Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Words of Wisdom

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.
If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, July 30, 2012

Eleven Guilty Pleasures of Camping

  1. Not knowing what day it is. While camping, we don’t have to be anywhere, punching a time clock, going to practice, or any other intrusions on our time. Do I know what day of the week it is? Probably not. Do I care? Absolutely not!
  2. Reading. I probably have read, oh, about 50 books this summer at the lake. At home, I just don’t do it. Now, that’s not quite as good as the summer I announced in a staff meeting, when asked to tell something interesting about my summer, “I read 82 adult books this summer!” It took ten minutes to restore order and explain (as opposed to children’s books). 
  3. Smores…. Yum!
  4. Watching birds and squirrels. Admit it, when was the last time (when you weren’t camping) you sat and watched birds, squirrels, and other furry little creatures?
  5. Roasted Marshmallows…. Gooey!
  6. Naps. There’s just something about camping that says, “It’s okay to take a nap”. Thanks, camping.
  7. It appeals to your senses. You breathe the fresh air, smell the black water bonfire, feel the cool, gentle breeze (or maybe, the sweat rolling down your back), see the sunset, shimmery water, and spinning whirly-gigs, hear the birds chirping, and taste the blackened hot dog cooked on a stick…. Aaah…. A picnic for your senses.
  8. Some people call it glamping… this is real camping to me, folks… a travel trailer with Air Conditioning, a toilet, a shower, and a 4 inch memory foam mattress on the bed.
  9. Knowing that you have, by far, the best campsite in the whole campground. The one people pull up and ask, hopefully, “When are you leaving?” Feeling kinda sorry for the people who get the cruddy campsites.
  10. Flip flops. 'Nuff said.
  11. The feeling of being so blissfully relaxed that it’s almost sinful. It should be illegal to feel this good. Feeling the worries, pressure, and stress just melt away the moment you set up camp.

My Children Will Do It Differently

They will know how to live closely with others. They’ll be able to handle that college dorm room with glee after living in a 31 by 8 foot space. They’ll understand that THINGS don’t make people happy. PEOPLE make people happy. Experiences make people happy.

They’ll comprehend that family is THE most important thing in life. They’ll put family first. They’ll know how to work together, to fix things, how to pull their weight. They’ll be nearly immune to peer pressure and labels and mean people, because they’ll be secure in who they are. They will know that they are loved… unconditionally. They’ll learn at their own pace, in the way that best meets their needs. They’ll be accepting of themselves and other people because they know we are all different and valuable. They’ll resist the pull of materialism and consumerism and keeping up with the Jones’. They’ll have an appreciation for this great country we live in that comes only from experiencing its wonders. They’ll know that there’s not one right way to live life. That it’s okay to be different, to step outside the box, to dream…

How Camping is like having a baby

1.                  There’s poop. A lot of it. It smells. You have to dispose of it.
2.                You carry around a lot of stuff, often unnecessary. Remember how, the first time you packed a diaper bag, it took an hour to pack everything? You had to have the diapers, the wipes, the creams, the plastic bags, the 5 changes of clothes, the booger sucker, the 7 spare pacis, the bibs, the bottles, the nail trimmers, the anti-scratch mittens, the spare booties, the infants’ Tylenol, the Mylicon, the list of 37 emergency numbers, the changing pad, and a dozen burp cloths just to step across the street to the neighbors’. While camping, we must have the chocks, the 3 water hoses, the 2 spare sewer hose covers, the Easy-Ups, the 8 chairs (for 4 people), the lights, the gas tanks, the grills, the charcoal starter, the fans, the extension cords, the wind chimes, the spinners, the collapsible trash can, the leveling boards, the 3 carpets, the stepstool, the bocceball and badminton sets, the floats, the noodles, the snorkel sets, the fishing poles, the extra refrigerator… PLUS everything in the camper.
3.                There’s no privacy. I think the lack of privacy in having a baby is, well, self-explanatory. In an RV, if you want to change clothes, you have to either stand ON the bed or go into the kitchen/dining room/living room and hope it’s empty. If you’re in the bathroom, everyone in the camper can hear you. And let’s not even talk about a rockin’ camper…
4.                You get woken up a lot. (If you’re a light sleeper, that is.) Anytime someone gets up in the middle of the night, rolls over, or scratches their nose, it shakes the whole camper.
5.                 They make a lot of really cool products for either, um “hobby”. They even have shows and expos and stores devoted to each one. Camping World or Bass Pro Shops is the new Babies R Us. Depending on your hobby, you can buy a swing that bounces, vibrates, sings, and collapses for travel…or you can buy a hammock…
6.                It’s a lot of work. Changing diapers, sucking snot, burping babies… leveling a camper, dumping wastewater tanks, hammering tent stakes…
7.                 It’s wordlessly rewarding. Even after your most frustrating moments, you’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Our story

This is our view..every day... how lucky are we?

