It’s my RV and I’ll dance if I want to

I’ve started singing and dancing while I make dinner every night and the kids hate me for it. SO much eye rolling and impatient grunting, and that’s mostly why I do it. Why shouldn’t I share my obsessive ear worms with my family? Sharing is caring, children.

The morning after our extremely epic space adventure we woke up thinking we were going to have a recovery day. It was A LOT of walking for my two small tax deductions and my lovely retiree with the foot problems. By lunch time we’d decided that the weather wasn’t going to get any better that week, we should just bite the bullet and head to LegoLand.

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She caught air!

I have two things to say about LegoLand. First, I enjoy that the kids can ride the rides without us. I mostly detest amusement park rides, and the children like to be independent, so it works. Second, LegoLand is VASTLY overpriced. I thought this about the nicer one in California, too, and had I known the state of affairs in Florida I would have skipped the Merlin passes all together. The Florida location can best be described as teetering on the edge between shit-hole and novelty. The park really shows it’s age, and it seems that there are no efforts to update the place. Everything is extremely spaced out and hard to get to. We got lost several times – even with a map. I can hear you whispering to yourself that it was probably my fault. Hush, you.

 

 

Nobody was there, it was like a ghost town. We rode this ride at least five times in a row.

It was a submarine ride that swung outward on your command. It was probably not safe.

They also had a two story carousel which they rode first and last.

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Admittedly it was kind of neat. Who wouldn’t want to ride those life-sized Lego horses up there? (hint: me)

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We completed the whole park in about three hours. Because this was our second day in a row filled with walking and being in public, Wesson was in tears by the end and Justin was a hobbling mess. Mara was happy, though!

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I felt terrible for those vacationers who bought tickets at the gate. Spend your money on Lego sets instead and you’ll be much happier.

Two days later we were on the move! This little guy apparently did not want us to leave. He tried to jump onto Justin’s hand when he unplugged the camper.

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Hey.

The first night of travel was spent in a Bass Pro Shops parking lot! We love some BPS! Always there with a boat to play on, a line of parking spaces to hog, and a curb to hang our bed slides over.

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There was a roundabout to go through to get into this lot. Roundabouts seem cool until your vehicle is sixty feet long, then waterboarding seems more attractive.

The next day brought us to our first real stop: Pensacola Air Station!

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This campground was really nice! It was right by the water.

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Don’t you just freakin’ love a watery sunset? That strip of land over there is Alabama, FYI.

Most of the military installations have museums of some sort. This place had a whopper.

Wesson has been wearing his Marine cammies every time we go on a base just to let everyone know where his loyalties lie.

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Look at that face! That boy is precious. If that plane had wings he’d have been gone. The gift shop had something that Wesson has been pining over:

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Dress blues acquired!

Daddy has a soft spot and deep pockets for the little Marine boy. We tried to talk him into a haircut to go with the uniform but he LOVES his long hair. Nine out of ten people assume that he is a girl and engage him as such (sometimes I wonder about people). He is quick to correct them but is never offended because there is nothing wrong with being a girl. He is confident enough in himself that it just doesn’t bother him. Rock on with your luxurious locks, baby boy!

We were off again on January 14th, but instead of going to ONE place, we went to FOUR places; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, in very specific order. This also gave us three new states on our states sticker map, effectively closing the tauntingly barren gap we had lying between Florida/Georgia and Texas. Some people only count the states if they’ve slept there, other people have more creative criteria. We just have to go there as a family while full-timing. There are going to be some pass-through states, It’s the nature of the beast. Mississippi is just going to have to get over it.

We got into Texas just in time for a nice ice storm. By the second day our camper-cicle was complete. The south has let us down tremendously this year. We’d have been better off going straight to California.

Instead of hanging out in icy Houston we opted to head north to warmer weather. Totally makes sense, huh? We planted ourselves in Whitney, just south of Fort Worth and just north of Waco. If you remember last years stay in Whitney, we had a tornado tear through and hop right over the campground! For this reason I was nervous, but honestly what are the chances? I wore pants to bed so that I wouldn’t get flung into the woods in my underwear. It was the least I could do. Thankfully the days were not stormy and my fears were unfounded.

I’ve talked about museum memberships before (I think). We’ve taken advantage of the wide reciprocity of the Lake Superior Zoo membership in the past. We took a break last year, because you can only visit so many children’s science centers without wanting to pluck your eyelashes out because of the redundancy. This year, we opted to buy a travel membership from Kern Pioneer Village in California because of their broad reciprocity. They are members of Time Travelers, North American Reciprocal Museums, Association of Science-Technology Centers, AND Association of Children’s Museums. If you do any traveling AT ALL this is a worthy investment. Anyway, for this reason we headed out to Waco one day to visit Baylor University and their AMAZING natural history museum. On the way, we saw a sign for something called Waco Mammoth National Monument. Whaaaaat?! How did we not know about this! Plans changed immediately.

 

…and we were SO glad that they did! The tour was fantastic! There have been 26 Columbian Mammoths found in this area, in what is the only nursery herd that’s ever been found in the US. The ranger that led us to the STILL ACTIVE dig site was awesomely friendly and gave us great information. Wesson is, like, the BEST person to have on your tour because he eliminates the awkward silence that is inevitably applied by adults who are still awkward and don’t ever give the docent anything to work with. He’s the participant that you wish that you were.

Also exciting? JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM! This was surprising because the place has only been in the National Park system for two years.

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Can you find ROADSCHOOL in there anywhere?

