Are We Adults Yet?

After a recent post, when I shared that things felt like they were going smoothly and like we are finding a home, Joan commented that she is happy to see me blogging about food, because to her mind, it looks like I am feeling like myself. I appreciated that, because it feels true – I’m feeling more like myself, and finding joy in the things that have historically been rich for me. It’s a good feeling.

It got me thinking about the things that act as milestones of “adultness” and markers of being “oneself.” One of my friends told me, “I got a Costco card! I’m an adult now!” and Carlos said something similar when we bought a Shop-Vac.

A friend of mine described herself as becoming an adult when she started making decisions that her parents disliked. Most days, I still don’t feel much like an adult, in spite of the kid and debt and husband and responsibility that make up my life. Today, though, something has happened that changed that, in a surprising way. I didn’t even realize it, and I am unabashedly stealing this from Carlos:

Today, nothing that I own is being stored by anyone else. All of my earthly possessions (ok, except a couple things that are on vacation in Eugene) are right here in the same building with me. No storage unit, no shelf in my parents’ garage. I still don’t have a properly equipped kitchen, because of reasons (see: things on vacation), and we’re pretty short on furniture.

But, dudes. I am reunited with my sweaters, and down comforter, and vacuum. The brewing supplies! OUR ART!!!

Part of me doubts that I will ever really feel like an adult, but I’m definitely doing a triumphant adult dance today.


Appreciating The Best Things

One of my favorite things about being on the road is enjoying the particular specialties of our favorite people. The other morning, I woke up in a house that has a whole section of the kitchen dedicated to coffee makers. There’s a thermal-carafe drip machine, an espresso machine, a siphon, a french press… I don’t even know if that’s all of them. In addition to the assortment of coffee, my friend tells me she’s been forbidden from buying any more tea, and omg, the beer. ALL THE BEST BEERS!

Before that stop, we hung out with my sister, who always has the best snacks. Seriously: when I was pregnant and struggling with the need to eat more food than I wanted to, I called her up to get a shopping list. On our last trip through Boise, her partner commandeered the shopping trip to make sure that we had all the snacks we’d need for the road, and put back the tortillas I had picked, in favor of way better ones.

Every house we’ve visited has had some kind of best thing about it. One of the AirBnBs that we stayed at had the best creepy taxidermy. (This is kind of a special category — no place else that we’ve stayed had any creepy taxidermy, let alone several dozen pieces). Thankfully there was no actual taxidermy in the bedroom we stayed in, just a couple giant plush animal heads. It was both fascinating and a little terrifying, to be honest. Almost every home we’ve stayed in has had some great art in it, which I’m going to call a credit to the awesome taste of the people who like us. Even hard pressed, I probably couldn’t say that one place had the best art. That’s totally OK with me.

Wyoming (to my surprise) had the best smells. Nebraska had the best lightning storms. Aunt Judy’s house had the best bunnies in the back yard, AND the best selection of kid’s books. I couldn’t wait to discover what’s best about my sister-in-law’s house. It turns out the answer is that her house has the best cousins in it. OK, yeah, that’s a tough call to make, but the kids (who are adults, or almost) spent most of the time we were there fighting (so gently) over who was going to hold Rockford, and bringing us delicious treats.

This period of our life is so strange, so chaotic, so unpredictable-despite-our-attempts-to-plan. It’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed, to feel like I don’t have anything but Carlos and Rock and Dita to anchor on, and taking the time to check in with my surroundings, finding something there to appreciate for its own weird and wonderful merit has been immeasurably valuable for keeping me grounded and in the practice of staying open to beauty and possibility. I think that when I have traveled in the past, I have not been great about anchoring my memories to specific places — was that cool castle in Grenada or Sevilla? Where did we eat all those tiny lamb chops? I like to think that making a note to myself about the things that are the best in each place has been helping me be better about remembering the places that we’ve been.

Lost and found along the road

Today marks two weeks that we have been on the road on our grand adventure. They have been, without comparison, two of the most intense weeks of my entire life.