We’ve been full-timing in our RV for 3 months in a location close to home while working on a way to make this permanent… to truly embark on our dream. We still have a house (that we’re paying for while we’re RV-ing) and normal jobs. We both felt that hitting the road was laid upon our hearts. And we still do. We’ve been trying to figure out how to finance the journey. Neither of our jobs is something we can do while mobile. That’s the only thing holding us back right now… jobs and health insurance. School’s out for summer, so we’ve tried out the full-time RVing thing while we’ve been looking for a way to finance the dream. We really thought it would happen. We’ve prayed about it, researched, talked to people, spent countless hours online looking for a job or business we can do online and make enough to live the dream. Three months ago, we felt confident that it would happen. By August. We’d be able to quit our jobs, get rid of all our junk, and hit the road while our kid are still kids. Now, I’m not so sure. A week from today, my job will begin again. It’s a great job. I love it. But it’s not on the road with my family. So, now what? We’re still hosting… till the campground closes in Mid-Sept. So, as of now, we will continue to full-time it, driving back and forth to work and school. Our oldest will start homeschool here with Dad. We’ll still keep looking for the magic bullet to finance our dream. But it’s hard right now. I look at other Families on the Road and want to know how they can do it. Bone-crushing disappointment and discouragement threatens to swallow us whole. If not this year, maybe next year…

Honey, Get the Fork!

Let me preface this post by explaining that it’s humor… not in any way, shape, form, or fashion to be taken literally. I do not advocate cannibalism. Or hurting kids. Or violence of any kind. Not even to bugs. Okay?
Now that we have that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way…

Recently, while frustrated at a nameless child in our trailer-hold (like my new word?), I remarked, “I understand why some wild animal mothers eat their young.” (Don’t judge me… it was a bad, bad day!)

Well, Brian thought that was the funniest thing ever. (I try.) We’ve since begun saying, “Honey, Get the fork” when said nameless children are behaving like little angels devils. This is NOT to be confused with “Honey, Get the Stick!”

Camping vs Disney

We’ve long considered camping to be our vacation destination. Those who know us don’t have to ask... if school’s out, we’re at the lake. Sometimes our kids hear of a friend going on a cruise… or to Disney… or to Panama City… or the Bahamas… and they come up with a grand plan for us to do something extravagant like that. They’re all gung ho about it- until we explain this simple fact:
We can go to the beach, Disney, etc. for a week.
Or we can camp for over a month for the same amount of money.
You decide. 

Why We're Not Keeping Up With the Jones'

We’re not fancy people. We’re not rich people. We’re not normal people. We don’t have to live like the Jones’. We don’t covet the giant, cookie cutter houses with the giant mortgage and the newest cars and the giant credit card bills necessary to finance that kind of lifestyle. We’ve never had that… by any means. Never wanted it. Yes, sometimes it would be fantastic to drive a brand new car that runs like a dream rather than having to fix things here or there on our older models. But we don’t want the payment that comes with a new car… so we make do with what we have. Even living a modest lifestyle as we do, we realized something: We work, away from the other three people who matter most in the world to us, to earn money to allow us to have the things we really don’t want. Since we’ve been full-time RVing, making that house payment every month makes me sick. I look at that house as a giant money gobbler, filled with other money-gobbling things we don’t need or want. Other than stuff like winter clothes, photo albums, seasonal decorations, and a few cherished keepsakes, it’s junk. If we’ve lived without it for three months, it’s junk. Clutter. Mess. Stuff we don’t need, but that robs us of money, time, and emotional energy. We spend time away from our loved ones to pay for…that… WHY? Our kids have bedrooms filled with stuff… toys, games, balls, dolls, cars, robots, blocks, animals…that they don’t touch. Probably don’t even know they have, to be honest about it. We worked to buy that stuff… instead of spending time with our kids. And everyone knows that’s what kids want more than anything… time. Living full-time in our RV has given us that…time. We’ve been together almost 24-7… and we love it! No, it’s not always easy or fun. Sometimes I just want to get a fork. But this- THIS crazy lifestyle of a 31 by 8 foot space, ultimate togetherness- THIS is the true American Dream.