The kids had to take their Junior Ranger Pledge with one hand on a Columbian Mammoth tooth!

Thanks, Ranger Rachel from Virginia!

While we were in Waco last time I saw this big greenspace and drove right by, not even realizing it was that place from that show.

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I BARELY know who Chip and Joanna Gaines are but I wasn’t going to skip this again. The shop is exactly as clean and stylish as you would expect.

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This is only one part of the warehouse

The outside was a big, green area of fake grass where kids could play and adults could lounge around on giant beanbag chairs.

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Overall it was ok, nothing to repeat, but now we can say that we did it. If they were there behind the register slinging bags of fake flowers and gingerly wrapping giant timepieces it would have been more of a thrill.

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Saturn V shirt , like a boss.

 

The kids finally got to ride their unicycles! We’ve been lugging them around since we left Michigan in November, and Wesson hopped right on! Mara is almost there. If she believed in gravity a little less she’d be riding circles around her brother. For the record, that tennis court said no bicycles or skateboards and said NOTHING about unicycles. Also, we didn’t get caught.

If you want to learn more about unicycling, check out the Unicycle Society of America! This year’s North American Unicycling Competition and Convention is going to be held in Livonia, Michigan and if you’re in the area it’s worth a stop to see some awesome people do *almost* impossible things.

I had thought that I’d squeeze the rest of January into this post but we are so active right now life is moving faster than my fingers. I have SO much to tell you. Come back soon!

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The Tiny Blue Dot

Here we are, still sitting around in Texas. The next month is going to involve oodles of jaunting here and there so taking a few days to basically do nothing is not unwarranted. Well, the kids still have to do their school work, Justin still does the dishes, and if I don’t wash anyone’s clothes they start complaining about the lack of pants. We live in the woods, children. Who needs pants to live in the woods?

New Years Day we moved back to Orlando with several touristy goals: First, the happiest place on Earth:

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The other happiest place on Earth. Did you know that there is a whole beach shop dedicated to Hulk Hogan? DID YOU KNOW?! I sure didn’t, or we would have trekked here long ago.

Justin and I giggled our way through this building sized shrine to ol’ Thunder Lips. The kids were… confused.

To be fair they have no frame of reference for this because we’ve been denying them the physical theatre that is professional wrasslin’. Wesson thought the car was cool, though.

Probably the best part of this was that for less than three American dollars you could purchase your very own blonde beauty:

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I walked out of there with two amazing gifts; one being a bottle koozie emblazoned with the pythons of a legend, and the other wasn’t for me. My brother is a collector of socks, so it would have been shameful if we had not sent Uncle Steve some friends.

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HOLY COW, YOU GUYS. I just went looking for a photo of the socks to show you their majesty and I didn’t have one of my own so I mined their website. In that process I learned that you can have anything you buy from them signed by Mr. America himself for a mere $75! Missed opportunity. In looking for a way to ship these bad boys to Michigan I saw a pasta box and got an idea.

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Ahhh, I crack myself up sometimes. I wonder if any postal workers got a chortle from his peekaboo grimace. Good news! He was still peering out of his sarcophagus when he arrived at his destination.

We also went to Madame Tussauds wax museum and Sea Life aquarium that day. They are both part of that Merlin pass we acquired last year so this was free! Madame Tussauds was SO BUSY that we could barely walk through. The wax figures were much more lifelike and disturbing than I had anticipated, and Oprah was probably the creepiest. She looked as if she’d come to life at any moment and I watched every corner for a camera crew to pop out or for her to blink or breathe or waiver. *shudder*

The kids had a school assignment to pick a creepy wax person to do a report on the next day. Wesson picked Neal Armstrong and Mara’s choice was Serena Williams. I don’t have a photo of Mara with her subject (though I wish that I did) but I do have this awkward ET photo. Did you know that Serena was a homeschooler? From Michigan?! Mara chose well. Wesson picked exactly who I expected him to. If the boy doesn’t end up in some facet of the space exploration industry I’ll be shocked.

SeaLife was typical. They had some really cool sea turtles, one of which had been rescued and rehabbed with some weights on his shell to balance out the fact that he was missing a flipper.

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Not this one

I’m mostly thankful for the existence of zoos and aquariums, although the more I visit the more I regret. We always start out the visit excited to see some new, unusual animals but ultimately just leave there feeling sad for the creatures who are trapped and on display. Some day there will be a happy medium.

Y’know what happens when someone tries to hulk the washer open when it’s still locked?

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Justin claims that other people have done this frequently and that it wasn’t just him and his brute strength and impatience. He’s not wrong. Still, now I have to open the dang thing with a pair of needle-nose pliers because as I wrote way up there somewhere, kids complain when they don’t have pants.

Speaking of pants, this is a good time to point out the reason that we are in Florida: WE WANTED TO BE WARM. This, however, is the year that Florida decided to participate in winter. What the heck, Florida? Get your shit together! Below freezing temps were present for so long that alligators were frozen in the waters with their sad, little snouts poking through. Iguanas fell out of trees, too cold to move. Couldn’t you have waited until next winter?

A reprieve in the weather allowed us to do one of the most awesome things I think we have ever done in the history of us.

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Kennedy Space Center, y’all. THE Kennedy Space Center, the place where they launched the space shuttles. We’ve been to the rocket center in Alabama and touched a moon rock, and we’ve been to Johnson Space Center in Houston and sat in original mission control, and we’ve gotten birthday cards from real live astronauts. Cape Canaveral is the real deal, though. It’s just different – more important.

