Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where Am I?

It's been quite a while since I've posted. Computer crashed, homeschooling took over, etc. You know, life happened. But I'm back and you'll probably be flooded with posts while I update the blog with everything from the past 6 months. I thought I'd start back with this quick, funny story, though.

We are back in Texas for a few weeks getting some things done. Dentist visits, rv inspection and registration, license renewal, blah, blah, blah. Fun, fun stuff. Isn't this the most exciting story so far? We've been hanging around the Whitney, TX area, bouncing between a couple of campgrounds for change of scenery. This past Saturday was a "move day." We got all settled in at our current location...and then haven't done much but sleep here since we've been spending all day, every day getting errands checked off our list. I also have only gotten about 4 hours of sleep per night the past 4 nights. Why am I sharing my sleep schedule with you, you ask? Because I completely blame my lack of sleep for what happened this morning.

I wake up bright and early, ready for our 1 1/2 hour drive into Fort Worth to go on a field trip with our old homeschool co-op. It's early. Really early. Well, for me anyway. Did I mention I'm not a morning person? I'm NOT a morning person. I decide to check my phone navigator to see what it's saying about traffic. I obviously know every route possible to get to the metro after all our years here. But anyone who's ever driven I-35 in DFW knows you need to check before you even attempt that route, or you may end up reaching your destination an hour, a day, or maybe even a week late. Gps is telling me to take a certain route and I'm confused as to why its telling me to go that way. It can't possibly be the quickest way. This route will send me south. I need to go north. What on earth? I'm battling with my gps. Restart it a couple times. No dice. I decide to put the phone down for a minute while I make my coffee and get all the window shades open (my usual routine). I look out our kitchen window and think to myself, wait, where am I? I wish I was joking. I was totally confused and couldn't remember where I was. It took me longer than I care to admit to remember we moved on Saturday. I'd like to say this is the first time this has happened. Nope. And I'm not the only one in the family that suffers from "I-can't-remember-where-the-heck-i-am-itis." It's been going around our household for, oh, about a year now.

In the fulltime family world, we have a running joke (thank you Jeff Foxworthy) that goes "You might be a fulltime family if....."

So here's your joke for today: You might be a fulltime family wake up in the morning and can't remember what campground you're in, or what state for that matter.

Has this ever happened to you? On vacation? After moving to a new city? After a heavy night of drinking? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happy 6 Month Nomadiversary to us!

Its been 6 months since we left our house in Grand Prairie, Texas and headed out on the road in our new, much smaller, home on wheels. Those 6 months have been a blur of excitement and fun. There's also been some frustration and lessons learned. I figured that instead of making yet another post about how great life on the road is, I'd share some of the realities of constantly being on the move. You mostly see pictures of us at cool new places and lots of smiles. Here's what happens behind the scenes.

Like with everything else new, there's a huge learning curve coming into this life. We've had a few blunders. We have crumpled aluminum base trim, a snapped antenna, and some dings and scratches on our rv to show for it. We also had a few other mishaps that, thankfully, left no lasting damage. Everyone and everything survived the time we missed a step in unhitching and dropped the trailer onto the bed of the pickup, our master bedroom has completely dried out from the time we flooded it, and the slides are all still fully functional after trying our darnedest to wedge various items in them. Then, there are the freak incidents you couldn't possibly prepare for. Just this past weekend, our power pole went on the fritz, exploded, and took our computer down with it in a blaze of glory. Ok, ok, there was no explosion and no blaze, but our computer died in the incident. Obituary coming soon.

Let's talk a minute about injuries. Children...lots of outdoors time...need I say more? Most of you know about Rachel's broken wrist. There's also been a couple of second degree burns, and countless cuts, scrapes, and bruises. The time Olivia came in dripping blood from her head down her face turned out to be nothing. 'Tis a flesh wound. If you know that reference, we're going to be great friends. My personal favorite, though, was when Niles got a rock embedded in his foot. You read that right. He literally had a 1/4 inch rock buried in his heel. This required me to perform a minor surgery on his foot to remove it. Scalpel please? He's fine now. No, we didn't keep the rock.

Cross country road trip takes on a whole new meaning when your total vehicle length is pushing 53' long and 14' high. Gone are the days of pulling into the next closest gas station and just plugging your destination into your gps. Trucker atlas becomes your best friend. Driving long distances with a kiddo who gets carsick is always a fun game of "can you make it to the next exit, or do you need to puke on the side of the highway?" The answer is almost always side of the highway. Also, you pretty much become the most hated person on earth when people have to share the road with your rv. Most people don't know what its like to haul 25,000 lbs down the road. Its expressed in total lack of patience and uncontrollable fits of road rage. I'm going to call out the woman in Massachusetts that threw something at the side of my van because we just weren't moving fast enough in the stop and go traffic. I wonder what she did with those extra 25 seconds she gained cutting me off...