An amazing sight

We saw the most magical thing yesterday. Let me set the scene for you first. We’re all in the water, talking, playing, and having fun. It’s a sunny day, warm, but not too warm. We’re together. That’s all that matters anyways…
Ahead, we see a bird soaring in circles. As we watch it, we realize… Can it be? No. Wait, it is! A bald eagle.
We’d never seen one of these majestic birds in the wild before, so it was quite an experience. We watched it glide through the sky in lazy circles for 5 or 10 minutes before deciding to get the camera. Of course, as is Murphy’s Law, it flew away before we could snap a photo. Oh well.
It’s difficult to explain the way we felt, seeing such an extraordinary bird soaring free.

Swirly Sunny Car Crayons

Have you ever had a SSCC? No? You absolutely must try it. They are just beautiful, dahling.
You need: a muffin tin and some old crayons (Do yourself a favor and use Crayola. Only Crayola. Don’t try to save 2.7 cents on the other brands… they are waxy.)
You can use the same muffin tin as for Sidewalk Chalk Paint…. Not one you plan to eat out of again. Unless you like the taste of wax in the morning…. Then, by all means, eat out of it J
Peel and break up the crayons into little pieces. Put the pieces into a muffin tin. Here’s your chance to get all crazy with the Cheez Whiz and make some funky color combinations, like Patriotic (red, white, and blue), Diva (Purple, pink, silver), and Rainbow (can you guess?).

Put the muffin tin on a foil-lined baking sheet (again, use the foil unless you want a little wax with your fries). Stick it on the dash of your car, truck, or SUV, in a sunny spot on a hot day. Don’t try this in January when it’s snowing. You will be disappointed.
Depending on the temp outside, wait 1-3 hours, until the wax is melted and swirly looking. Bring your crayons inside. Let them cool completely. Completely. Then, turn the muffin tin upside down over your baking sheet and whack it… hard… till the crayons fall out. Don’t be tempted to try to pry them out with a butter knife. Cool and Whack. Cool and Whack…

Thrifty Crystals

One of the things we enjoy doing while camping is yard saling and thrift storing. I guess it’s just part of the whole frugal thing. I usually shop here for back to school clothes for myself while we’re camping over the summer. I usually end up with the entire back of an SUV piled slap full of clothes for about 60-75 bucks. I just can’t see spending 25 DOLLARS on a shirt I can buy at the thrift store for 25 CENTS. You know?
When we were recently at the thrift store, I spotted a crystal growing kit for $3. It had been partially used, but still was over half full of stuff.
An opportunity for some roadschooling and some science fun? By all means!
Mixing up the crystals and finding rocks to grow them on was fun, but crystal growing is not one of those immediate gratification things… at all. The kids were like, “So, we let it sit… for a week? What does it do NOW?”
We mixed and let everything sit… as directed, I SWEAR. Really. I did follow the directions. For what they were worth.


We had one quick success. The red geode grew beautifully in the listed amount of time. It’s gorgeous.

The blue and green crystals were supposed to grow in 3-4 days…. Nuh uh. After almost two weeks, I have a blue colored rock and some cool sparkling green crystals that really formed in the bottom of the cup.

The white and clear crystals were supposed to take a week to grow. Covered.
After almost double the recommended time, there was much of nothing. So, we took the covers off, put them in the sun, and left them alone. I figured we’d be tossing all the little liquid filled containers in another day or two.
After a day, the white crystals bloomed… all over the place. They are totally awesome looking. Reminds me of coral.

The clear crystals… nada. Zilch. Not the mama. Jack Diddly Squat.
If you’re keeping count, that’s 2 successes, 2 failures, and 1 so-so response.
Not bad for 3 bucks.

DISCLAIMER: Dad and I enjoyed this much more than the kiddos did. We can delay our gratification, uh huh!
Simple Mom has some great tips for thrifting here: http://simplemom.net/5-must-know-tips-on-thrifting/

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Be Truly Happy

I’ve read a few articles lately that say, for maximum happiness, spend money on experiences instead of things. People have actually spent money to determine this… like in a fancy, costly research study. People who need a study to tell them that have obviously never been camping. This beautiful moment…. Free. The experiences and memories? Priceless.  

