We moved for 30 days and I ignored you

WELL! Here we are, a full month-plus since our last conversation. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be keeping you up to date. Would you accept this cookie as an apology? It’s a Keebler Elf with chocolate creme, of course you will.

The sale of the house closed as planned on the day planned. We drove our rig to the closing and hit the road immediately! I’m going to rip out a quick list of places we’ve stayed and then we can elaborate on a few, ok?

  • Bass Pro Shops – Portage, IN

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  • Aunt Terri and Uncle Tom’s House – Grandville, MI (No photo. Dangit.)
  • Camp Dearborn – Milford, MI

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  • Stacey’s House – Holland, MI

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  • Doctor Dan and Amanda’s House – Nunica, MI

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  • Conestoga Grand River Campground – Coopersville, MI

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  • Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dale’s House – Brooklyn, MI

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  • Mom and Dad’s House – Dearborn Heights, MI

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  • Cabela’s – Noblesville, IN

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  • Lousiville Slugger Field – Louisville, KY

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14958416_10154572305768548_1484912478_nThe first thing we did in Michigan was have our heating system fixed at the dealership,because if you are going to voluntarily live in the cold you should probably have heat. Don’t ask me why it wasn’t working, it must have known that we needed it. While it was being fixed we drove go karts and Mara won a big stuffed animal out of a claw machine. She is the Babe Ruth of claw machines. She once won TWO stuffed animals at the same time AND gave one to her brother. A winner with a heart of gold!

We spent a week at Camp Dearborn then headed to West Michigan again. On the way we stopped in Lansing and hung out at the state capital because *ahem* roadschool, remember? We did the tour of the capital building and checked out the awesome state library. On the way back to the East side we stopped there again and visited the state museum. Such a neat place as a whole, rich in history and easy to enjoy.

We visited the USS Silversides museum in Muskegon one afternoon and played on a torpedo or two.

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When we left the West again we headed to Aunt Brenda and Uncle Dale’s house for a week of visiting and fun. While we were there Mara finally got to shoot her rifle. She’d only had it an entire year. Everybody got to shoot that day! It was also a great opportunity to brush up on firearms safety with the children. If you haven’t had that conversation with your kids I highly recommend you do so.

We left there and spent ten days at my parents house. We somehow got the camper in the driveway and although it barely fit between the houses and fences I’m glad that we got to spend all those days there. The kids really got comfortable and we all had a great stay. With Grandma and Grandpa there we had an opportunity to take the kids out one at a time for some fun on their own. We took Wesson to ride the bumper cars, he jumped on a sky bungee thingy, and we got Slurpees. Mara wanted to go to Build-a-Bear. On our way into the mall we stepped into a puppy store and played with the cutest little Daschund. He immediately started licking Mara’s face and made it extremely difficult to hand him back over – that is, until we found out it was close to $3,000 to love him permanently.

What else did we do there… Hmm… we watched flaming puck unicycle hockey, made bacon pancakes, went to unicycle practice, attended Pumpkin Palooza in Plymouth, carved jack o’ lanterns, and went trick or treating!

 

Are you tired? Because I’m tired. We’re at Slugger Field for another few minutes. We came here so that Justin could brew some beer with Goodwood Brewing. It was part of his prize for winning his category in the homebrew competition at the Kentucky State Fair. It lead to creation of his own blog and I’m super excited for him. He’ll be brewing with other people around the US and Canada as we travel. You can follow Roadbrewing.com for updates on that portion of the adventure.

Surprise! I never finished my blog post and now we are in Lexington, KY! We had a great dinner with friends and after we replace two dry-rotted tires on the truck tomorrow we’ll be headed to Tennessee. The destination is really San Antonio, Texas so that Justin can have a small umbilical hernia fixed at the awesome Veterans hospital. We are going to slow-roll our way down there. I promise and pinky swear that I will update you sooner than thirty days from now. I’ll sign off with a selfie of me wearing my sunglasses indoors and a hat that I didn’t purchase, because that’s what the cool kids do.

