Reality has set in…

The reality has set in. The fifth wheel is in the driveway and we have started making modifications to make it feel like home. The kids have hung pictures in the bunkhouse and designated space for their belongings. The dogs have even started testing out their favorite places to take naps.

Now starts the long, arduous task of sorting the “brick and mortar” house into things that will stay until we are ready to sell, things that must go either to charity or a yard sale, and things that we just have take with us. It seems like it should be an easy enough task, right? I thought so, too, until today.
We have lived in this house for almost 12 years. That’s enough time to become attached to a lot of “stuff”. I have pictures, keepsakes the kids made for me when they were 2, books, more books, appliances in the kitchen that I don’t even know how to use and a garage full of more stuff. 
We started our sorting/purging in the kids’ rooms. At first, I felt things were just just moving from one pile to another. I couldn’t get a handle on the clutter. Every room in the house was a mess. There was no room at the table, even, for us to eat meals together. So I created a “one touch rule”. We worked through one cabinet or closet at a time. I’d pull something out, make a decision to keep, sell or give away. Anything that was to be given away or donated went straight to the trunk of my car to be dropped off that week. Anything that was designated for the yard sale got a quick price tag and was added to the yard sale table in the garage. By only touching things once, we were able to get a handle on the clutter. Now we just have schedule those yard sales…
I’m learning to let go and trying to focus instead on the journey. I have some big goals for myself on this trip. I think there is value in living in the moment. I’m not always good about enjoying whatever I am currently doing because I’m busy planning for tomorrow, next week or even next year. Life is made up of many journeys and I don’t want to miss any of them. 

The New “House”

Ok…so here it is!

Not quite sure if you can tell, but this thing is damn near as big as our house. It’s a Montana Mountaineer 350QBQ by Keystone.

41 ft long, sleeps 10, and about 8 tons fully loaded!  
One of the best features for me is that once we disconnect the truck I just have to push a button and it auto levels!  So glad I don’t have to fuss with this any more…
Under the main living area is this compartment, lovingly called our basement!  It’s almost big enough to carry all our Christmas decorations…but I think we’ll be cutting that to 1 bin so we can take other essentials 🙁
This is the other side of the basement.  You can see the control center on the right.  This is where the main tank flush pulls are, as well as the water, winterizer, battery disconnect, and outdoor shower are located.  All in a nice waterproof housing.  Very nice!
Although we opted to not go with the entire outdoor kitchen so the we could preserve bedroom space for the rug-rats, they did include an outdoor cooktop and a little wash basin.  
Inside is a decent sized kitchen with plenty of cabinet space, but the biggest concern for us was counter space.  We loved the integrated covers for the stove and sink.  Really gives you that extra space when those things aren’t in use!
Entertainment wise, of course it has the flat screen LCD TV.  But I also had my Wifi Ranger Go2 router connected here with power-over-Ethernet cable running to my Elite antenna on the outside.  That will enable us to pull in open wifi networks and spread them through the camper via our own network.  You’ll also notice the electric fireplace at the bottom to take the chill off without eating all my propane!
Another thing we loved was the free standing table and chairs.  I’m not well shaped for the normal booth layout, so this is very welcomed. There is also a leaf to extend the table and even storage in the chairs.  (Sorry for the dark pic, the sun wasn’t helping me)
I know…what’s so special about a couch…right?  I thought the same thing until I sat on it.  It’s so crazy comfortable I’m about to burn the one in the house and order another one of these.  It’s also a sleeper, so we’ve got room for visitors.
Upstairs is the master bedroom.  We had a king, but I trimmed the platform so we could keep our old queen mattress.  Of course, as a side effect I can now walk beside the bed which is a nice touch!  Under the bed is another huge storage area for those thing you don’t use as much.  No wasted space!
Another big selling point for us was a place for me to work.  There is a small desk area here beside the dresser that will be just fine!  (Again…sorry for the dark shot)
In the closet we have a Splendide Airiston washer on this side…
And dryer on this side…  We won’t be able to wash everything in them, but they will pay for themselves very quickly I think…
Nothing horribly exciting about the master bath except that the throne is really porcelain instead of plastic and it has a real sized shower now.
Moving on to the kids room, here you see Stephanie’s bunk and her couch (also a pull out) below.  She’s already started putting her touch on things as you can see.
Here is Aaron’s bunk and couch (yep…pull out).  His stuff is coming together as well…
Here is the biggest selling point for us.  That entire back wall is storage for the kids.  Toys and clothes and everything else.  This is the only camper that we found like this and it was the clincher for us!  And Aaron would be upset if I didn’t mention that he had his own TV for his Wii U and XBox.
The children also have their own half bathroom.  Nice touch!
And here is the infamous upside down license plate.  Poor guy was in such a hurry….
And that’s the new h5er.  It really will be our “mobile home” and we are super excited!

LineX Bed Liner

Just wanted to drop a note about the Folks at Truck-FX.  They did the spray-in bedliner for me so I could get the fifth wheel hitch installed.  Jennifer was totally helpful from the time I asked for a quote until I picked it up.  Actually everyone was extremely nice and professional.  Take a look at the job they did…excellent work!

And here it is with the hitch in the bed (also kudos to camping world on their excellent install as well).  

It’s home!

Finally we were able to get the new fifth wheel home.  It took a ridiculously long chain of events to make it occur (including an extra set of someone else’s camper keys and a last minute upside down install of our license plate) but we did it.  It was late by the time we stopped parading neighbors through it, so the home pics and more details will come tomorrow…but we made it!

Special kudos to Rob Alvarez for riding with me today.  Totally appreciated!
Here’s a pic of the rig before departing for home.  Pardon the shopping cart, we were using whatever we could find to keep people from parking there.