Today, as I write this, it is the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I don’t remember the event, though I’m told that I had a toy space shuttle that I’d crash, mimicking what I had seen on television. The more I learn about the incident the more disgusted I am about the whole thing. I’ll let that go for a moment. If you’re motivated to learn more it’s worth a google. (This article about Columbia is definitely worth reading as well.)

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We were not prepared for what was inside this building. The first thing that you encounter is a line for a film. Uuugghhhhh. I HATE waiting around for lame movies about stuff. Just show us the info and let me poke around.

If we had skipped this movie we would have missed out on the most awe-inspiring, overwhelming display of sheer power and artistry I’ve ever seen. It was almost too much, emotionally and visually. Then, you get to see it  for real; a grandiose relic of our exploration history. Words cannot describe the experience accurately. Impressed is just not enough.

 

 

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Beyond the shuttle they had a very kid-friendly set-up to show how the shuttles would glide their way back to earth. Run up and bank on the turn once, twice, three times, then SONIC BOOM (stop on the boom button on the floor) then glide gracefully down to earth via a huge, fast slide. The slide built up so much static electricity that when it zapped Mara she got a huge blister on her hand. Yes, you CAN receive an electrical burn from static! Live and learn?

There was also a mock-up on the shuttle to play in, and a tiny International Space Station to crawl through. They had a massive 3D ride too but we passed on that (it was too roller coaster-y).

Mara got to take a photo with the astronaut that sent her a birthday card. Well, kind of.

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The bus tour of Cape Canaveral was great too! We got to see where Boeing is putting together the Orion capsule, the infamous vehicle assembly building, and Space X!

We also saw the Falcon 9 Zuma rocket on it’s launch pad.

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We’ll talk more about this in a second. 😉

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Twins!

The bus dropped us off at the place we had been itching to visit since long before we walked through the gate. The last Saturn V! We had seen the other two in previous outings (Alabama and Texas). Justin got a Lego Saturn V for Christmas so it was only fair that we pack it along with us to see the real deal. (Note: This one is made with some replica parts. The only one that is original and flight ready is the one at Johnson Space Center in Texas. Go figure.)

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To get an idea of just how big this Saturn V butt really is, look at tiny Wesson.

The Saturn V building held one of those touristy photo station things that they have literally everywhere at all the Orlando attractions where they make you stand in front of a green screen and make a face or whatever. This is the first time I’ve ever actually purchased their offerings.

We laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Even days later we’d look at our family floating through space or in the ISS and let out a snort. I don’t know why they’re so great, they just are.

 

After we’d seen the new Mars rover prototype and had what Mara described as the best apple juice in the whole world, we left Kennedy Space Center to do something we’d never thought we’d ever do in a million years, the REAL reason this day was the best day ever: FALCON 9 ZUMA ROCKET LAUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!!(x1000) *flailing Kermit arms*

Since NASA wasn’t going to allow anyone in Cape Canaveral for the launch we got as close as we possibly could at the local jetty. We sat in pitch black darkness on the white sand beach of Port Canaveral waiting for the launch window. They said it could be any time between 8pm and 10:45pm. Right at 8pm on the dot:

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That is not the sun or the moon, that is a SPACE ROCKET! We watched an actual, real rocket shoot up, up up into outer space. It lit up the night sky until it was a tiny bright dot, and just like that it was GONE.

After a few minutes a weird piece of something came spiraling down directly over us trailing fuel behind it and making the sky look like a nebulae. This ultimately landed in the ocean. (I think that this was part of the reason the mission was ultimately a failure, but who cares! It was pretty!)

Then, the reusable first stage BURST through the atmosphere, bringing with it SONIC BOOMS! Wesson said that getting to experience his first sonic boom was the best part of the whole day. It landed safely back on Earth just East of where it took off. Welcome home, little buddy!

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Ol’ Musky sure knows how to put on a show. He’s not just making his dreams come true, he’s putting space exploration back into the dreams of an entirely new generation of people. For that, I am grateful.

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Florida fauna is out to get me

Or maybe I’m out to get it? I’ll just be over here watching my toes.

Justin was determined to see an alligator in the wild. He kept trekking into the woods to peer at Peace River in hopes that one would just be chilling on the banks. By all accounts this should have been the case yet every time we went out there, the alligators pulled a “see you later” and hid. His persistence paid off and Wesson was witness, as he was pulled into this gator hunt too. He immediately started forming a knife out of a nearby palm frond. This was the deal he had made regarding the hunt; we find one, I make a knife to defend myself. He might make a good survivalist some day.

 

It was just a little guy, thankfully, and Wesson didn’t have to go hand-to-… claw. The next park yielded a larger, more relaxed dinosaur.

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Blerg!

This one was, thankfully, on the other side of a lake.

Speaking of parks, we moved into Thousand Trails Orlando on the sixth in anticipation of a visit from these beautiful people:

Justin’s fab sister and her wonderful family came down for a whole week! Now, even when we lived in an actual house that didn’t move around, we hardly ever got anybody for a whole week. We lured them down with the help of Universal Studios, though, so there’s that. The kids got along famously as usual and the theme park was a blast.

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Sam decided to scare one of the Who’s from Whoville, and after his unsuccessful BOO he was chased down in what was probably the most hilarious cat and mouse game ever. Picture Sam taunting them from a gift shop window and the Whoville residents scrambling around. He eventually lost them and they ran off through Dr Seuss land. I kind of wanted to see what they’d do to him once they caught up but, alas, he was fast!