 Now let's do a quick round of things only (or mostly) fulltime rv'ers say on a regular basis:

  • "What the heck is that horrible smell?" Possible answers: black tank, grey tank, kid left live bait to rot in tackle box inside rv storage compartment (not that this has ever happened to us)
  • "Who's turn is it to empty the black tank?" If you haven't figured out what the black tank is yet, bless your heart.
  • "I tried to flush the restaurant toilet with my foot...again."
  • "Door!!" Applies mostly to those staying in the ninth circle of hell...aka the south in the summer, or the arctic circle...aka the north in the winter.
  • "I love playing refrigerator tetris every grocery shopping day!" Ok, that's a trick. No one likes that game. 
This all sounds pretty horrific, you say. I agree, it really kind of does. Yet, knowing what we know now and if we could go back, we'd make the decision to do this all over again. Our lives are forever changed by this experience. The places we've been, the beauty we've seen, the things we've learned about this country, about ourselves and each other, is priceless. 

I'll leave you with a few facts from our journey so far.

Total miles traveled: 5,000
Total states traveled through: 20
Number of friends we've made: dozens
Number of memories we've made: countless

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to School!

We've just completed a 2,000 mile trek across country in 4 days. Needless to say, we're tired! Back to school has snuck up on me and maybe sorta I might've not gotten around to ordering book curriculum for our kiddos. Oops. So I'm going to try an all online curriculum for a month while I'm deciding whether we're ordering books or just sticking with the online work. Here's my disclosure for the online curriculum we'll be using.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Want to roadschool and don't know where to start?

I wrote an article for a website geared towards aircraft mechanics. But, really this could help anyone who wants to know how to handle schooling while on the road for any reason. Here it is:

            If you have a family and are an aircraft mechanic who contracts, your spouse and children have probably often stayed at home while you travel to bring home the bacon. My husband and I were not content with that arrangement, so we sold our house, moved our family into an rv, and now we go where he goes. In order to make fulltime rv traveling work, you'll most likely be homeschooling your children. A common term for this is "roadschooling."

            Here is a quick outline of what you will need to do to make the jump into roadschooling. I will provide my contact info at the end of this article for more detailed information.

            The first thing you must do is choose a home state. You will follow this state's laws as far as homeschooling your child is concerned. You will want to choose a state that is homeschool friendly, and then you will need to establish residency in that state. It's not as difficult or scary as it sounds and you will not need to do anything crazy like purchase or rent a house there.

            Here starts the search for curriculum. If you have (hopefully) chosen a state that does not require reporting or testing, you will be free to choose any curriculum you'd like. There are hundreds of them, paid and free, and there are tons of reviews and resources available to help you find the best match for your child/children.

            Now it's time to enjoy your life with your family on the road! You pick your schedule, you follow your own pace. Maybe you want a long summer break. That's ok. Or maybe you don't need a long summer break and choose to school year-round with many weeklong breaks instead. That's ok too. Maybe you want to work a few hours a day Monday through Friday. That's ok. Or maybe you want to work a little longer everyday and only work 4 days a week. That's ok too. You choose what works for you!

            A few tips:

·         It will take time to adjust for both you and your child. It won't all be a bed of roses. Don't give up! You'll develop a routine that works for you over time.

·         You will have good days and  bad days. On a particularly bad day, take a break, do something fun, and come back to the work a little later. Worst case scenario, it may be best to put everything away and try again the next day.

·         Listen to input from your child and don't be afraid to switch curriculum if your child is struggling/unhappy/bored.

·         Use the world around you to teach. Take a field trip to a museum and build your own history lesson around it to work on at home. Go for a hike and work it into a natural science lesson. Have your child help make your grocery list and tally how much money you will need to take to the grocery store. There is so much to be taught outside of books.

            This can feel like a lot to absorb but you don't have to go it alone. There are entire online communities of  roadschoolers that have been doing this for a long time. If you are interested in this lifestyle, even if you're still on the fence, I'd be happy to help you connect with these communities and answer any questions I can.

Hope we see you on the road!



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Monday, May 4, 2015

Tour Our Home Part 1

I was supposed to do this so so long ago but I've been having such a hard time getting my phone to sync photos to upload with this post. It's like this really complicated thing that really should be a piece of cake. I don't know what's going on but, regardless of what Johnnie says, it's definitely NOT human error!