Everything started out relatively normally: we left Yakima several hours later than we had planned to, had a lovely stopover in Boise, then launched ourselves south, heading for Las Vegas.

We made it as far as Buhl, Idaho. I’ll share that story soon. It seemed like a doozy at the time, but now it’s just a drop in the bucket. We lost six hours, and found out that everyone in Buhl takes their car to the mechanic on Wednesday afternoon.


After our tiny misadventure in Buhl, we pushed through the lovely Great Basin, slept among the big rigs on the side of the road at Lages Junction (a place Google Maps does not believe exists), debated among ourselves the correct pronunciation of Ely (turns out: EE-lee), and rolled into Las Vegas just in time to catch the beginning of an unexpected, unbearable hot spell.

Our time in Las Vegas really deserves several posts. It was the best time I’ve ever had in that city, and also the sickest that I have ever been as an adult. Even with the horrible illness, there was so much love shared (toward us, for Carlos’s grandmother, among the family in general) that I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky to have spent that time there. We meant to stay from Thursday night through Monday morning; I don’t even remember most of Monday, and it was Wednesday again before we left town.

pony express

From Las Vegas we headed north, sadly skipping our planned visit to the Bay Area, and taking an incredibly beautiful and completely wrong detour through Lassen Volcanic National Park. We saw the famed mystery-fox (about which I can currently not find any solid info?) at Randolph E. Collier Memorial Rest Area. I love that there is a Yelp page for this rest area, and also that people don’t seem to understand what the purpose of a roadside rest area is. Oh, people…

Once we left Collier, things went a little sideways. Or, a lot sideways. Let’s just say, for now, that we learned a lot about our van, and how quickly people on the road lose their sense of others’ humanity. This story, too, is a post for another time.

At the end of all this misadventuring, we made it, by the skin of our teeth, back into the “smelly, bipolar, occasionally naked arms” of our alma mater (to use Carlos’s phrase). No part of our journey so far has gone quite according to plan, but at every stop we have found exactly the thing we have set out looking for: love. The love of my family, the love of Carlos’s family, the love of an understanding mechanic, the love of the people whose hearts call the same place home. It has been a strong reminder of exactly why we are doing this, and the necessity of keeping our eyes and hearts open to the signs in the world around us.


Layover: Boise

Captain’s log, Earth date 4 June 2013. We’ve landed in a strange and lovely place: Boise, Idaho; The Gem State!

My sister has lived in Boise for almost ten years. I’ve been here a handful of times; this is Carlos’s second visit, and Rockford’s first. We rolled into town about 8:30 pm Mountain Time, having left Yakima at 10:15 am Pacific. Our inaugural drive was long, and uneventful, just like we hoped for.

We stopped outside Pendelton, OR to stretch our legs and Carlos attempted to install an additional electrical outlet, at the rest area, like you do. We blew a fuse in the household electrical, discovered that our alignment is off, and saw a truck driver walk away from an accident that left skid marks all over both lanes of the highway and a dent in the guard rail. It was a pretty good drive.

When we arrived in Boise, my brother-in-law had made possibly the best ever incarnation of my favorite comfort food, I think we drank a beer, and then we slept, the sweet, glorious sleep of exhaustion. Today, familia del Rio took a walk down a tiny section of the Boise River Greenbelt, sat in the sun and fed Rockford his first hashbrowns. I wish we had longer to stay here – we’ll get one bike ride in on the Greenbelt, but we won’t get to see the Birds of Prey or visit the Basque Museum/Cultural Center, where my (and by extension, Carlos’s) love of a good kalimotxo was born.