Wesson and Mara fell in love with this water slide ride in the Fivel Goes West area of the park. I think Wesson rode it NINE times. (One of the benefits of going during the week is that no one was there! No lines for anything!) He had very soggy pants after this.

We ended up there for two days, and that was just about enough. We have season passes due to an over estimation of how much the kids could actually do there and we weren’t qualified for the military discount when we purchased. Had we waited until that week it would have been a bit cheaper. Still, now we have a reason to come back down here in the fall, and it will still be ultra fun.

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Dinner on the second night was at Cici’s Pizza! Listen. Cici’s is like Little Caesars if Little Caesars had a buffet and dealt in more than just pepperoni. It’s an ultra cheap pizza buffet, and we go there when we’re STARVING and need food immediately. On this night they were employing the best, most patient balloon artist we’ve ever met. He spent FOREVER on this Captain America.

He created masterpieces for all five kids and walked away with a mountain of tips he most definitely earned.

After everyone went back to snowy Michigan, Wesson decided to create some excitement the hard way. After three whole days of not eating or drinking and literally laying flat out on the living room floor we trekked him over to the children’s hospital.

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It was the nicest hospital I’ve ever seen. They valet parked the monster truck for free, there was NO waiting in the lobby, and they treated Wesson IMMEDIATELY. From door to doctor was five minutes. He ultimately was just working through a virus. They loaded him with anti-nausea meds and Motrin, and after a popsicle went down fine they let us leave. He ate a donut on the way home and then asked to go to Disney World if that gives you any indication of his state of well-being.

Oh! I forgot to tell you about the dang tortoises! They were all over the place, and the park had created garbage can houses for them.

This guy was SO not happy with me. He was traipsing by the camper and I picked him up so that the kids would have a chance to get outside to see him. Once they came out I set him down and he hissed/grunted at me then charged at my toesies. They are NOT slow, people. Wesson is shown here proclaiming his innocence in the tortoise assault.

 

I also managed to piss off the Sandhill Cranes that were EVERYWHERE. I tried to walk up to get a good photo and was met with much dancing, flapping of wings, and tossing of dirt into the air. Justin, however, walked right up to them with no problem. Apparently I am no Dr. Doolittle and the wildlife of Florida knows it. They’ve probably been talking to the Vultures. Ehh, I’m watchin you, nature.

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This park also had the most bizarre speed limit sign I’ve ever seen. Whether it was a nod to Harry Potter or just a way to catch your eye, it worked. It’s now a month after we left there and Mara is still talking about it.

Our travels brought us back down to Peace River for Christmas and such. One day we all decided to go fossil hunting. We found one, alright.

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This big fourteen foot alligator watched us check him out the whole time. Thankfully he was on the other side of the river. I have real doubts on his aggressiveness, though. Everyone seems to see him in this spot everyday, yet I’ve seen people sitting and fishing in “his spot” as well. We moved up the river a little to dig around, anyway.

Our haul was… miniature.  We found baby shark teeth and maybe a few stingray remnants. Wesson put it all in a clear plastic bag labeled CLASSIFIED. He’s my boy and I love him.

Lots of people wade out into the river, alligators be damned. Yeah, we went ahead and passed on that.

25734251_10155866924793548_7834218055869901100_oChristmas came and went without any real drama. We frosted homemade sugar cookies, decorated our big, fake, white Christmas tree, and watched ALL the Christmas movies. The kids were absolutely spoiled rotten as usual and got everything they ever asked for.

Wesson ended up with a really cool drone from Santa. So far Justin is the only one that has come close to leaving it in a tree.

 

Wesson got it turned around a few times and ended up chasing himself. That was probably my favorite trick.

Mara got this glorious Elsa dress from Mommy and Daddy, and Grandma and Grandpa Susanka got her the stroller for her dolly that she’s been pining over forever. If I had to hear her ask One. More. Time. I think I would have lost what little sanity I had left. She about wore the wheels off the thing the first day she had it, and of course wore her Elsa dress the whole time. The campground got quite a show that week.

The kids also ended up with a set of never melting snowballs which have resulted in many hilarious snowball fights inside the camper. So far we haven’t lost any! Grandma and Grandpa Rowland said they thought the kids could use a little taste of Michigan winter and Wesson is especially grateful.

Here’s our Christmas card photo:

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…and the back:

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We’re so cute!

I’m going to share something with you and talk directly to my children in the process. This blog is ultimately for their benefit, after all. I might seem a little crazy here but I choose to believe that my perceived craziness is just part of my charm. *ahem* So, kids, listen. Every year I look at you and think, “look at these little people! They are the most peopley people they could be! They say the best stuff and the do the best things.” Then, you get bigger, and you say BETTER stuff, and do BETTER things, and make it really, really hard to be the straight-faced parent when you come up with something amazingly funny and your dad is inevitably no help as he is always giggling in the background. For example:

Me: Mara told me a story about a lazy susan earlier.
Justin: Mara!
Mara: IT WASN’T ME, IT WAS A GHOST!

It was a story about something that they were going to get me for Christmas but ultimately didn’t. If anything is to be learned about Mara, it’s that she can’t stand it when she has to keep a secret. She’ll do it, but as soon as the information is irrelevant it bursts out of her like a fountain. Do you remember this lady from SNL:

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She could rival Aunt Sue in the inability to withhold information division.