Bored? Play Ladderball

Camping 101

  • Nothing, I repeat, nothing, tastes better than a hot dog, dropped in the fire pit that 100 campers have used before you to burn food, trash, and who knows what else. You must, I repeat, MUST get a hearty covering of ashes from said fire pit to properly condiment-ize your dawg before eating. Steak and lobster? Nah. The entrĂ©e du jour is a tube of the finest cuts of leftover meat products, cooked over an open fire until blackened, then dipped in a crust of ashes and charcoal.
  • Fun? You haven’t experienced fun until you wake up to find trash strewed all over your campsite. Those sweet little squirrels just knew that you hanging a bag of garbage in a tree really was asking them to use their cute little claws to tear into the bag and place broken eggshells, moist paper towels, sticky syrupy plates and napkins, fragrant Styrofoam meat packaging with precious little buggy-wuggies crawling all over, and mushy little pieces of tomato all over your campsite. Those blessed little creatures just wanted you to have a wonderful morning surprise. They knew you’d need something to do when you woke up. Bless them.
  • Sleep tight… Remember, there are bears, psychos, and serial killers in every wooded area. Haven’t you ever watched a horror movie? Campgrounds are like playgrounds for the deranged.
  • Beasley’s Law: If you are camping, the weather will be absolutely perfect. 100% of the time. There will be no clouds, rain, storms, lightning, wind, or excessive temperatures to make you run for cover. Or maybe the opposite is true…
  • There is an inverse relationship to how much stuff you bring and how bored your kids are on a camping trip. If you bring nothing, they will be bored the whole time. You will hear “Mooooom, there’s nooooothing to doooooo!” every five minutes. Your list of outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, and other cool links will be rejected. If you bring games, bicycles, art supplies, balls, craft activities, plasticcups, glue, and crayons, the same kiddos will play, happily, with a stick and a rock the whole entire camping trip.
  • When RVing, don’t ever check your sewer hose for leaks or pinholes. Remember how hard you laughed at that scene in RV when Robin Williams got drenched in black water? Well, it is so much funnier when it happens to you personally. You needed a shower, right?

10 Camping Necessities You May Not Have Thought Of:

A crockpot… no heating up the camper to cook J
Glow sticks 
A fan (or two)
Glue (Elmers, to do Glue Hands or other crafts, Super to fix all the stuff that breaks!)
A pancake griddle (to cook bacon and other stuff outside, so you don’t stink up the RV)
A George Foreman (to grill when it’s raining)
Plastic cups. For the normal reason… you know, drinking. Plus they work as contact lens containers in a pinch, or you can do this

Extension cords
Flyswatters. For the reason you think and also this one

Homemade Marshmallow Roasting Sticks

Those fancy schmancy roasting sticks can be a little pricey…
Sometimes you don’t wanna have to go find a stick…
So, here’s what you do: Go buy a NEW flyswatter. This is important, people. Marshmallows + bug guts = yuck-O! Marshmallows do not need the extra protein!
Slide the “swatter” off.  Stick 2 marshmallows on, and roast away!

Camping tips

  1. If you’re like us, and have to bring everything but the kitchen sink (oh, wait, we brought that too!), think carefully about where you are planning to store everything and what you really, REALLY need. Did we need the above items? Nope!
  2. We usually spray our tires and jacks with insect spray to prevent ants from creeping into our camper. A fellow camper taught me a new trick I like even better…. Sprinkle Comet instead. Works like a charm!
  3. Unless you have full hookups, or you want a Honey, Get the Stick moment, use the comfort station during long trips.
  4. Bring a tarp (or use an old shower curtain)… they’re always useful. Ditto with duck tape and Teflon tape. And rope.
  5. Bring a bucket and some laundry detergent. Those sample packs you get in the mail work great for this. Put a little detergent in the bucket and fill with water. When you’re done swimming, dip your swimsuit in this before you hang it on the line to dry. They’ll stay fresh-smelling this way.
  6. Bring twice as many towels, blankets, and clothes than you think you need. Trust me on this.
  7. If your kids are like mine, and they have bikes and scooters or skateboards, bring both. I cannot tell you how many kids my kiddos have met this year that did not bring their bikes camping, but wanted to go ride and play with mine. Scooters saved the day. Ditto with bike helmets if you have extras.
  8.                 If you’ve got a new trailer, practice backing it up and hooking to it at home. Or don’t. It’s actually pretty funny to watch someone driving completely off a site, or husband and wife yelling at each other while moving in tiny increments to avoid hitting the tree they’re now stuck beside.
  9.                 Remember to unplug your power and water and let in your awning before you try to drive away. Don’t ask how we know this.
  10.                 A Pringles can is a great place to store grocery bags. An empty spice container works well to hold q-tips.

