I’m cold and I forgot about you

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I did it again. I went an entire month and never told you about the cool things we did. Mostly because we really didn’t do a whole lot, and partly because I’ve been avoiding sitting down to write anything at all. Today we are trapped indoors by unforgiving temperatures. Our water hose is frozen but not our spirit! This has happened before, and thankfully we have a water holding tank (and booze) to tide us over until we thaw.

15935777_10154789463658548_555591730_nLet’s see, where did I leave off? Oh, right. NASA! The first week of December we stayed at Lake Conroe for a few days and visited the Johnson Space Center. The real, actual NASA mission control. There were so many great things to see and do. My favorite part of the whole place was the tram tour. We went to old mission control and sat in the viewing area. I can only imagine what a privilege it would have been to be there while it was operational. Justin’s parents were kind enough to gift us a membership to the space center so we can go back as many times as we want!

All that fishing in Goose Island State Park and no one ever caught anything. We dipped our fishing lines in the shallow waters of a stocked pond at Lake Conroe, armed with hot dogs and a dream, and caught so many fish we lost count. We also found out the children will hold the fish in their bare hands and the mother will not.

On our way back to the San Antonio area we met up with Santa! He’s a class act, that guy. Always a smile on his face.

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We high-tailed it back to Lake Medina to meet with Grandma and Uncle Steve! My Mom and brother came down to hang with us and watch the kids while Justin had umbilical hernia surgery at Audie Murphy VA hospital. Surgery went well! No complications! We put them up in a cabin across the path from us at the campground. Our Thousand Trails membership provides us with a couple of weeks of free cabin stays, thankfully, so we can have visitors. It was nice to have everyone in the same area. We’re happy that they were willing and able to fly down. Uncle Steve rented himself a fancy Mustang convertible. Thankfully Texas provided him with a few nice days to enjoy it.

Picture time!

After our visitors left we kept a low profile for a few weeks. We hit a few museums (DoSeum and Witte), we played on a few playgrounds, we made Christmas Cookies and decorated the camper.

It was an unremarkable time and lovely to be sitting still. Christmas eve we went SWIMMING. Can you believe it? The pool was colder than an ice cube, but they did it anyway. Wesson declared that it must be a new tradition. We’ll see where we are next year. Maybe they’ll be joining the polar bear club.

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In the past I have come across people who ask “You’re atheists, why do you celebrate Christmas?” Because it’s fun, it’s a reason to spoil your kids, a reason to make memories, and a gentle reminder to appreciate the things and people in your life. It shouldn’t matter to you or me how others celebrate any holiday. Do your thing, and if people get joy from being with or without their families, regardless of why or how, just be glad they still celebrate anything. Eat a Peep shaped like a tree, hug your kids, be kind to your neighbors, and have a holly, jolly whatever you want.

And here we are in Whitney, Texas at Lake Whitney RV resort. Earlier in the week we went to the natural history museum at Baylor University. They provided tons of great learning opportunities for these curious few. Live and fossilized vertebrates, modern and historical methods of communication, a kid’s weather station complete with green-screen, and much more fun! We saw only a small portion of what they offered before we had to leave; we may have to go back.

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We will be in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio areas indefinitely. Justin has to complete the evaluations needed to get a disability rating from the VA. He has a few ongoing things that need to be addressed and the VA has legitimately been so wonderful to him so far. He’s getting help navigating the system from some amazing people at Disabled American Veterans. Hopefully they will all be swift (hahaha, i’m dreaming) and he will be through the process in no time.

In the week after Christmas we hit 100 days!!! We sold our house on September 29th and hit the road the same day. We had been living in the camper for a few months prior to that but the ceremonial termination of the mortgage is the real date of independence, one we can be most proud of.

Until next month…

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Don’t call me Dorothy

 

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The second largest live oak tree in the world is behind that fence. Neat.

Here’s my attempt to write things down before “HOLY CRAP I FORGOT TO WRITE STUFF DOWN” sets in. I’m making an effort, people; Be proud of me. I’m doing this while riding down the bumpy freeway. I’m sure I’ll catch the typos later.

This week we were in Rockport, Texas at Goose Island State Park. The park had A LOT going for it in terms of scenery.