I decided to finish out the year with a ridiculously terrible ear infection that landed me in the emergency room because I quite seriously thought I had ruptured my eardrum again. PS – when you have a ridiculous ear infection, you can’t swallow or move your tongue at all without feeling like you’re being stabbed. I went to a different hospital than dear Wesson did and I still had the best wait time ever: five minutes from door to doctor. The doctor was a real A-HOLE but he was there quickly. Thanks to Doctor A. Hole I felt better just in time for our next move. It was relieving that we weren’t go-to-the-doctor sick at all last winter. Our track record this year is not holding up so well.

New Years Eve was low-key and full of s’mores and sparklers.

A new year for new adventures, new growth, new motivation, and new dreams.

And s’mores. Always s’mores.

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Catsup? Ketchup? Catch-up? It’s all sauce.

Crap everywhere syndrome is what I call it when my children get out multiple categories of things out and never put them back. It’s a curse that every parent is blessed with. Sometimes, amongst the chaos, we find the most wonderful keepsakes:

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She’s a master wordsmith.

It’s mostly word-for-word from a book she was reading at the time. I’m fairly certain the poop part was improv. After we found it and had thoroughly chortled, we helped her come up with some new similes that were not so crappy.

Remember when I told you we needed a new control board for the jacks? The control board came in, and guess what? THAT WAS NOT THE PROBLEM. It ended up being a jack motor, and thankfully General RV was able to get it ordered and installed in a miserable but timely manor. They also dented the camper twice, ripped off a corner, and lost a trim piece but I can’t with that. I had to let it go to be able to function as a semi-normal human and not have an aneurysm.

November 16th we FINALLY GOT TO LEAVE MICHIGAN! It’s not that we don’t love all of our wonderful family and friends, it’s that we were COLD. We headed straight down I-75 and spent a whirlwind few days in our Old Kentucky Home! Whispering Hills RV park in Georgetown was our base of operations again.

We had a WONDERFUL time in Kentucky! We spent an afternoon at the Explorium with Wesson’s friend Harlie and her family. Horses to ride, dinosaur eggs to hatch, a bubble room, and good company! What’s not to love?

And we went to Monkey Joe’s with the always wonderful Nalleys! No one took any photos! We were too busy chatting, and the kids were all over the place. I think Melissa tried to take a picture at the end but the kids protested and that was it. That’s ok, we know what we all look like, and how could we ever forget them, anyway?

I also spent some time at the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary Fall Bazaar catching up with a few police friends. Again, no photos. Way to go!

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You got it, G-Town!

Our next home was a Bass Pro Shops parking lot in Chattanooga. It’s perfectly fine to stay in a parking lot once in a while, and lots of people choose Walmart or Sam’s Club. I prefer a good Bass Pro, though. For some reason it feels less gross. Maybe it’s the clientele…

On our way through Georgia the next day we stopped to pee at Confederate Air Force Pad #1.

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I mean, we used our own bathroom while parked next to the missile. No one peed on any relics from the 60’s.

Can we talk about a rooster that needs to be battered and fried? The campground we stayed at in Georgia had the “best” rooster. Instead of a gentle wake up call when the sun came up he sounded as if he’d been a 40 year smoker. CAW-HOOOORK! CAW-HOOOORK! Please, Georgia, put it out of our misery.

You know what comes after Georgia: FLORIDA!!! We had finally made it! The sun was hot, and the air was hot, and the ground was hot…Maybe there are regrets? Nah. The first Florida campground we graced with our presence was covered in Michigangsters. The retired University of Michigan professor in the Airstream behind us was from Lansing (go figure), the couple next to us were from Kalamazoo and Silver Lake, and the young family on the other side of them were from Auburn Hills! We couldn’t have planned it, honestly.

Justin ended up saving the couple from K-Zoo almost immediately. Their jacks were broken and he found a way to fix it without too much labor, and then we noticed that they were leaking propane like crazy! They were thankful for his help and as much as we protested they insisted on giving him a little something in the form of a visa gift card. We immediately put it towards a fancy new microscope for the kids (ROOOOAD SCHOOOOL) and made sure everyone thanked them profusely. They were great people, and hopefully we’ll see them again down the road.

Oh, and my non-socialized homeschool children made friends immediately. Huh, who’d have thunk it.

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Real Thanksgiving went off without incident. I take that back, I burnt the ever loving crap out of the pie. I made pie crust from scratch – which was fantastic, by the way – and then I realized that I didn’t have a pie pan. In the spirit of improvise, adapt, overcome I made tiny pies with the muffin tins. I stuck my petite homemade delicacies on the grill and not so promptly made them inedible. Live and learn.

November 28th we went to Manatee beach! Yay! We needed a Christmas card photo and we really just needed to play on the beach.

Look at those pretty little beach babies! The sun was hot and the water was crystal clear. Many sandcastles were made. Wesson’s wish for the day was to “sit back, relax, and float” and he certainly made his dreams come true.

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We even got a somewhat decent family photo out of the day as well! Success!

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I really like this cute photo of Mara, but she was, of course, being sassy at the time. I had made them perfectly good hamburgers for lunch, and she stopped mid-burger to say:

Mara: Where do they sell brisket?

Me: Texas

Mara: Next time we move, move us STRAIGHT to Texas.

WELL! SOMEbody knows what she wants. I don’t blame her, I could use a brisket burger right about now too.

 

 

Justin and I had been collecting beer and tiny liquor bottles up until this point so that we could make each other adult advent calendars!

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That’s Justin’s collection. My tiny accumulation of bottles ended up as ornaments on the Christmas tree.

