Sunday, Aug. 15, 2004 | 9:54 a.m.

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Okay, so, now that I have that off my chest, here's what was awesome.

1 - Dragonflies. Each day of the trip, we saw dragonflies somewhere, making me feel like Jasmine was with us. On the first day, we saw them in a gift shop at the Joplin, MO KOA where we spent the night. Someone had made some cute spaghetti strap tops with dragonflies stenciled on. Unfortunately, I have too much boobage to wear such things, so I just had to admire them. On day two, we were accompanied through parts of Oklahoma and Texas by real dragonflies. And on day three, I bought Gab a dragonfly t-shirt in the gift shop of the Tucumcari, NM KOA where we had spent the night.

2 - The Kerry Supporters. When we left on Monday, we attached our new Kerry Edwards sticker to our bumper. You couldn't see it that well because we also had three bikes hooked onto the back of the van. I promptly forgot about it until we were driving through Texas, where the Bush Cheney stickers abound. We were innocently driving down I-40, somewhere just west of Amarillo, when this little grey car pulled up next to us, honking frantically while the youngish pigtailed blonde in the front seat made jerky upwards motions with her thumbs while mouthing something. I really wish I could have been in her place and saw our faces because we went through the following stages: 1) "What the...?!" 2) "Did we leave something on the roof of the car?" 3) "Did something fall off?" and just as they passed us, stage 4) "Are these people freaking crazy?" And then, I spied the John Kerry sticker on the back of their car. She had been saying, "Go Kerry!" Ah! I got it! Of course, it was too late to erase the image of two dumbfounded and uncomprehending people sitting in the front seat of a Chrysler minivan.

3 - The Texas/New Mexico thunderstorm. While passing through the borderlands of Texas and New Mexico, we encounted a brilliant thunderstorm. A huge wall of clouds slowly descended closer and closer to the ground. The world was filled with dark greys and ochre. We stopped at a gas station, thinking we were far enough ahead of the storm to take a pee break when it caught up with us. The wind and rain were relentless and copious. There was at least two inches of standing water on I-40 which seemed to pose no problem for the weighted down U-Haul, but which caused more than a few moments of hydroplaning for our minivan. Still, I love storms and this ranked in the top 5 for sure.

4 - Nina and Gabrielle. Considering that prior to this jaunt, Nina's car limit was about three hours, it was nothing short of astonishing that it took till the middle of day three for her to get fed up. When we decided that the girls and I would ride with Jeff instead of flying, we had allowed ourselves permission to put the three of us on a plane at various different locations between Illinois and Arizona. It never happened because by the time Nina got cranky, we were already in Arizona. We had bought new toys which we introduced only when she tired of the previous one and we did stop frequently. I'm sure the fact that I sent a prayer to Brighid to keep Nina happy helped, but the true saving grace came in the form of Gabrielle, who always seemed to step in and cheer Nina up just when she started getting fussy.

5 - Books on tape. We listened to Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine and Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning, which was snarkily read by Tim Curry. They were excellent and really helped pass the time. We bought Eragon in book form right before Jasmine died because I thought she would like it. After listening to it, I'm sad she didn't get to read it -- she would have loved it. She had read the other two books we listened to, and I know she would have loved listening to Tim Curry do the reading of The Bad Beginning because he is a favorite of ours. Eragon had influences from so many major works of science fiction and fantasy that it became a game between Jeff and I to see how many we could recognize before the other did. It was good, though, and amazing that it was written by a teenager. We are looking forward to the next book in his series.

6 - And, despite all the issues our new home has, we like it. Overall, it's in good shape and has some cute things we like, such as a very deep Roman tub in the master bedroom. I am a sucker for a good bathtub. I also like the open layout, the skylights and the fact that the girls' bedrooms are at the opposite end of the house. Oh! And we have 2.5 bathrooms -- this means a) more room for our respective bathroom "stuff" and b) more private tub time for me! And of course, that we are less than five minutes away from our dear friends is no small goodie.

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See? I'm not whiny all the time. I can be happy. Can so!

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