Anyhow, I'm splitting this into 2 blog entries so I can post what I have now and figure out how to get the other pics sorted out later. So at least you'll get to see some of our home because I know you've just been dying to understand how the heck we fit. 

This is our master bedroom which sits on top of the kingpin (the part of the rv that attaches to the back of the Dodge, for those who know nada about rv's). Our bed is one of the 3 slideouts on our rv. Behind the mirrored doors is a big closet that I share with Olivia and Madelynn (4 and 3 years old). That door on the left goes into the oh-so-important toilet room. It's literally a a room. Didn't think you'd want to see a pic of that so I spared you guys. So that's the left side of the room (pictures were taken from the stairs at the doorway of our room).

This is what's behind those soon-to-be-renovated hideous mirrored doors. The right side is little girls, the left side (not shown) is my side. On the shelf is storage for out of season stuff, extra shoes, etc. Those canvas buckets are a miracle and fit perfectly. Thanks mom!

This is the right side of our room. The taller cabinet in the corner is Johnnie's closet. I swear it's bigger than it looks. Lol. One habit we haven't been able to break is a tv in every room. So there it is mounted above his closet. Then there's a dresser below our window and a sink and medicine cabinet. You can just barely see our shower peeking in the right corner of the picture. It's actually huge and has a shallow tub for bathing the littles. Yes, our bathroom is literally in our bedroom. But it's actually not a big deal at all. I'm not being sarcastic. I thought it was going to be a nightmare, but it's been a non-issue. 

The part of the rv that I can't get the pics synced for is the whole living, eating, and kitchen area which is in the middle of the rv. Yeah, I know this is the part most people want to see. I'm working on it, I swear. Above the living area is also the queen size loft where Rachel and Elizabeth (12 and 10 years old) sleep. 

On the other (back) end of the rv is what is supposed to be the "garage" of the toyhauler. We converted this into a bedroom for 5 of our kiddos. The back door drops open and this is a view from outside the back looking in. Triple bunks and closets on the left, and couch/bed and desk on the right. And, yes, we have since mounted a tv on that blank wall above the toy storage at the front right of the room. Zack would literally have died if he didn't have somewhere to play his video games.

This is a better view of the back of the rv. The entire back is a drop down door.

There's a door in the kid's room but we keep it locked, closed, and blocked so there's no accidentally sleep walking into the woods in the middle of the night. That couch folds out to a bed that Olivia and Maddie share. The curtains you see are floor to ceiling and are there for several reasons. When the back door is closed, they cover the scratchy black sand paper on the door. Keeps it pretty and keeps kids from falling against the door and getting scraped up. When the back door is open, we often prop the door up on jacks to act as a deck to sit on. the curtains are usually tied back during those times. Pssst, take a look at our daughters' artwork on the wall. Aren't they cute? I LOVE owls.

A closer up view of the triple bunk. Niles (8 years old) sleeps on top, Evan (6 years old) in the middle, and Zack (17 years old) on the bottom. The ceiling is like 10ish feet, so no one is cramped. 

There's 2 wardrobes in the kids' room. Left one is shared by Zack, Niles, and Evan. Right one is shared by Rachel and Elizabeth. Even though the girls sleep in the loft, we store their clothes down here because the loft only has a couple of cabinets, no hanging storage.

This is a drop down desk that 2 kids can easily sit at to do school work, play with legos, draw, use a laptop, etc. They flip it up to use, drop it down for extra space when they're not using it.
So there you have it. You've seen 2/3 of our home on wheels. Feel free to ask questions here or on our facebook page. I'm sure there's things I didn't think to mention. Check back soon to see Part 2 (hopefully, haha) of the tour of our home.

Our Life so far in Oscoda, Michigan

We've been in Oscoda for 2 weeks now. Our Michigan accent impersonations are improving and we're starting to adjust to the colder weather. I thought Texas was the only state with confusing weather. Well it snowed the first 2 days we were here but we've had to run the air conditioner the last 2 days. Lol.