When we come here, I always think, “oh, we’ll just pop in and out,” and somehow forget that I really enjoy spending time with my one and only sister and her really awesome partner. Today I’m regretting how long it took me to get on board with building out the van and launching. I REGRET WASTING TIME IN YAKIMA! I want to be wasting time in Boise instead, toodling around by the river with my cool family. Instead, we had a leisurely morning, and now we’re all working furiously. Tomorrow, we’re going to try to make it to Great Basin, a National Park neither of us has ever been to, and then on Thursday we’re headed into Las Vegas. I would not expect to be much in communication tomorrow, since it’s going to be a looooooooooong drive. And as sad as we are about the reason for it, we’re looking forward to some quality time with Carlos’s family.

Here’s hoping for some more thoroughly uneventful driving and beautiful scenery! We’ll see you on the flip side!


And we’re off!

WHY AM I SOOOO TIRED!?!? Oh, yeah, I’ve been up since 4, and we’re still not quite rolling.

The bikes are stowed, our belongings are all battened down, the dog is confused, the baby is confused, and everything is still kind of a huge mess here in Spitlerland.

But the show must go in, and so we shall! After a quick (I HOPE) stop at the RV store, we’ll be in Boise this evening. I’m already exhausted, and excited. See you all on the other side.

The Final Countdown

Cue up GOB’s entrance music:

Magic from jrk on Vimeo.

The Chinook is almost ready to launch!

All our bags sturdy storage boxes are mostly packed.

We have an agenda! At least, we have a specific agenda through the end of the first week of July:

View Larger Map

June 3: We launch! From Yakima, we’ll be heading to Boise, where we won’t stay long.
June 4: Southward! From Boise, we head down to Las Vegas for the memorial service of Carlos’s amazing grandmother. Sad times, but we are grateful to be able to celebrate her long and rich life with our family.
June 10: From Las Vegas, we head to San Francisco. We want to talk to people while we’re here! We expect a dinner and a lunch here, and then we’ll head north again.
June 11: Northward bound, we’ll stop… somewhere between SF and Portland.
June 12: Arrive in Portland! Pick up two of our favorite people from the airport! Spend the weekend back in the warm embrace of our alma mater. And attending a baby shower.
June 17: Reedie times are over, and we’ll be staying in Portland to spend some time talking to people/washing laundry/taking our baby and dog to bars. PLEASE MAKE PLANS WITH US!
June 19? 22?: This is going to be our Seattle stop. It’s going to be sadly short. MAKE PLANS WITH US!
June 27ish: From Seattle to Lake Tahoe, for Family Reunion. Our schedule after that is still TBD. We know we’ll be heading east to DC by the end of August, and we’re taking requests for visits between Tahoe and DC.

For now, that’s all I know for sure. Please send me an email (rose at grumpypie dot com) or send one to Carlos (carlos at grumpypie dot com) to make some arrangements with us. We absolutely cannot wait to see you.

Image courtesy US Navy

All work and no play

It feels weird to start another post of the subject of hobbies, but dudes, they’re important.

We’re at the point of really refining what gets to come with us in the Chinook, and it’s not going to be a whole lot. One thing that IS coming, though, is the Art Box. (Other Boxes of note: Dog Box, Tool Box, Office Box.) At first glance, I think the Art Box seems frivolous, like there’s something more important that could go into the space that it’ll take up.

But the thing is this: Art is important. It’s important culturally, and individually. I can’t thrive when I feel like I don’t produce anything. Working on creative projects helps keep the brain flexible, in the same way that riding a bike makes the body better able to do the work of carrying a baby.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I always read this as meaning that Jack was dull to be around; that having no fun outside of work meant that Jack couldn’t relate to other people. I still think that’s true, but it’s not the whole meaning. All work and no play makes Jack less sharp, less shiny, less bright.

I think that people who make a craft (rather than a “fine art”) as their creative output get a little more leeway from the judgment that “art’s not important.” My friend’s dad is a recreational cabinet maker; another friend has gotten deep into tailoring her own clothes; occasionally I finish a knitting project. These creative outputs tell other people that we’re “doing something” when we’re doing something creative.

