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?

A California Adventure and the Birthday Boy

Our second day at Disney was magical in its own way. It was dang near empty there by Disney standards. We rode all the rides we could stand and never waited more than 5-15 minutes each. The longest wait we had was for Anna and Elsa.

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Between you and me, they were disappointingly bland. The other princesses had personality, these two were not as exciting.

Pictures! Same deal as last time, we were more worried about having fun than documenting the shenanigans. Here’s a few miscellaneous snaps.

We met Mickey, Olaf, and Daisy!

And Minnie Mouse stole my child.

 

We were sitting on a bench when Minnie Mouse came walking by and Mara stood up. Minnie grabbed her hand and they both walked away!!! Justin and I looked at each other in shock, then had an “oh shit” moment like we forgot that we should probably follow them. When we caught up with them Minnie had found a spot in the shade to greet people and was interacting with Mara. The introvert had been kidnapped by a giant mouse and Did. Not. Care. She didn’t even know that she was “missing.” Her love for Minnie transcends all common sense.

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Wesson got this sweet hat, complete with his name stitched on the back. He was pretending that he was an airplane. Goofy would definitely approve.

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We ran into the very fun green Army men who had a little mobile dance party/cadence deal going on.

It was a great day! Disneyland and California Adventure far surpassed my expectations and the ridiculous price was worth every penny. There will definitely be a next time.

Another one of our fabulous birthday events was a trip to LEGOLAND! Wesson has been looking forward to this for years. He spent the day before we went randomly grabbing us and screaming “WE’RE GOING TO LEGOLAAAAAND” while simultaneously shaking our shoulders.

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LEGOLAAAAAAND!

They got fancy new Lego Batman shirts to commemorate the day. We were about five seconds into the park when we walked right into this:

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BATMAN!!! So, the kids were totally geeked. I was fairly horrified by the giant Lego Dark Knight. AND THERE WERE MORE…

Umm, do you see Unikitty? That was NOT a statue. There was somebody INSIDE that suit! I desperately wanted to stand around to see them try to walk out of the area but that probably would have scarred the children. Nobody cares that I’ve been scarred, though.

What’s more scary than giant people with claw hands? It turns out that it’s real people.

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These are the Lego Friends, and Wesson thought they were great. Mara was unsure about their validity, as the rest of the Lego characters actually looked like toys. Real people were not in the grand plan, yo.

Just like our two Disney days, we planned ahead! We were there on a week day so the lines were non-existent! The kids got to ride nearly every single thing, and most of it they were able to ride on their own. The rides there are pretty tame, made for the under 12 crowd. They chose to stay off the roller coasters and we walked past a few spinners we knew they would hate.

Wesson got a Happy Birthday button from member services when we walked into the park, and just like Disney every staff member we passed had a birthday greeting and a kind word for him! He had big smiles all day long.

We purchased passes for Legoland, Aquariums, Madame Tousseau’s Wax Museums, and other neat places so we can have fun and be horrified all year long!

What else happened? Wesson turned EIGHT!

Oh, boy. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that he was walking way too early (nine months old – for real), riding his big wheel down the stairs (Hey mommy, watch dis!), and asking if we can harvest the inner workings of Big Ben to build a giant robot. As for that last one, we agreed that if the clock were to be decommissioned – which is not probable – I would assist him in drafting a letter to the government asking for the spare parts. It’s what a mother should do.

The birthday boy requested lunch at Red Robin, a trip to Toys R Us for his birthday freebies, tacos and creamed corn for dinner, and to spend the afternoon at Coronado Beach.

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Happy birthday, beach boy!

The kids ended up finding another set of kids who were wearing Marine Corps hats just like them! Instant friends!

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We all love this beach! Look how happy these little boogers are!

My little buddy had a wonderful day! I only hope that the rest of his 100+ years can be filled with as many smiles and as much happiness. This kid is going to do amazing things. Correction: This kid is going to KEEP doing amazing things, and I can’t wait.

I Missed the Octopus

I wrote half of this post and Word Press decided to eat it. *sigh* It’s never as good the second time around, kind of like reheated leftovers. Lets try to make this blog post tasty Thanksgiving leftovers instead!

On our way from Pilot Knob to Pio Pico we stumbled upon El Centro! Can you believe it?  THE BLUE ANGELS! Apparently The Blue Angels practice in California in the winter and we just happened upon them! We pulled over to watch them swoop back and forth. I tried to take photos but they were just too fast and high up. They dove and rolled and performed their close quarter maneuvers. It was like our very own air show!