One heck of a front yard

Every night was a new, more beautiful sunset, the kind that make you sigh heavily, relax all the way down to your soul, sink in your chair, and wonder what you did to deserve such a watercolor-painted sky. “It  certainly can’t get better than this.” Oh, but it does.

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The kids fished in their front yard EVERY. DAY. They caught nothing but fun. There were few fish who wanted to make friends with the fishermen.

Even the seasoned anglers were having trouble. One nice woman gave my kids an anatomy lesson on a flounder she’d caught. I saw one other fish that week and it was a Wesson-sized behemoth someone had caught offshore. They all had fun casting and reeling anyway. Mara used her time to collect shells and fall face first into the water. She wanted to test her life vest, I guess. Thankfully she was in about two feet of bay and just gave the water a smooch, catching herself with her arms. No tears, just a lots of PTOOEY-ing and laughing.

We took advantage of the awesome weather one day and hit the nearby beach. It was a weekday so except for the occasional runner it was blissfully quiet.

The kids ended up acquiring a kite along our travels in Michigan. Justin happened to grab it on the way out the door that day but failed to bring the kite string. Wesson’s fishing pole was the cure. It was a very Dad solution. This will be the only way we fly kites from now on.

We also took the ferry to Port Aransas! They had five big ferries running. We were first on the boat both times so we had a big, wide window to see all that was happening. Fun fact: all the boats were named after state roadway engineers. We had the GPS running the first time through and when the boat started moving, the Garmin lady said “in one-quarter mile, exit the ferry.” It gave me a “hah!”

We took the kids to the University of Texas Marine Science Education Center. They had some wonderful hands on things to do and some saltwater fish habitats to explore. There was a telescope set up to look at a nearby lighthouse and we ended up seeing a pod of dolphins as well!

Just inside the doorway was the jawbone of a giant whale. As we were investigating a woman who was hurrying by stopped to talk to the kids. She shared a tidbit and acted like she had to go but then talked to them about the dolphins, then a whale skull, constantly trying to get away yet sucking herself back in, like she had an uncontrollable urge to share and educate. My guess is that she was a professor and probably a parent. We roamed in the wetland education center as well and peered at different birds.

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We drove on the actual beach next to the actual Gulf in our monster truck.

Some creative driving inspired us to order a HOONIGAN sticker for the truck.

We managed to get the kids to walk out on the South Jetty into the Gulf of Mexico. It was a little chilly and a lot windy so we didn’t go fishing but it is on the list for next time.

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We had plans to bring the camper here and spend two nights living on the beach but the weather had other plans. Saturday was the end of our reservation in Goose Island which was fine because that spot was so incredibly windy and a hail storm was coming. Storms rolled into the area on Friday and as of now it is still raining.

Our next scheduled spot was in Galveston Island State Park and they were getting tornadoes. We strongly considered going to Mexico because it was dry and warm and they have tacos. We opted to just go inland a bit and ride out the angry sky. Goliad state park was our new heading and it was perfect. Our benchmark for perfection is rather low, though. It had a full hook up (sewer, water, and 50 amp electric) and a level, pull-through spot. If you’ve ever been in a RV here’s where you say “ahhh, paradise.” It rained the entire time and threatened to flood but a least there were no tornadoes. The park had plenty of historical sites to explore and I wouldn’t mind coming back here again when it’s dry. That’s probably the worst part about traveling when there is inclement weather. I wanted to see all the things and all the things were wet.

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These guys pulled into the park and just about made my day. They ended up parking across the street from us and left the next day before I could ask them any of the many, many questions I had.

We’re now at Lake Conroe RV Resort just north of Houston. THEY HAVE A KROGER NEARBY! I am way too excited about a grocery store, but if you’ve ever shopped at a small town, hole in the wall grocery before you know the struggle. Give me my normalcy, please. Moving on…

We are here because Justin’s parents bought the family a membership to mother-freakin’ Johnson Space Center. As in, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The place where they run the International Space Station. The original mission control. I’m not excited at all. We plan to spend the next few days immersed in NASA. You WILL hear about it, whether you like it or not.

