He sat hard on the pier, threw his pole down, hung his head, then pointed at himself and said, "This is the face of failure!".

Turns out both he and Kíli saw the little fish swimming around under the dock, and they'd both claimed that they were going to be the one to catch it. And Kíli actually felt pretty bad about it, though at first he had been pleased with himself. After all, he'd gone fishing many times out where he lives, and he'd caught a lot of fish in that time. But Gimli had never been fishing before going out with us, and so he'd never caught anything in his life – and he wanted very much to get at least one before going back to New York.

We all felt bad for him, of course, but really what then could we do? We went back to the trailer and he sunk into his spot on the table-bed (which we have yet to fix), and he proceeded to play his games on his iPad. Lunch was hamburgers on the grill, and that seemed to perk him up some; then we had ice cream, and that helped a bit more. And Kíli was trying his best to apologize, though it really was just chance that he caught the fish. Gimli told him, at least, that he wasn't mad at him, really, but that he has just felt so out of place out in the country and wanted to do something right out here.

So a little while later, we had him call his parents; and after telling them about the fish disappointment, he went on to more pleasant subjects (his frog buddies were what he spoke of the most). And when he got off the phone with them, he challenged Kíli to a game of chess, and we've not heard another word about "the face of failure" since!

I can understand where he is coming from, really. I have felt a bit out of my element out here, as well. Seems that none of us really know what we're doing, and that we're just faking it until we make some semblance of sense of what we are doing. Much like parenthood, I suppose.

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August 15

Today was not exactly what I would call a good day.

It started this morning when we got up and found that some animal had gotten into the trash last night (we keep the can outside by the door), and had dragged it all over the campsite! So we had quite a mess to pick up. We're not sure what did it – maybe a possum, maybe a raccoon, or maybe just a cat or some such thing; but we've secured the top with a bungee cord to keep it from happening again. 

Then, for some reason even I can't figure out, I got unreasonably angry that I lost one of my earbud covers. And I guess that wouldn't have been a big deal, but when I get into the mood to listen to music it upsets me if I cant! So, because of my grumpy attitude, I got into a pointless argument with Thorin about whether or not birds have to practice flying in formation, or if it just comes naturally. Then I snapped at the boys for the mess the trailer was in – though in actual fact, it wasn't messy at all. I felt bad for doing that, and of course I apologized to them afterwards; and they just kind of set to work tidying the place. I still felt bad about losing my cool, but I did manage to calm down a bit after that.

Oh! Then we found out how very good Fíli is at sharpening knives. He was bored and wanted something to do, so he took all of our kitchen knives outside and sat at the picnic table, then he got the blades nicely honed on the whetstone. But he dropped one when he was working on it, and I guess he instinctively tried to catch it, and ended up cutting the palm of his hand (he did manage to catch the knife, though). The cut was pretty long and was bleeding fairly badly, so Thorin took him to the hospital and he ended up needing stitches.

And Dís got hold of us today! That was good, except that Fíli and Thorin were still at the hospital at the time, and I had to explain to Dís what had happened. She actually laughed a little and told me that he'd done that before, and that she had long ago come to expect her boys to get cuts and such like that – which I well believe, because I've been handing out Band-Aids like Halloween candy these days! Anyway, she said that her trip went well and that she's home now. I told her that we should be back in a week or so, and she said that she can come and pick up the boys at our place in Connecticut.

Then, happily, Thorin got us tacos for dinner, so at least we didn't have to cook!

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August 17

We left Florida this morning and are heading back north now ("On The Road Again", as the boys won't stop singing!). It's been going okay so far, as the road is pretty straight – and also, we gave Fíli some ginger ale and Dramamine, so he hasn't had much of an upset stomach (though he is a bit drowsy).

The only real problem so far is that another tire on the trailer went flat. In Georgia. Again. But at least this time it didn't explode. So, while Thorin and the older boys went to go find a place to get a new tire, I and the younger kids were stuck in the powerless trailer at a rest stop, surrounded by huge trucks! It was fairly noisy, but it didn't bother us much.

The freezer was in the trailer, of course (hopefully still keeping the food inside cold!), so I mixed up a bunch of cornstarch and bottled water, and let the kids make a mess of it on the freezer top. I've long given up on keeping the trailer "sparkling" clean, anyway! And while the kids were playing, I made pickles to fight off my own boredom.

The cat and dog were fussing in the back room, clearly unhappy with being stuck there; but they, at least, were cool enough! We opened the ceiling vents and cracked the windows open back there (not enough for the cat to slip out, though), and set up a couple battery-powered fans to circulate their air, and made sure they had plenty of water. So, they were cooler than we were in the front of the trailer, but still I am sure they were going stir-crazy.

But anyway, Thorin and Fíli and Kíli eventually got back with the new tire. And this time, Thorin also picked up a new, stronger jack so they could easier get the tire on. So soon we were on our way, back to singing songs and looking forward to our stopover in Virginia! We should be there soon, I hope!