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A beautiful photo that I did not take.

When we arrived at Pio Pico RV Resort, everything looked promising. It appeared to be a nice big park nestled between the mountains with it’s own store! We quickly realized this was too good to be true. The staff was incredibly rude immediately. Then we found out that the park was full and we’d be in overflow across the road. If we wanted a main park spot we had to be at the gate every day at 0830 to stand around and hope our name was called, then randomly take whatever spot was available without knowing if we’d fit or what the site looked like. Also, there was absolutely no cell phone service. If we had an emergency at any point we had no way to call for help unless we went to the ranger station. As we contemplated that fact, Justin found a GIANT bubble in the trailer tire that wasn’t there when we arrived.

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It had formed while driving through the park that we couldn’t stay in. We pulled into an overflow spot, changed the tire (I have THREE different roadside assistance programs, by the way, but could not CALL anyone), and went back to ask the snotty woman to take us out of the system.

We high-tailed it back forty minutes in the opposite direction and landed at Oakzanita Springs in sunny Descanso, California. The campground is off of a road that winds up into the mountains, I think it was old highway 79. The staff was wonderful, the campground was very mountainous but not treacherously so, and although they were pretty full, we didn’t feel like our presence was a burden. The super cute town of Alpine was close enough that we weren’t truly out in the middle of nowhere. We ran into a little fog being so high in the mountains, though.

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There was also this very concerning sign on the bathrooms:

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EEEEEE!

After a few days of recovery from the long, repeated puddle jumping, we had a family visit! My maternal Grandfather’s sister, Aunt Gerry, lives about an hour and a half north of the campground. I had alerted them that we’d be in town for a while and made arrangements for a visit. The drive out there was AMAZING! And also nauseating. It was twisty, hilly, and fast, with a few mountain switchbacks, and LOTS of citrus groves. We had to pull over twice to let little bellies settle. I’m thankful that the GPS sent us that way because it was a gorgeous drive, however, we wont go that way again. We spent a few hours with Aunt Gerry, had lunch, and even saw her daughter (mom’s cousin) Donna for a few minutes. It was really nice to see some family again and get to talk about days past. Aunt Gerry gave us a big stack of these awesome cookies, pizzelles, to take home. I need to add a pizzelle maker to my wish list.

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I started eating this one before I remembered to take a photo

We also went to the tide pools that week! Cabrillo National Monument is located off the coast of San Diego on a peninsula that also includes a marine sanctuary area. The tide was especially low the day that we went exploring. All of the park rangers pointed at our nice looking shoes and then asked where we were from. The fact that none of us had on slop boots or sandals or water shoes was a dead giveaway that we had no idea what we were getting into. Supposedly you could also see whales migrating from this area but FOG. SO MUCH FOG.

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This is the ocean. No, really.

We walked down the rocks and sand, not really expecting to find much, but hopeful to at least catch some crabs. We saw boring clams carved into the rocks, sea urchins covered what seemed like every inch of the place, tons of different types of seaweed – some of which was so unusual that it looked fake.

Two different types of sea hares made their presence known. They’re similar to giant slugs. I didn’t touch them to find out, but something tells me that they are probably pretty squishy. The highlight of the whole experience was a super cool octopus! He was just swimming along in one of the pools, stretching his tentacles and shoom, shoom, shooming along. When he saw that we were following him he hid under a rock. *sad face* Thankfully I thought I had gotten a pretty excellent video of him. Later, when I tried to show it to the Ranger, I discovered that I had gotten a one second video of my finger instead. Ooh well. Sometimes it’s better to just enjoy the moment anyway, right?

The kids thought it was awesome that they were actually touching the bottom of the ocean. I think that I was the only one that ended up with really wet feet that day. We did well despite our ‘pretty shoes.’

We also popped in at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot for a hot second. We may go back for a graduation ceremony when we get back to the area in a few weeks.

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I also made this bad boy after seeing yet another camper with an airbrushed masterpiece across the back.

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The children ran outside to see if it was really on there and Justin threatened to kick me out if it ever became reality. No love for Carrots.