Friday we head back to San Antonio to set up camp at Medina Lake again. My mom and my brother are coming down for a visit and to watch the midgets while Justin has hernia surgery at the Veteran’s hospital. All that is for another day. For now, enjoy the sunset.

“When twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend, though she may wander far” – L.M. Montgomery

The Alamo and a crap ton of deer

Two weeks in the same park, can you believe it? We left Medina Lake today well rested and ready for another adventure! It was a quiet park in the woods, covered in wildlife. There were so many white tail deer that they blocked the road at times. The ground all around us was 41% gravel, 26% dirt, and 79% deer poop. The park residents feed the deer all day every day so they are less wild animals and more like puppies full of pestilence.

There was no escape from the skittish deer puppies. I tried to sit outside one night and the one in the above/right photo would not stop trying to eat my hand. She kept pacing around me and snarfing. I finally had to institute a ‘legs length away’ ban and she still stood there staring at me, licking her nose.

And if we tried to do math? They were all over that.

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Hey kid, got any corn?

San Antonio was a twisty, hilly 50 minutes away from the campground so we’d be remiss if we didn’t go visit the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? Of course you do. I LIVE for places like this. I want to read all the plaques and learn all the facts! The kids were not as enthusiastic but willing to let me give them the Readers Digest version of events as long as they got to pretend to blow Santa Anna away with the cannons.

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Wesson’s favorite piece of history was the ‘line’ that Lieutenant Colonel William Barret Travis supposedly drew in the dirt with his sword, spurring the last bit of umph from his small, tired force.

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to be present for the inspiring bits of our past and how it feels like we’ve missed out on the excitement. This, however, is one speech that I’m glad that I missed.

On our way back to the truck we walked right by the San Antonio Fire Fighters Museum, housed in one of the old fire stations. We got a private tour from one of the volunteers, who happened to be retired from the department and served in that particular station. He was full of excellent tidbits about all of the equipment. The personal experiences he shared were a fantastic addition to an already great collection. To be honest, we all loved this place!

They got to ‘drive’ the fire engines, run the siren, ring the bell, put on kid-sized turnout gear, and play with fire hoses, valves, and sprinklers. The best part? It was FREE! They had fun and learned a few things in the process, and for that I’m grateful to our wonderful guide. I sometimes forget that tactile learning is their jam. It was the perfect after party for us.

Back in the wooded wonderland, the washer/dryer project was finally completed! HOORAY! We’ve only been hauling it around for several weeks now like a giant paperweight or a terrible microwave. Justin had to drill a giant four inch hole in the side of the camper (in the dark) to run the vent and a much smaller hole out the bottom in case the thing decided to flood our boat. Cutting into the outside was both a living nightmare and a giant relief. The camper is a 2017, it technically should not have been built yet. Our clothes were better for it, though, and we are no longer swimming in dirty drawers.

This is so much easier than going to the gross laundromat once a week. Dreams can come true.

Random tidbits:

Thanksgiving was a creative cooking challenge and I think I got a strong B+ on my work. I wrote it all down so I can remember what worked and didn’t, that is here: https://roadschoolnotoldschool.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/thanksgiving-in-a-box/

One of the things we use on a pretty regular basis is our membership to the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, MN. Makes sense, right? The membership was $75 for the whole family and it gives us reciprocal membership to hundreds of science centers, museums, and zoos around the country. We’ve used it so many times it has paid for itself tenfold. This week we used it to visit the DoSeum in San Antonio. Among all of their ridiculously awesome hands-on exhibit they have something called the Spy Academy. The kid runs around talking about his top secret agency all the time. Being in a spy academy is literally his dream.

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We had to go around solving clues, crawling though ceiling vents, and  writing down the secret numbers so we could get our official spy badges and further missions. We’ll be back to San Antonio in a few weeks and you can bet we’ll be in the DoSeum at least once or twice more.

Right now we are in Goose Island State Park on a tiny island that is a puddle away from the Gulf of Mexico. There are oil platforms in the far distance. I walked over to the beach tonight to see the water but there is no moon out and it was so dark that it was like shining my flashlight into a black hole. Tomorrow we’ll hopefully get to play in the sand and catch some fish. How did we get so lucky?