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August 18

As we were heading down a woody road towards the campsite in Virginia last night, Frodo saw a deer by the side of the road. It's not the first one we've seen while driving along, of course, but this time Frodo called out "There's a deer!", and it startled Thorin so much that he nearly drove us into a ditch! He later confessed that he thought Frodo had seen a deer in the road while he was himself watching for road signs, and that he was going to hit it.

At any rate, we got to the campsite safe and sound, but as soon as we opened the trailer door, the dog ran out (I guess she had to go really bad) and ran into the woods. A minute later, we heard her yelp, then she came running back smelling of skunk! So, yeah, as Thorin and the older boys set up the trailer, I took the younger boys in the car to get some tomato juice. Fíli and Kíli said that it works for getting out skunk-spray, and thankfully they were right!

While the older boys were washing the dog (I had to make dinner; and on top of needing to set up the trailer, Thorin couldn't take the smell!), Frodo and Gimli took it in turns running around with a Home Depot bucket on their heads for about an hour. Whenever one of them ran into something, their turn was over and the other got to wear the bucket. I've long ago given up on trying to make logic of any game these kids come up with, so long as it keeps them occupied.

Unfortunately, though, when we went to clean up at the shower house, Frodo got frightened by something and ran out, naked and screaming. I mean, all the way out. He ran out of the building and back to the trailer, and I had to chase after him with a towel wrapped around me and shampoo in my hair. He didn't tell us what scared him, but Kíli suggested that maybe the shower house is haunted, and that Frodo had seen a ghost. Now Gimli won't go in there, either.

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August 19

Fili and Kili were fixing up that old tent for me and Thorin! Oh, it is really more duct tape now than whatever it was originally made of, and it looks rather a bit like a Franken-tent; but they sealed all the holes and taped new mesh over the top, so it should at least keep most of the bugs out!

I am so touched and overwhelmed, and I really don't know what to say! I had no idea they were so concerned about us. It's our job, isn't it, to be concerned about them? But they said that they felt bad that we've been spending so much time taking care of things, to the point where it sometimes seems like Thorin and I barely know one another any more. They said that the least they could do is give us one night to ourselves before we get back home!

So Fíli and Kíli set up the rescued tent out behind the trailer and padded the floor with all of the spare blankets we brought (but haven't needed at all until now because of the heat), and they even set the battery-powered fans out there to keep us cool! And on top of all that, they are going to watch the younger boys in the trailer for us tonight while Thorin and I have some alone time. The older boys are even going to make dinner for everyone! I mean, it's just sandwiches, but still it is thoughtful.

And, really, it doesn't matter if they know what Thorin and I are doing out there, does it? Really, I'm beyond the threat of embarrassment anymore. Dís's boys are, after all, practically adults – and any euphemisms we use around them have certainly not gone unnoticed!

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August 20

Last night was wonderful and peaceful! It was just so quiet out in the tent, aside from the croaking of the frogs and the chirping of the crickets and the rustling of the wind in the leaves and the whirring of the fan – and, lets face it, Thorin snoring after he went to sleep!

But, well, there was one moment that wasn't quite so peaceful (though, in retrospect, quite funny), and that was when we were settling in for the night and I was staring at Thorin, and suddenly a centipede crawled up onto my pillow! All at once, Thorin and I were tossing things about the tent, looking for the thing; and at one point he picked up the sheet and the critter crawled out onto his hand. He hollered and shook it off, and it went flying right at my face! So I, of course, started yelling and flailing, and I jumped out of the tent; and Thorin grabbed the centipede and threw it into some nearby trees. And we had a good laugh about that, but considering the kids didn't come out to see what all the fuss was about, I can only imagine what they thought we were doing!

I was a bit worried about them, of course – as I tend to be. But I really do trust Fili and Kili to take care of Frodo and Gimli, and so I didn't go into the trailer at all until morning. Then we found all of the boys snuggled up together asleep on the table-bed (which will likely never be used as a table again, as we've not even made a move to replace the leg). Hotel Transylvania was in the PS3, the coffee pot was all set up (all we had to do was turn it on), and the air conditioner was still running – which was a good thing, because even that early on, the temperature outside was already in the upper 80s.

So, the day began! We had breakfast, then the clouds rolled in and there was a nice rain. It was light, though, so we all went for a walk down the wood-trail and to the beach at the end, and we saw a double rainbow over the water. It was really a lovely ending to what was, admittedly, a somewhat frustrating trip. Well, we aren't quite at the ending! We're leaving Virginia tomorrow, and we're going to stop off in Dover again (and this time Thorin called ahead to make sure there were open spots!), then we'll be back in Connecticut the next day. Somehow, though, despite all the problems we've run into, I think I am really going to miss this trip when it is over.

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August 22

We are almost home now! We spent last night at the military campground in Dover (where all went well this time, thankfully), and we should be in Hartford by this evening. I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't feel strange going back to a house. And not just for me, I'm sure! We've all come a long way, I think (literally and figuratively), since we began this trip.

Gimli, for one, is no longer quite so scared of bugs as he was at the beginning, and he's done so many things and learned so much that he couldn't have in the city! He hasn't even touched his iPad in a week – and I believe him when he says he wishes the trip could be longer. Of course, I am sure the swimmer's ear, the discovery that blackberry bushes have thorns, and the face of failure will not be so fondly remembered.