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Hookin’ ain’t easy, kids.

 

 

The countdown has begun! Or began already? It’s happening, let’s just go with that.

We’ve been crazy busy for the last few months pouring our blood, sweat and tears into the house so that some other brave soul could come along and call it home. I once described it as having a 60 hour per week, seven day a week job that broke my spirit day in and day out. The children took the brunt of the madness, being ignored for the sake of getting things done. If one word could describe those two months it would be neglected. Neglected projects we had to finish, neglected children, neglected sanity. Document the good and the bad, right? We’re back from the madness, though! We barely know what to do with each other now that we aren’t so busy.

The house went up for sale on August 26th, and in six viewings and less than three days we were under contract. We’ve spent the last month doing the back and forth dance that is selling your home and I am happy to say that the closing date has FINALLY been scheduled for next Thursday. I couldn’t put enough a’s in my YAAAAAAAAAY if I wanted to. In the month we’ve been waiting, we went on a few adventures. Let’s share!

Cumberland Point Campground was our first outing. We scheduled this trip so that we wouldn’t be in town when the house was being shown. It was extremely awkward and off-putting to have people traipsing through the house while we were here. We left for a few, we hid in the camper for some like creepers. By the time we left for camp, though, we were already under contract. This is what we woke up to every morning:

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What. A. Dump. Waking up on the lake every day was the best. We took the opportunity to  hike down to the rocky beaches on the peninsula we were occupying. I say ‘hike’ like we aren’t a family of small children and people with foot problems.

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Look at the tops of the trees left from when the dam flooded the area!

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With the exception of a few that showed up on the last day we were basically alone in this camp with another couple who happened to pick the spot right next to us. Our lucky RV neighbors, Jim and Laura, were a retired couple who were on the tail-end of a trip to Canada. They were the most helpful, kind, wonderfully social people with the best booze. We picked their well-traveled brains all week long. With any luck they will be at their home in Texas when we get down that way.

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*womp womp*

On our way out of the campground the TV antenna was assaulted by the wind or maybe a tree. It definitely didn’t break off because we left it up. We’d never do such a thing.

After a few more weeks at the house we packed up and moved to a little campground in Georgetown Kentucky called Whispering Hills. There wasn’t much whispering and the hills were missing, but the campground was decent. It was nice to have a full hookup in the camper. We ran both air conditioners and used our own shower! I even plugged in THREE things at once. It’s the little things in life that keep us going. Other than a donkey on the nearby farm that wouldn’t shut his donkey hole HEE HAW HEE HAW HEE HAAAAAW (always in threes) it was quiet, and that was just what we needed.

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Trying out our new fishing poles

I wish i’d have had the washer/dryer hooked up already but because we didn’t I ended up chatting with a wonderful woman from Pensacola, Florida when I went to do the laundry. She started in right away, like I was a cousin she hadn’t seen in a year or two, and filled me in on everything the family was doing. She and her husband were headed up to Ohio to meet some people they had met on a previous excursion. Although I cannot remember her name, she was a wonderful laundry companion and I hope we see each other again down the road. I would have pegged myself as a hermit and an introvert, and I still kind of do, but it turns out that I love to chat up a stranger. Who knew?

At the end of the week, with no closing in immediate sight we resigned to the fact that we’d have to go back and sit at the house again. Then, the stars aligned and gave us a date. We’ll be here until next Thursday. The REAL adventure begins!!! For whatever reason that old Cheryl Lynn song popped into my head just now, funky beat and all. “What you think ah! What you feel now! What you know ah! To be real!” It’s real, y’all, and it’s finally happening. Hold me.

Part Two: That time we almost fell off of West Virgina

Ok, so we would have also been in West Virginia when we hit the bottom of the ravine. Just stay with me. And just a side note, none of the photos in this post are mine. I was too busy wishing I had worn my brown pants to take any photos during this ordeal.