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We’re currently down to the last two and have only poured out two a piece. That’s a pretty darn good track record. Some may say that you never pour out a beer. We are of the party that says life is too short for shitty alcohol. Pour it out and move on to something better! That’s how you can tell that we aren’t alcoholics. *wink*

New destinations mean new places to ride our bicycles. Justin had been out a few times before I decided to head out myself and see what the area offered. I ended up in a nature preserve surrounded by vultures. I know, I know. That escalated quickly. One of the key features of this area is ALL OF THE BUZZARDS. Wauchula, Florida must be where all the good carrion is rotting. These bastards, however, were not moving out of my way when I wanted to ride my bike down the path.

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It’s not that I was necessarily scared of them, it’s that 1) I thought that if they all took off at once I’d be collateral damage and take a wing to the face or something or B) I would scare them and then they would projectile vomit on me. Yes, that’s a thing. No, I do not want to experience it first hand. I sacrificed this man to them and waited to see if he’d make it through unscathed.

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Thank you, random walker!

While I was waiting I saw this sign next to the alligator infested lake:

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I bet the buzzards did it.

Good news! He lived! He cleared the path and I triumphantly rode my bicycle through the area and beyond. On the way back the vultures were having some sort of meeting with a (live) cat – in the middle of the path AGAIN. I did what I should have done the first time and made a lot of noise, and everybody begrudgingly trotted away.

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Note to self: put an air horn on your Amazon Wish List.

It’s, like, three sleeps ’til Christmas right now and I’m missing all of December on the ol’ blog so you know that you’ll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with this found masterpiece, fresh from the depths of Florida:

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Ruff, indeed.

You’re welcome.

Why are you driving a new truck and why are you still stuck in Michigan? October, that’s why.

Remember when I told you about Justin’s new nose? Eight days later he tried to kill it and the rest of him.

22104405_10155639151228548_4883393787004605937_oThat’s a brand new bicycle, FYI. He says that if you don’t crash at least once a bike ride then you aren’t doing it right. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I live with. AND I have two little people who act just like him. *sigh*

We need to talk about the truck for a minute or two. The front end of the white beast started to shimmy and shake like crazy. After we’d sunk a week and several hundred dollars into replacing most of the front end it was better but not great. Then, the oil leak. Ohh, the oil leak. In the middle of the engine compartment was a tiny seal that was leaking ever so slightly. The mechanic wanted TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS to fix this seal. I don’t know about you, but I can only take so much bullcrap from one vehicle. Between the thousands we put into it in Oklahoma and the thousands they wanted to fix it now… it was the oil leak that broke the camel’s back. We eventually found a great truck for a great price at the dealership where we’d been taking the crap truck for service.

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Out with the old, in with the new!

And that’s the story of how we went from a 2008 F450 to a 2015 F350. The last truck was paid for in cash, and the dealership was nice enough to buy it from us and sacrifice it to the truck gods or push it off a bridge or whatever you do with trucks that make you furious. This new one has a payment on it but it has warranties out the tail pipe and we won’t get stuck in Oklahoma again. *crosses fingers* Plus, cooled seats, so totally worth it.

 

 

The day after we took ownership of the new truck, Justin had to haul the camper to the shop to do the work they didn’t do last time it was there. On the way to the RV dealership the rear drivers side brakes seized on the new truck. ONE DAY. WE WENT ONE. DAY.

So, he dropped off the trailer and went straight to the truck dealership. While on the way there the RV dealer called and said that the part we needed (gutter) showed up damaged and they wouldn’t be able to do the work. This was different from the last two times they ordered the part in that they ordered the RIGHT part this time but, alas, it was busted. The truck dealership said “well, it’s already ruined. Go get your camper then bring the truck back and we’ll fix it.”

On the way back to the house from the RV dealership the SPARE TIRE FELL OFF OF THE UNDERSIDE OF THE CAMPER. A nice man flagged Justin down and told him about it. Thank goodness he did because it was not really a spare tire, it was the actual rim from the camper as the spare was currently on an axle. Justin brought the whole rig home and we ripped out to Telegraph Road to find the runaway wheel. Thankfully it had either landed in the median or some kind soul had flipped it into the grass.

Back at the house we backed the camper into it’s proper spot in the driveway, just as we had a million times before, except this time the awning got caught on a house gutter and ripped a big ol’ hole. WHYYYYY!!!????

Just about that time my mother came home with her Terrain which sounded like someone was repeatedly killing a cat. It was promptly towed away.

October 10th = terrible day. Ultimately everything worked out. The truck was repaired under the warranty, the wheel was undamaged, and I was able to patch the awning. The Terrain had literally nothing wrong with it. We may never know why. I will be hiding on this anniversary next year and hoping for the best.

Switching gears for a moment: “Hey, how do you homeschool when you travel?”

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By really pissing off the mailman, that’s how. Two grades worth of books, 50 or so in all, delivered mostly one by one, single-handedly funding the United States Postal Service. Praise be to you, Wonder Woman, for the blessing that is Amazon.com.

We ended up in Grand Rapids again in October for a baby shower that we didn’t actually attend because I came down with a disgusting cold. Still with me? Good. Anyway, we stayed at this really nice little campground in Georgetown Township called Steamboat Park.

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They had a big riverboat and were adjacent to a tiny airport that was used maybe once the whole time we were there. When I say adjacent, I mean that the end of the runway was the road to the campground.