Lessons Learned From Camping

Roadschooling Course: Industrial Arts 101

How to fix a noisy, dirty fan...

How to play basketball and soccer without a net

Camping Game: Sidewalk Basket Soccer
This campground is deserted. I’m not sure why. It’s summer… kiddos are out of school. It’s vaca time… but we’re almost the only people in the park. The kids are going nuts. All I hear is the B word… and I’m tired of it! The kids decided to play…. But one wanted to play basketball and the other wanted soccer. What to do, what to do? Especially with no soccer net or basketball hoop.
Invent a new game. Sidewalk Basket Soccer.
You draw two circles (the “hoops”) in chalk. One on either end of the “court”. Next to the “hoops”, draw a “net”(3 sided open rectangle) on either side. The “hoop”, since it is smaller, is worth 5 points. The larger “net” is worth 3 points. Players can choose to kick the ball into the “net”, or dribble and bounce the ball into the “hoop”. The other player can try to prevent the player from scoring like in basketball or soccer. The first player to 20 wins. 

How to learn while camping

Camping Game: Spell Hop

            Once your kiddos are tired of Cross Step, play Spell Hop. Draw a grid for the alphabet in sidewalk chalk. I did a 5 by 5, with Z tacked on to the bottom, but you’ll change the difficulty if you do 7 by 4 or 6 by 4 (ish). For an easier game, make the squares about a foot in size. To make it harder, make them 18 inches or so.  You can put the letters in ABC order for younger kiddos, or random order for older ones. Take turns calling out words for the kiddos to spell by jumping from letter to letter. A 6 letter word earns 6 points, and so on.  If they miss the letter or misspell the word, they get zero points for that round. My guys came up with challenges to earn extra points, like who can jump from A to X. Great way to practice spelling words too!

How to survive camping for months on end

Camping Games: Cross Step
Boredom happens. Especially if you’re camping, and have been for, oh, forever (or actually 3 months now). If you’ve got a patch of pavement and some sidewalk chalk, you’ve got a great way to combat boredom. It’s simple, too.

Draw a grid of squares on the pavement. 10 by 10, 8 by 8, 9 by 7… whatever you choose. I used my shoe to measure about a foot… but, really, no big deal on size, as long as they are big enough to stand in. Mine ended up all wonkyjawed.
Each kid (2-6 players) needs a different colored piece of chalk. Everyone chooses a square to stand in.   One at a time, everyone STEPS to an adjacent square. They then CROSS out the square they were just standing in. Players can only move to a square that is touching their own, and they cannot step in a square that is occupied or has been crossed out. If a player can’t move to another square, he or she is out. The last one standing wins.
This is fascinating to see the strategies that develop after the first time playing…

For another way to play, if the kiddos get backed into a corner fairly quickly and there's alot of open squares left, they can jump to a new square that's not touching...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Camping Fun: Cool thing you probably forgot...

Think I'm gonna start a series called Cool Things I Forgot About.

 Remember Cup Stacking?

 My kiddos have had HOURS worth of fun with a stack of cheapy plastic cups that have been in our camper forever.

 They built towers, castles, raced to stack and unstack them... and they're still having fun....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Skittles Floating S

We had another Fun Friday activity…. We made the S float off a Skittles candy.
Sounds cool as all-get-out, right?

Here’s what you do:
Take 3 different colored Skittles. Put ‘em in a bowl, spaced apart. 
This next part is VERY important: Put them on the counter… NOT a table. NOT anywhere they will be at all jostled. That was my mistake.
Pour enough water over them to completely cover them.
Let them sit for about 30 minutes. You can watch the colors combine, but DON’T touch it!
The S will float to the top of the water- IF you’ve kept it still. Ours... not so much. 

Fun Friday... Glue Hands

We've talked about how you just forget about cool things, right? Think back... think waaayy back..
Back to upper elementary school, maybe even middle school if you were really bored.
Remember doing this?

The kiddos were amazed.

We. Had. A Blast.

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