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of waking up on Saturday morning and putting on my trail boss pants, driving the men of the house outside to work in the yard. Part of it is necessity – five adults in one house gets to be overwhelming, and making the backyard habitable relieves some of the pressure of close quarters. It’s practical, too, beyond just necessary: clearing the ivy from the broken fence so it can be replaced, taking last years fallen leaves to the compost, reducing the number of hazards to both children and unprotected feet. But even beyond that, I do it because it enables me to force them to work on something good.

After days of hauling out leaves and unneeded branches and that stupid ivy, I dragged my dad out there after work one evening. “Come to the yard and let’s talk about your trees.”

“I don’t want to talk about the trees!” he said, as if that were even remotely true. But it didn’t matter, really. The trees are there because he planted them, because he needed them, and they still need him. So I dragged him out (that may be a little melodramatic, yes), and made him spend a few quiet minutes discovering what the yard has been up to while he’s been busy elsewhere. I showed him the tiny, perfect red maple seedlings hiding under the crab apple (RIP, crab apple). We talked about the trees after all.

I do the same thing to Joe – I drag him out of the house, into the sunshine, into the yard where he gets to climb and destroy things and find weird shaped pieces of wood. I drag him outside because it’s really hard to force someone to paint, but it’s easy to say “I need you to help me with some work.” “Come keep me company while I clean the garage, and oh, incidentally, let’s talk about art projects!”

I don’t think of myself as an artist, particularly not a good one, but I love nourishing the artist in other people. During an argument with Carlos, I told him, “What I want is for you to finish the ukulele you’re building me!” It wasn’t because I need that ukulele, but because I want him to spend time making art.

I want all of us to spend time making art, in ways that are appropriate to ourselves. We cannot go live our life on the road without bringing with us the tools to improve and maintain our souls. So we’ll bring fewer pairs of shoes or whatever, and make a little extra room for the screenprinting gear. It’s a trade that is entirely worth it to me.

Apropos: As I was writing this, a smart friend shared this video. I LOVE IT!

Watch Mayim Bialik: Blossoming To Science on PBS. See more from Secret Life of Scientists.

Falling down

Oh, hey, it’s Thursday already?

Time really flies when you’re… well, hiding, I guess.

This week, I fell down, metaphorically speaking. I over-extended myself last weekend, somewhat unavoidably. I guess I could have skipped the part where some people came over to watch UFC 159, with us, but honestly, that social time was really important. It came in the middle of kind of a rough patch for my general functionality, and that’s where the problem arose. I didn’t feel good. Things were just kind of rough, for no real reason. (It’s been super windy here, which grates on me, but that’s not really a reason.) That’s fine – these things happen. What wasn’t fine, though, was how I dealt with it, or rather, didn’t.

Instead of saying, “Hey guys, my shit is weird,” I kind of just went into hiding. Because I hate saying “my shit is weird.” It’s exhausting, and makes me feel like I’m broken, especially when my shit breaks down at a bad time. Doubly so when there’s no good reason for it. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety for a long, long time; long enough that I know some things about it, and how it works in me. But even knowing that isn’t always enough to keep me from falling into its traps.

I am a person who holds myself to high standards, much higher than I expect of anyone else. I’m infinitely more kind and understanding of other people’s struggles, even though I know better. Not only do I know better, I have practices in place to help me remember to be better to myself. But I still feel like a shitty failure of a human being when I get tangled up in my own stupid depression.

Now, all this is pretty harsh, and I should say, it’s really not as bad as it sounds, I think. This week was a little stumble. It was something I could have (and should have) been able to see coming. And while I just used the phrase “shitty failure of a human being,” I mostly don’t feel that way this time around. I’m frustrated with myself, and angry, but this is far, FAR from the worst it’s been, even recently.

I hate to be that blogger who writes a “so sorry I haven’t been around” post, but here I am. You’re my team, and went off the rails, and I’m sorry. Today I’m doing some stuff to take care of me, including, hopefully, scouring the last of the icky stuff from inside the Chinook so we can start rebuilding the interior. And getting a serious massage, for this first time in a million years.