So here's our last 2 weeks in review: everyone but Johnnie and Niles caught a cold, Zack had a double case of pinkeye, and Evan's crown got infected and he's having it pulled tomorrow. Wait, wait, I know it sounds like misery but there was lots of good too! I promise. The kids have finished off most of their work for the school year, Maddie learned how to pedal her trike, we took a trip to Lumberman's Monument where we learned about the logging boom of the 1800's, did a lot of fishing, collected countless shells on the beach, did soap carvings, and Olivia learned how to ride her bike without training wheels! Also, all the snowbirds are flooding back to the area, so we've made lots of new friends at our campground. Shout out to Larry and Mary who introduced us to the art of woodcarving and treated our children like their very own grandkids. I'm sad to say they moved on to another part of Michigan today. We'll miss you dearly! Shout out to our awesome neighbors Chuck and Corky who insisted on giving our kids some money after they helped unload the firewood from the back of their truck and then insisted we use their wood while we're here, and Bob who directed Johnnie as he backed the rv into a really tight and awkward spot. And one final shout out to the anonymous pharmacy tech who insisted on paying for Evan's antibiotics when she learned our new insurance hasn't kicked in yet. The small town friendliness and generosity we've encountered here in just 2 short weeks has been so heartwarming!

The next few weeks will bring trips to Largo Springs, Wurtsmith Air Museum, sailboat races, a trip to Mackinac Island (fudge capital of the country and of the world! Omg, you don't know how excited I am about this trip!!!!!), and some other surprises! Check out our Facebook page for pictures. I'm having a heck of a time getting them uploaded to the blog right now.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

You've got questions, we've got answers! (For the most part)

Whenever I tell someone we're moving into an rv and traveling the country, there's usually a ton of questions. And while I love answering the same questions over and over and over and over again... No, really totally seriously, I LOVE talking to anyone and everyone interested in our journey and will answer any question they have. But I'm condensing all of the more frequently asked questions into this post for everyone.

1. How can you afford to do this?

My husband will still be working. He does not work from home, but we are fortunate that he has a job that allows him to do contracts, most the length of his choosing, all around the United States. As far as the actual cost of living on the road, there are many factors and that could be a whole other post just on its own. The short answer is that it CAN be much cheaper to live on the road than in a stationary home. (If anyone is interested in a future post regarding this, I would consider doing one) In our case, we have crunched the numbers and made sure to stay within our means. 

2. How will you all fit? 

This is usually followed by shock when they find out just how "small" our ginormous rv is. I often wonder how big people think rv's come? Lol. This is another question that will get its own post when we finish our renovation of the rv. First thing that usually comes to mind is beds. Johnnie and I have our master bedroom. There is a queen loft above the garage where Rachel (12) and Elizabeth (10) will sleep. We are converting the garage into the main kids' bedroom with a triple bunkbed. Twin on top for Niles (8), twin in the middle for Evan (6), and full size futon on bottom for Zack (17). Our 2 smallest (4 & 3) will sleep on the couch (this is where they end up 99% of the time right now anyway even though they each have a twin size bed here in our sticks and bricks) until Zack goes off to college in the fall, then they will move to the full size futon until they get a little bigger, at which point, we may replace the full size with a twin and trundle or queen. And that, folks, is what you call a run on sentence. Don't judge me! Any questions regarding living space will best be answered with pictures in a "tour" post. Coming Soon!  That gives me time to figure out how we're all going to fit when we're just hanging out. Oh, did I say that out loud?!

3. How long will you do this?

We don't know. I would say at least 3 years. The goal is to see the whole country. Well it's a big country. And we don't want to just hurry through. We plan on "stopping to smell the roses." Maybe we like it so much we do it forever. Did I just blow your mind? Haha.

4. What about the kids and school?

Easy. We homeschool. The only thing that will change there is that our kids will get to live and breath history, geography, science, economics, different cultures, and the list goes on. Let's call it extreme learning. I totally just made that up. Man, am I good at this.

5. How do your kids feel about it?

They're totally on board. There are no words to express their excitement. I'm not even exaggerating. 10 times a day, they ask when we can leave. Each kid. 10 TIMES A DAY. That's like 60 times a day. Of course, I'm not counting the angst ridden teenager who says we're ruining his life by doing this. But, considering he thinks we're ruining his life every time we ask him to take out the trash, I'm taking it as a grain of salt. He'll survive. Maybe,  just maybe, he might even enjoy himself just a little. Just a teensy weensy bit. But he'll never admit it.

6. Are you scared/worried at all?

I am TERRIFIED...that Amazon prime shipping won't be able to find me! Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all night, folks. I cannot honestly think of one fear. I know living on the road fulltime with a large family is a foreign concept to the majority of people, but we are not trailblazers by any means. There are many other wonderful families doing this, some for years now. There's a reason they're still doing it. I'm sure there's times they wish they had a little more room. I'm sure there's times they want to strangle each other. Did I say that out loud too?! (Note to self: have hubby proofread posts from now on.) But the rewards far outweigh any struggles. Or, at least, so I hear. You guys keep following us and we'll all find out together!

There are so many other questions we've been asked. Is there anything you're just dying to know? Let us know below in the comments or on our facebook page.