We booked a nice place with the Army Corps of Engineers as a stop on our way home from Annapolis to break up the long drive back to Kentucky. When we clicked on the map button on their website *boop* it sent us to google maps, which then routed us to said boop. I am telling you right now I will never trust a boop again. It started out a two lane road, going over a questionable bridge, seen here:

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I had doubts, people, but semi trucks were using it so we trucked right along with them. We eventually turned off the paved road onto dirt road and felt uneasy but we kept going because the map said go. Then I saw a chicken and the road turned into one lane of dirt and empty promises. We drove for nearly an hour through the backwoods of West Virginia with our giant rig, stressed and doubtful, and never saw any people. I could see the campground on the map, we had to be going in the right direction. That’s when it happened. We were about a quarter mile from the campground when we came across a turn that should never have existed. The road was soft, the ravine was off to one side, the solid rock wall to the other, and there were no guard rails. The first attempt to turn the corner left us stranded and absolutely stuck. Backing up made it worse. Going forward made it worse. The rig was tipping to the ravine side. Justin started to panic, I started to panic. What do I do with my kids? Do I get them out and move them down the road? Do we hope for the best and inevitably flip into the ravine together? As I contemplated the fact that we had absolutely no cell phone service and no one would know we were missing, a truck showed up.

It was a very nice couple who couldn’t believe we had made it as far as we did. The gentleman assessed our predicament and decided that we could probably do it but we’d have to really work at it. Thankfully he was able to guide us backward away from certain death and around the bend. It was not as easy as that sentence would have you believe. Trust me when I tell you it was horrifying and it still takes my breath away thinking about it. After thanking him profusely we headed to camp. Here’s where I tell you we had a great time and went home the next day, except that didn’t happen. We made it to a camp, alright. THE WRONG CAMP. An extremely shocked camp – I heard one unseen person exclaim “I can’t believe they drove through THERE with that RV!” The magical boop, the one that sent us to our near death experience, was a lying sack of boop.hjklThe woman running the camp store was kind and generous and talked me through getting back to town so that we could follow the signs to our actual campground. She also asked if we had seen the bear that had been lurking on the road we had just traversed, and expressed that she’d like to have some bear meat so maybe it would visit camp soon. With that parting thought I again expressed our gratitude and we set out to follow the directions. Along this new, non-threatening route we saw this:

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I would have been more interested in this tidbit if I hadn’t wanted to cry right then.

Somehow we made it back to the green, scary looking bridge, except this time it looked like a dream come true. Pavement, structure, people, vehicles. All things I will never take for granted again. It was now time to find our actual camp; a place that was, although not as far, still back in the woods. I decided that I had experienced enough of the wild and begged Justin to get us the hell out of West Virginia. We drove to the nearest rest area, cooked hot dogs on a camp grill, and stared at each other with disbelief that we had actually survived that experience unscathed with our rig undamaged. We decided to camp in the parking lot of a Cabela’s that night. Justin graciously drove another hour to get us there even though he truly did not want to drive any longer. Could you blame him?

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I lied, I took this one.

It was incredibly hot, it rained like crazy, and the hawks would not shut their beaks, but it was wonderful.

While we were lost in the woods, my parents were on the way back to Michigan and blew out BOTH camper tires, one at a time. They ended up leaving it on a farm in Ohio and retrieving it the next day.

In true pile-it-on fashion, the shit storm continued the next morning.

Wesson woke up with what sounded like croup. You know the barking, if you’re the mom you can probably identify it in your sleep. He was so, so sick. We were only a few hours from home, though. We decided to get him home and to the doctor. On the way there he told me that he had a knot in his hair that had to be cut out. I kind of dismissed it at the time and told him we’d deal with it when we stopped. When we finally sat down to lunch I ran my hands through his hair and found the knot he was complaining about. It was a TICK! He went straight to the doctor! I’m glad we did it this way because they were able to extract the whole creeper and identify it as a lone star tick, something we may or may not have done (on both accounts). We haven’t seen any adverse affects from the tick so far. He does now have pneumonia and may be asthmatic – something to investigate further once we get rid of the sickness. Breathing treatments are his current reality.