Fíli and Kíli haven't changed much, though they are somewhat more mature, I think, and more responsible than when we picked them up. Or maybe they were always that responsible, and I just didn't see it until now. At any rate, Kíli at least showed his artistic side with the stylized Howard (just the name, not the duck!) he painted on the front of the trailer; and Fíli says that he will wear his hand-scar proudly (once the stitches are removed).

Frodo has grown a little taller, but he is still his usual bold and fearless self. He's got a bit of a tan now, though, and a lot of little insect bites to remember the trip by. Already, he is asking when we can go back out again. I hated to tell him that it will be a while before we can go to the beach, but I am sure that we can find some place near home that he can practice his new swimming skills.

Thorin is still Thorin; he's still the love of my life, still my grumpy-yet-loving husband. I have even learned some things about him that I didn't know before – like the fact that he didn't learn to swim until he fell out of a boat when he was thirteen (which was why he was so keen on teaching Frodo how to swim early), and that he is allergic to poison ivy (which we saw while we were on the trip, but thankfully did not come into contact with).

As for me, I am not nearly as much a white-knuckle rider as I was at the start. I didn't even worry too badly going over the Bridge-Tunnel this time! Well, except when I pointed out another rainbow to the boys while we were halfway across, and Thorin started steering towards it for a second! Also, I don't believe I am so neat as I once was. I do still like things to be tidy, but I no longer cringe at the thought of a few dishes in the sink, or stains on the couch, or Play-Doh between my toes (well, maybe I cringe a little about that last one, especially since we now have a dog) – but I can't figure out whether that means that I have matured or reverted back to reckless youth.

What I have figured out, though, is that going camping (even in a trailer) is a bit like like parenthood – in that it consists of hours of boredom and frustration, punctuated by occasional moments of sheer terror. And, also, I've found that diaper wipes are one of the most important things you can take on a long trip with kids.

In any case, instead of running through New York to drop off Gimli, we called Gloin and arranged for him to come and pick him up at our place; and Fíli and Kíli will likewise be staying with us until their mother can come and get them in a few days. Then our little adventure will officially be at its end.

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August 23

Well, we're home again... and it all seems so different now!

We got here late last night, and after stumbling out of the trailer we all took turns having hot showers, rather than cold. Thorin and I shared our shower, of course, since we hadn't been able to since we left (the shower in the trailer being so tiny, after all), and Frodo was giddy that he got to have a bubble bath for the first time in months! After that was done we piled up all our dirty clothes in the laundry room; and, really, I feel so spoiled now, having a washer and dryer all my own.

Then we went and threw a couple frozen pizzas in the oven, because none of us felt like cooking. I was almost shocked to find that the refrigerator in the house actually kept food cold, after making do for so long with one that would occasionally keep food cold. In fact, Bombur restocked it (and the freezer, and the pantry) before our return. And by restocked, I mean truly restoked. As in, every last can, box, and package was a new one – so he must also have emptied it, as well. I will need to see if some place up here sells Sriracha noodles, though, because I am beginning to miss them already!

Unfortunately, I didn't come up with any new recipes while we were away, but I suppose I can do that before we go on our next trailer journey (and there will be another one – though better-planned to be sure!). But it will certainly be nice to be able to use an oven again, and not need to worry about using up the propane or overheating the house when I need to cook something on the stove. Also, I have placed my pet potato-rock on the back of the sink for inspiration.

The dog and cat seem to be having a hard time adjusting to being in a house, which I suppose is at least to be expected for Hershey, since she may well never have lived in one. Certainly the animals are going to miss each other, since they have become friends, and have even gotten into the habit of sleeping together on the floor at the foot of our bed every night.

Bombur and his family are staying on for tonight to help us unload and clean the trailer; and since Dís will be here to get Fíli and Kíli tomorrow, and Gloin will come for Gimli the day after, there is quite a crowd here! But even with all those people in the house, it seems uncannily empty. I can't describe it really, but it feels lonely somehow. Too big and with too many rooms, like a palace rather than the cozy home I have always thought of it as. The kids felt it, too; and Frodo, especially, had a hard time settling in for the night.

Gimli seemed rather solemn when he was gathering his Marvel stuff from the trailer, and it seemed to make him a bit sad to be going back to the city. So I gave him the walking-stick I had made, and though it was a little big for him, I assured him that he would "grow into it" soon. Also, Fíli and Kíli told him that he could come and visit them in Petersham – and since Dís said we could store the trailer on her property up there, they might all end up sleeping in it when he does come by for a visit.

So, after everything was taken care of last night, Thorin and I went to our own (too-soft-and-too-big) bed; and we found that we needed to cuddle up together under a blanket to stay warm. We'd become so used to going without such a strong air conditioner for so long, that it was actually chilly in the room! But after we got comfortable, I felt Thorin shift, then he sighed and I opened my eyes to see him staring at me, and it seemed that he wanted to say something.

I didn't press him about what it was, though, and instead I just smiled and asked him, "Are we there yet?"

And he laughed and kissed me on the forehead, then said against my skin, "Yes, I think we are."