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As soon as we got there we started having leveling system issues. One service call later it was determined that the control board was going out and we’d need a new one. The tech was really nice but please listen to me when I say stay the hell away from anyone related to TerryTown RV Center. Three weeks later we are still waiting on a part that they were supposed to order immediately but just decided not to. Eat shit and die would be the least hostile thing I can think of saying to them.

The kids played mostly peacefully in the yard while we fought the leveling system. To quote Mara:

“We were fighting about what game to play together so we decided to just color rocks with chalk. Now we don’t fight, and I colored one brown so it looks like poop! We’re both happy!” – Mara, 6 years old

Despite our jack issues we had a good weekend! Justin’s parents and sister Stacey came out for burgers and a campfire. I got to try a new meatless burger recipe on Aunt Stacey and the kids suckered her into a bike ride. Saturday we went to Robinette’s orchard and picked apples with another one of Justin’s sisters and her family. The kids got to play with their cousins which is always great.

 

We came away with oodles of very excellent Fuji apples and some monster pumpkins! It was good experience to have the kids pick the apples directly off the tree. Learning where your food comes from is important.

 

Giant chairs are so “in” right now.

We were originally slated to leave on Monday but left on Sunday instead because I was ill and it was also about to rain for three days straight. No one wants to fight their jacks in the rain. The campground owner happened to hear that we were having jack problems and he kindly brought over his forklift to put the camper back on the truck.

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Make friends wherever you go, people.

When we finally got back to Dearborn Heights there were a billion books waiting to be unwrapped (see the above prayer to Wonder Woman) and these super cute canvas prints I had ordered.

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The perfect size and shape for cramped camper walls! I ordered them from Canvas People and they were exactly what I wanted them to be. They always have coupons, it’s worth a Google before you order.

What’s the best part of October? HALLOWEEN! Our little Marine and Tinker Bell came away with more candy than any child should ever have, and we only went around for about 45 minutes.

 

Unlike years past there were TONS of houses lit up and TONS of kids roaming the sidewalks. Uncle Steve and Grandma Kathy came with us, and Grandpa Mike stayed home to hand out treats to the masses.

 

 

October was a trying month to say the least. We were supposed to leave for Florida on November first, yet here we still are in the soon-to-be tundra we call Michigan. If only Lippert would send me a damn control board! We’ll be doing the “Orlando shuffle” soon enough I guess. If you’re already in Florida, save us a spot at the beach, would you?

September!

Have you ever tried a jackfruit? Here I am assuming that you’ve seen a jackfruit or even heard of them. Hang on…

So, that’s a jackfruit, and a lovely woman (left) who sells their innards in Colorado. The only reason we ended up with a small portion of this gargantuan wonder is because I’ve been shopping at a really interesting fruit market in Redford called Randazzo’s. Every time I go there I get all the “normal” stuff and I also buy something unusual for everyone to try (I’m currently harboring a persimmon that I haven’t gotten around to figuring out). Anyway, it took me a good long time to be brave enough to tote home some jackfruit. As I pushed my cart through the market, I was stopped at least four times by others who weren’t brave enough to procure their own but had to ask me how it tastes. “We’ll see!”

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I’m happy to report that it tastes exactly like Juicy Fruit gum. We ate fist-fulls of the ultra sweet bulbs of goodness. It had kind of a rubbery consistency and is apparently a good meat alternative when picked before ripe, although we haven’t ventured down that road. It was a yummy adventure that we didn’t even need to travel for, and overall broadened our palates by trying all these new foods. Bonus!

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Along with strange fruit, September brought us another trip to Grand Rapids while our camper was supposed to be in the shop. We were there for a week and they never did the work but if I start telling you about that I will probably set this keyboard on fire. Instead I’m going to tell you about the awesome bike trail over there. I’m pretty sure that we’ve talked about Kent trail before when we were marooned at Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom’s house for a month. It was also the dead of summer there and ultra hot. This time it was cooler weather and SO GREAT. Justin rode his usual billion miles. I ended up riding the farthest I ever have at 15.08 miles! I had it in my head that I was going to ride out to the bridge he and Stacey were always talking about. It was totally worth it.

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so peaceful and still

 

While we were in town we also met up with Justin’s parents for some Craig’s Cruisers madness!

 

 

The kids LIVE for go-karts, I dread when they get their licenses. Maybe we can turn them into race car drivers.

Along with the super fun go-karting and lots of arcade games we divided into teams for laser tag. The boys kicked our butts. *womp womp* It was still a fun day with Grandma and Grandpa!

I’m going to tell you about this fruit market only because I never want to forget where it is or what it’s called. I actually stopped there to buy green peppers. This is what I ended up with:

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Look at all those bombers! The 2015 Alaskan Smoked Porter! The Expedition sixer! ALL THE WOOT STOUTS! SO MUCH BARREL AGING! As I was loading my cart like a drunk kid in a candy store the owner loudly proclaimed “BEST SELECTION! IN! AREA!” in the most wonderful accent possible. Thank you, Ken’s Market on 28th Street, for selling the fruit I’ve always wanted.

September was also a pain for some of us. Justin had a septorhinoplasty (nose job) at U of M hospital in Ann Arbor. It’s been a long time coming, as he broke his nose as a young child. My parents were kind enough to hang onto the little children overnight and all day so that we could be at the hospital at the crack of dawn. This was their first sleep “away from home.” I silently had a cow to myself while the children were just excited to be somewhere besides the camper AND with Grandma and Grandpa. Like we haven’t spent the entire summer sleeping in their back yard or anything…

Justin survived the face assault and was eventually happy with his less crooked nose and extremely open airway. The first few days were murder. Once the doctor removed all the hidden baffles from way up in there life got more awesome. We won’t talk about me elbowing him in the face. For the record it was an accident. It had nothing to do with Ken and his wondrous market.