This was a learning trip to say the least. I’m thankful that everyone made it home and that we’re all alive. Wesson will recover. Hell, we’re all recovering. Maybe we can manage to never repeat these events. I can tell you this much, though: I will never go through West Virginia again.

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?

 

 

 

It has arrived!

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Earlier this week we made the trek to Michigan to pick up our brand new 2017 Coachmen Chaparral 390QSMB! I’m so excited I could pinch a midget! (Thanks for that one, Ashley G.)

We spent most of a day at the dealership learning about every single tiny piece of the giant box of grandeur. I am quite serious when I say that they gave me less instruction at the hospital when I had a baby. I remember most of what the nice gentleman told us, and whatever we don’t remember will hopefully be covered under the warranties. For the RV, not the children. “Yes, this one doesn’t eat tomatoes, can he be reset?”  But I digest. Before we even left the dealership there were a few things that needed to be fixed. The factory had installed the kitchen table backward, among other things. They even put the wrong model number on the damn thing. The side says 390QSMD. I’m just going to tell everyone that it’s an aftermarket letter. Even as we were pulling out of the parking lot, our guide was hanging onto the side of the pickup truck, directing us on how to set it all. And when we pulled out of their driveway and popped the emergency brake cables he came out and reset everything in the pouring rain. That’s what above and beyond looks like; soggy and helpful.

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He showed us EVERYTHING

Our first adventure was to a local resort RV park near the dealership. We wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing before we hauled it all the way home and also that everything was working properly. With a few minor hiccups and do-overs hooking up the lines we set up camp with relative ease, mostly thanks to the auto-leveling system we sprung for. With a push of a button, it lowered the jacks and leveled itself within two minutes. Bliss! It stopped raining just in time for us to go inside.

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The inside of this behemoth makes me feel like it’s not even a camper. After pining over this one and now having it in person I really don’t think we would have been happy with any other layout. The living room area is big enough for everybody to sit down and watch a movie and have their own seat.

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Disregard the goofball

The kids have their own room. For now they are small enough to share the queen size bottom bunk. At some point one of them may move up top, but we’ll deal with that later. The bathroom has a porcelain toilet, y’all. Big time stuff. The first shower was pitiful. It was like being gently peed upon. We have since learned how to create water pressure, thank goodness. The master bedroom has tiny windows next to your face so you can wake up to the sight of the mountains or the Walmart, wherever you’re staying.

The campground was great, and full of a good variety of people. Everyone had a wave and a hello for us. The midgets, as I predicted, made fast friends with the first kids they met, and spent the second day playing in the ‘yard’ with their new buddies.

On the final morning, after we had hooked up and were just about ready to leave, the people from the RV in the spot next to us came over. They had arrived the previous evening and had been busy with set up so we hadn’t spoken. They came over that morning to tell us that they had been watching us with our kids and reminiscing about when they traveled with their little people in a 5th wheel, and how much they enjoyed the reminder of days past. That’s it right there, folks. They spoke to me in a thousand different ways. They saw love and adventure in our chaos. I have said to myself many, many times that I hope all of this work and life disruption is worth it, and they calmed my soul with a few simple words. I only hope that we can look back at this season of our lives and remember the wonderment of it all with as much affection.

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Plans, or maybe a lack of plans.

Am I supposed to write a meaty post on my first day of blogging? I’m still in my lazy clothes and my tea is too hot to drink. I don’t know that I’m prepared for blog life, let alone life in general just yet. Let’s try it anyway.

ROADSCHOOLING! Yes, we are going to roadschool for the next few years. Roadschooling, for anyone who is reading this and doesn’t know, is a growing trend among people who have lost their minds. It involves hitting the road, usually with a camper or RV, and homeschooling your kids along the way; letting the traveling take the lead in education. Why read about history when you can FEEL it and SEE it and LEARN it right where it happened? Why not learn about nature by immersing yourself in it? Why not learn about cultures by meeting the people? Why not test the tolerances of your family by getting rid of most of your belongings and trapping yourselves in a large aluminum box? Ok that’s too literal. Step back a moment for the bottom line: Why READ when you can DO? Sounds better than watching a YouTube video, eh?