I’ll leave you with a recipe for Kentucky Bourbon Burgoo, because you always have leftovers and you have no idea what to do with them. Improvise a little, throw in whatever you’ve got, and for the love of all things try lump charcoal at some point in your life.

We survived ten days in a row!

We were back in town for three days before we packed the new fiver and hit the road again. If you are unfortunate enough to follow me on facebook you probably caught on that we were in Maryland for HomeBrew Con, and Washington D.C. because why not.

I started to write an incredibly boring post. It was seriously terrible, even more so than this one. I had three paragraphs of a snooze-fest written but I just couldn’t subject you to that. We had auto-leveling troubles and it rained every time we put up or took down, but none of that matters. We had a mostly great vacation. Let’s just look at some photos, shall we? Let’s do this!

First, Pennsylvania. We stayed on top of a mountain!

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Beautiful! Next, we moved to the Navy base across the river from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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This was our spot for an entire week. My parents camper was to the left of this photo, flying the Army flag of course! On the last day the incoming recruits PT’d through the camp.

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*sigh* Couldn’t you just stay there forever? We visited lots of places in the area. When we went to Baltimore we ran into some cadets from the academy who gave us a tour of their ship. They were training for the summer and were stopped there for a few weeks.

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We couldn’t be in Annapolis without visiting the state capital, now could we? Especially since it was here that General George Washington resigned as General of the Army so that he could become the first President of the United States. I’m getting boring again, aren’t I? Whatever! Look at George!

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Not Martha Washington, just some random citizen who wrote down what she had witnessed. Weird, right?

The docks in downtown Annapolis were full of awesome, extremely expensive boats and I somehow never took any photos. Consider yourself spared from the jealousy. Justin and I went back down there the next day to eat dinner after HomeBrew Con and Fort McHenry. I ate my first crab cake! It was incredibly fresh and wonderful, an event I will repeat again. But now, HomeBrew Con:

That’s right, it’s a selfie in front of a giant beer. Deal with it. We sampled a ton of great and not so great beers from around the country, some homebrew and some commercial. While we were childless (thanks to Grandma and Grandpa) we toured Fort McHenry. If you don’t know how important this Fort is to our very existence, I encourage you to read about it. This is one of those places that makes me think we missed out on all the good stuff by being born in the present day. The revolution, the patriotism, the unknown. It’s all excitement to me but it was probably horrifying at the time. Just let me have my delusions, please.

Frances Scott Key peered at the flag waving in this very spot from the boat he was being held on in the river and penned a poem that would become a national standard. That poem is four times as long as you think it is, FYI. https://www.nps.gov/fomc/learn/historyculture/the-star-spangled-banner.htm

Ok, ok. On to Washington! That spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the reflecting pool is my happy place. I could sit there for a lifetime! There’s just something wonderful about it, even in the sweltering heat, that I can’t quite put my finger on. The wide open sky and the monuments all around add a whimsy to it all.

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Just leave me here.

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The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History was a hit for these two obsessive learners. They were eager to see all they could. Mara, especially, took her time and made sure she saw everything, down to the last bug.

On the last day in the area we toured Arlington Cemetery and watched the ceremonies at the tomb of the unknown. We were joined there by a few groups of WWII veterans from Honor Flight. What an honor, indeed! They were a great bunch of men and women, and always had a kind word for those who stopped to greet them and thank them for their sacrifices.

It’s worth noting that this day was the US Army’s birthday, and there were no Army events happening anywhere! Rude!

We had the opportunity to be present for the Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial. The commandants own Marine Corps marching band put on a wonderful show, as did the silent drill team. It just so happened that the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant of the Marine Corps were also there to observe! I met a wonderful older woman on the Marine Corps bus over to the memorial. She told me all about when her husband was in the Navy and she pulled her kids from school to homeschool them. She drained their bank account and sold everything and started following the husband around the world while he was on the ship! They would stay in people’s homes while they were on vacation. Sounds like such an adventure, doesn’t it?

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This is where Justin could sit forever.

We saw much, much more than I have shown you here. I could drone on forever if you let me. Washington D.C. is one of those places that I could visit a thousand times and never see and experience everything that I want to experience. We are going to have to come back here for a month when we finally hit the road.

PS – I have written a second post about this trip. Again, if you are my facebook friend you may have read briefly about our troubles in West Virginia. I will publish that post eventually. Let’s just think these happy thoughts together and you can read all about the bad stuff tomorrow, ok?