The surgery was on the 22nd and by the 29th we were at Legoland Discovery Center in Auburn Hills if that gives you an indication as to how he was feeling. We took the kids out for a day of fun because they’d been patient with the surgery nonsense, and we still have those pesky/handy Merlin annual passes we bought in California. We were able to play at Legoland…

 

 

AND Sea Life Aquarium!

 

 

After we did all the super sweet “free” stuff we had a great dinner at Rainforest Cafe! (allergy friendly, FYI)

 

 

We’ve been there several times but this was the first time Mara vocalized that the animals were really creepy. They totally are, girl. Maybe that was our last Rainforest Cafe meal.

Judging by their little smiles I’d say they had a great afternoon! They were dragging their tiny feet by the time we made it back to the truck. I’m surprised that they didn’t fall asleep on the way home. We hope that you had fun, kids! You always deserve it!

 

So Many Posts, So Little Time!

Here it is! Our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! (Or it WOULD have been a one year anniversary post had I not been hiding.) One year ago September 29th we drove our rig to the closing and sold the house away to what seemed like a lovely couple. Then, we drove off to start our grand adventure! YAAAAAAAAY!

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September 29th, 2016 (photo credit Melissa Nalley)

We’re still out here, a whole year-plus later, showing our midgets that their life doesn’t have to have boundaries. Except when they want ice cream before bed every night. There are some walls that cannot be hurdled until adulthood. When you’re grown, sweet children, you can order a cake that says “Happy Thursday” or “Happy Polka Day” (because you just want the cake with the whippy frosting) and the baker will misspell polka but the cake will taste better because you got a discount. Adults can do these things. This is all hypothetical, of course.

Note: There was a post before this one. I published it, you commented on it, we were happy together. It has since disappeared off the face of the earth (curses and such to you, Word Press). Miraculously my mother had a copy of it in her email because that’s what mothers do.

Months ago I told you all to just do the things you’re supposed to be doing. I then promptly disappeared from this blog. I haven’t even felt nosy enough to check my Word Press stats. Forgive me, children. I won’t speculate on the reasons. Instead, I’ll just tell you about the extremely entertaining last few months.

August 5th we went canoeing!

Unbelievably this was my first canoe trip, and the children had been on many a boat but not a canoe. Accompanying us were river trek veterans Cousin Terry, her friend Luann, Uncle Steve, my mother Kathy, Justin, and his sister Stacey. Five seconds into loading up (we weren’t even away from the shore) Justin and Aunt Stacey FELL OUT THE BOAT. They also had custody of Wesson who, by all accounts, should have been at the bottom of the river too but he HUNG ON for DEAR LIFE. When the boat was righted, there he was in his seat!! Hilarious doesn’t even cover it.

Halfway through the trip we had a picnic lunch in a backyard that butts up to the river. The resident doesn’t mind, apparently. What a nice guy!

The whole thing was challenging and different and out of the comfort zone. It really was a great day, though, and something we need to do again.

In the post that time forgot I talked about taking Wesson to Maker Faire, just him and I. As a counter balance – you can’t just take one baby out somewhere – I took Mara to an event that was right up her alley. Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills was having an Alexander Girard family day and our library card gave us access to free passes to the museum. It warms my parsimonious soul just telling you about it. What can’t a library card do?!

After the guided tour we made our way around the tables and created masterpieces of the Girard kind. Textile printing, flags for new countries, and even some fancy little wooden dolls were forged. She absorbed every bit of the wonderment into her arsty fartsy heart. It hammered home the fact that we really need to get her into more art museums. It also reaffirmed that my kids are on two completely different paths in life.

 

The next day was Trash day.

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Honestly, who throws away something as grandiose as this?  Reggae Bananas need love too. Had he not been leaning on an old mattress I would have banana-napped him and left him in another location, i.e. someones porch.

The day of the total eclipse (Augusts 21st) was not totally awesome here. It got to about 90%, which was plenty good enough to show the kids cool paper tricks and little eclipse shadows peering through the leaves on the trees. Unfortunately I was ultra sick that day, so much so that I went to the emergency room. They were kind enough to load me up with steroids and albuterol so that I could function as a somewhat normal human. I caught the virus from hell from my Dad who had been in the hospital for several days at this point. NOT FUN. The nurse that walked me out of the ER had excellent discharge instructions: “You’re still at risk, so come back if you can’t breathe, and if you’re smoking pot lay off the joints and eat the brownies for a few days.”

Speaking of getting fresh air and staying off the drugs, these people love a good bike ride…

…so when Justin came home with two junker bikes he’d gotten for free from the local bike shop, the wee ones couldn’t wait to fix them up!

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These bikes were multitudes better than the X-Games bikes they were rocking but needed a few things replaced. Part of the deal was that THEY had to do as much of the work as possible so that they were A) appreciative of their new found bicycle wealth and B) learned the workings of the bikes and the names of all the parts. I know what you’re thinking, we took a cool thing and made it even cooler by making it schoolwork and we’re not torturing them at all. *adds one to the win column*

They have since made these bike ROCK. They were excellent bike mechanic apprentices and they’ve earned every pedal.

 

If you need me I’ll be here all afternoon writing blog posts, kicking myself for being so lazy, and maybe baking a pie. Think of me while you Netfix and procrastinate, won’t you?