I hear a few of you mumbling “WHY? What catastrophic event is causing you to abandon your life?” No catastrophe, per se, and no abandonment. My Husband retired from the police department back in December because of a few injuries, and because of that he receives a monthly pension. He’s currently in physical therapy, trying to regain some of the mobility he lost and relieve some of the pain. The therapist seems VERY optimistic that he can feel a lot better than he currently does, and so far PT is working (YAAY!). He’ll not be able to continue his chosen profession, but he’ll at least be able to enjoy life a little more. Now, with four people who stay home and one also earning a living staying home, why should we actually STAY home? Why can’t home go with us? We discussed this at length over and over and OVER again while we waited for the PD to make their decision in regards to his abilities.

During the struggles with the police department there was a sudden depression of funds. We cut back our expenses substantially and made sure to keep up on all of our debts. We were also able to pay off all of those pesky credit cards. We will have absolutely no problems living on his pension alone. I hear you mumbling again “Why can’t YOU get a job?” I totally can, and have before, and probably will in the future. I can also pose the question back at you; Why? If we can afford to live comfortably on just the pension, why not enjoy the opportunity to watch our kids grow? Financially, it’s staggeringly less expensive for us to live on the road. Among our tools to facilitate this is a National Parks Pass. Campground fees at the National Parks are half off with a National Parks Pass. Because of his injuries, Justin was able to get one for free. You may or may not qualify for one as well (more info on that here, I encourage you to look: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm ).

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Midgets One and Two

“WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!? SOCIALIZE THE CHILDREN!” You scream. What about them? If you have ever met Midget One and Midget Two you’d know that they are two of the most outgoing and talkative kids around. Wesson lives his life like he is in a constant political race; figuratively shaking hands and kissing babies 24/7. He ALWAYS stops to say hello to children and grandmas, and he’s constantly including random children in his activities at the playground. I’ve seen him get through to the shyest of children, boys and girls alike. Mara soaks up his charisma as well, following her brother around, gathering children, and participating in whatever the adventure may be. I have no doubts that they will make friends wherever they go. They will most likely also see some of the same kids time after time as we travel, as there are TONS of roadschoolers wandering the open plains, hiding from winter’s icy grasp.

Which brings me to the subject of winter: NO.

“How long do you plan to skirt the responsibilities of conformity, you heathens?” Until we get tired of it. Until we find the place we’re meant to live. Until we get sick of eating s’mores every day (not gonna happen, s’mores for LIFE!). It’s a big ol’ country – and an even bigger world. We have lots of places to be and all the time in the universe to be there. We can inspect every little caterpillar, climb the trails, soak up the sun, splash in the lakes, visit the monuments and wonders, stare in awe at the stars in the sky, and appreciate each other’s company for as long as we please. Sounds like a dream come true to me!

So far, we have the truck – a big, BEEFY Ford F-450 crew cab. We’ve ordered a new custom built 5th wheel RV that should be done in the next few weeks, just in time for a camping trip we’d scheduled without actually having a camper or truck (or prospects for either) at the time. The house needs a little (ha) work before we can sell it. The basement bathroom currently has no walls. Walls are a luxury item, right? RIGHT?! The drywall and tile is in the garage, and the garage door opener quit yesterday. Quit, quit. Like, never working again. *sigh*

A good portion of the things in this house will be sold and of course some will come with us. A family member has agreed to keep a cargo trailer full of items we’ll need when we decide to buy another house. (You know who you are! THANK YOU!)

The purpose of starting a writing journey this morning in my jammies with my hot-ass green tea is to chronicle our actual journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly from start to finish. Mostly for ourselves so that we can look back at a yearbook, remembering the fun and terror and what-have-you, but also to impart the current happenings to any friends and family who’d like to keep up with us. I hope that I haven’t rambled too much in my first official post. If I’ve forgotten something here, shoot me your questions and I’ll do my best to pretend like I have the answers.