While I’m doing that, why don’t you enjoy this Janelle Monae video:

Weird and wonderful

You guys, my life is really weird.

Yesterday I edited a post of Carlos’s, and realized that there’s a piece of information in there that I actively fought against people knowing for literally years of my life. And there it is, just another fact in a story he’s telling, and I’m fine with it.

Last night, my body hit the point of rebellion against my recent lack of activity. But my bike light is broken, and I just can’t get my shit together to get back on two wheels (even though I miss it IN MY BOOOOONNNNNEEES!, as a friend used to say). So I got up on the treadmill, and ran. Yes, you read that right. I ran, outside of an airport, voluntarily. Not exactly recreationally, but close. And perhaps the oddest thing about that is that I changed the speed part way through, because I wasn’t running fast enough.

Now I’m writing about a life I never would have imagined myself living, while my kiddo sleeps in my lap, clutching his wooden spoon for dear life. Every year we go through a period of being ridiculously busy, usually in the summer, and just now I’m looking at our schedule for a couple weeks in June and July and realizing that it’s just around the corner. And realizing how many people I need to make plans with, like, yesterday.

I get caught up in the day-to-day business of doing my life, and I forget how deeply, truly, amazingly special the life I get to live is. Now to pry myself out from under my beautiful, perfectly snoring child and get back to it. I cannot wait to get to see you all soon!

The schedule, so far:

May 25-27, Seattle? It’s our anniversary! Three years of legal bondage and shouting “del Rio!” across the house at one another. I think we should be in Seattle for this, but it’s still up in the air. It’s Memorial Day weekend – What fun thing will you be doing?

June 12-16 +/- some extra days, Portland, OR – We have a reunion here, and a baby shower. We have lots of Portlanders to catch up with. Please let us know if you’re one of them.

June 30 – July 7, Lake Tahoe. Family reunion. Expect drunkenness, and tales of children harassing one another, across the generations. I lost count of the babies. Three? Five? A bunch. My siblings will be reunited on their shared birthday for the first time as adults. Shit is going to get real.

July and August: Boise, Steamboat Springs, Iowa City, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, New York, Baltimore. Ambitious, and subject to change.

August 30-Sept 1, Washington DC. This may be our only wedding of the year. I believe it may be baseball-themed. Joyous hilarity should ensue.

September to ??, The reverse of July and August, only across the southern US. Austin, Memphis?, Patagonia, Long Beach, Orlando?. This agenda is still really rough.

Did we miss you on our agenda? Here’s what it (kind of) looks like so far:

View Larger Map

Getting caught up

I have found myself a little behind on writing, and I realized that it’s because my brain is in a dozen other places, caught up in tasks that will absolutely warrant some posts of their own, just as soon as I’m caught up with actually doing them.

So, then, what are we working on this week?


  • Versatility – This weekend I finished a knitting project I started in 2008. Now I have to block it and attach buttons.
  • Van interior floorplan – The insides are now fully demolished, and it’s time to start putting it back together.
  • Stuff-purging – There’s a garage sale in our future, right after I get through the last 6 boxes in the pile.
  • Making real food for a foodie baby – This week he figured out that we’re eating better food than he is. Time to remedy that.


  • Van water and power – The scale of our tear-out has created the opportunity to bring these things into the 21st century
  • A major dump run! – So. Much. Trash. Not to mention the entire crabapple tree that Joe took down over the weekend.


  • Walking with assistance – Less and less assistance every day!
  • Differentiating singing from screaming (hurray!) – And yes, really singing, and telling us things, not just squawking. So cool.
  • Swimming – He’s always liked the water, and now he’s figured out that he can move around in it on his own. We’re in for trouble.

All of this, of course, is in addition to the actual work that we have to do, and doesn’t include the things that are just unadulterated distraction, catching my attention and getting me off track. What are you working on, when you’re not working on work? What’s getting your attention?