Saying Goodbye

When Steve and I first started talking about taking a six month camping trip, I admit, I never really thought we would do it. It didn’t take long, though, for discussions of a six month trip to turn into plans to sell our house and camp full time. All four of us love the adventures that travel brings. It’s a great opportunity for the family and you only live once, right?

At first our conversations revolved around all the places we wanted to go. I’d like to take a trip across Canada but Steve prefers the warmer climates. I had to remind Steve that parking the camper in Key West for a year was not the “opportunity” for the family we had originally discussed. At first we thought we would stay close to the east coast. My family is in Virginia and no camping trip would be complete without an extended stay with family. Soon our plans veered further north and to the west. Our kids were open to any route as long as they didn’t have to cross the border into “ichigan”. 
We have a fabulous life in Florida that we sometimes take for granted. We have an amazing homeschool population, Universal Studios and Disney, beautiful beaches, and lots of cultural events. It was no surprise that our conversations eventually turned into concerns about missing friends. When kids go to a traditional school, they have an automatic “pool” of friends. (I’ll save the dreaded topic of socialization for another day.) Kids who are homeschooled have to make a bigger effort to meet friends. Our kids have made some really good friends in Florida. It will be difficult to say goodbye to the families we have gotten so close to. They are more than friends, they are family.
The kids and I have discussed numerous ways to keep in touch with friends. I’ll list them out for you because we think some of them are quite clever.

  • FaceTime, email, text messaging, Skype 
  • Small mail with a twist – think chess by mail
  • FaceTime co-op – we are going to continue our Story of the World co-op, only we will “meet” on FaceTime.
  • YouTube – we plan to share science experiments with our friends by recording them on YouTube. They have agreed to do the same for us. 
  • The blog – Steve and I felt it was important to include the kids in blogging. Not only does it teach a few skills, it also allows their friends to keep track of our travels. 
  • On line classes – the kids plan to coordinate online classes they can take with friends
We are excited to meet new friends. And we already know this is going to be an amazing adventure. We will be back in Florida. It called the sunshine state for a reason! Hopefully our friends will take us up on the offer to come see us as well…wherever that may be!

Big Day…and some trip details!

Well…it’s done.  We’ve officially upgraded to a fifth wheel.  We spent the morning doing our walk through at the Cocoa Camping World and signing the mandatory paperwork.  We even have the shiny keys to prove it!

Unfortunately, we didn’t bring the ship home yet.  I won’t have my hitch installed until next week after I get my spray-in bed liner done, so right now I’m kind of like a kid who peeked at the best Christmas present…you know what it is, but you can’t enjoy it till the big day!  It’s eating away at my soul!!
As an extra bonus, we also got our new Full Time Families membership package.  We are officially family 836.  I’m planning a more thorough review in the near future, but let me just say that I think Kristy is running a hell of a show over there and my entire family is chomping at the bit to get out there and meet some other members and take advantage of some of their programs.  They even have a program for the kids that is similar to the Boy and Girl Scouts kind of setup, but for camping…how cool is that?  You can click the link at the bottom to get more info…I highly recommend it.  Expect to hear more about that as we go!

So…now we’ve got a couple things to figure out before the big trip.  Things like what tires to put on it, what washer/dryer to get, how to set up my workstation, and of course what our path will be on the road trip.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that last one, so let me tell you what I know…
We know we’ll be heading up through Virginia for Stephanie’s Junior Olympics event.  That will be followed by a trip through West Virginia to Ohio where we’ll be staying on land that was once owned by my great grandfather.  Then we’ll go west to stay in Illinois and on to Amana, Iowa (which I think is going to be very cool). After that it’s up through Minnesota all the way to Duluth, and then almost a month in Wisconsin with friends which will end up in Door County.  After that it’s back to Bloomington, IN for the Buckeye Game and then off to the Mississippi River which we’ll follow back south before it gets too cold.  We’ve got some stops in concrete already…and some are just pencilled in so changes can be made, but it’s coming together!  
We’re really looking forward to this adventure and we can’t wait to get started.  We’re glad you’ll be along for the ride too!

The End of the Beginning

So we just emptied out our old travel trailer for the last time.  Tomorrow we trade it in on the new fifth wheel.  I have to admit there is a bit of sadness in letting it go.

It was a year and a half ago that we purchased that camper for way more than we should have, but ultimately I think it was worth every penny.  I learned so much with it.  We learned how to tow and that we probably shouldn’t tow with a Durango!  We replaced the defective toilet (what a pain).  I built a rack for my fishing poles.  We took the kids on their first fishing trip.  Aaron and I installed multi-color LED lights.  Steph even had her 11th birthday slumber party in it.  I could go on and on.

I’m sure there will be multiple new stories to tell in the new 5er, but here are a couple of my more memorable ones that I want to record before they slip away:

The mattress incident
After the very first night sleeping on the mattress that came with the trailer, Karen and I woke up with ridiculous back and neck pain.  It was honestly one of the worst nights sleep of my life.  I woke up, got dressed, grabbed that mattress and hauled it across the campground to the dumpster.  We then spent the rest of the day trying to find a mattress that was the right size and of decent quality.  Eventually we found an Avena at a camping world about an hour away…and that’s how we ended up with a nicer mattress on our camper than in our house.  Funny how things just work out sometimes.

A stranger to the rescue
My favorite memory is of the first time I tried to back in.  We drove into Tomoka State Park (which I highly recommend) and pulled around the loop.  Up to this point we had only stayed at wide open pull throughs…so I was already a bit on edge knowing I had to back it in.  Imagine my surprise when the loop road was so narrow two cars couldn’t pass without trading paint…  Karen hopped out and did her best to guide me, but I just didn’t have a clue.

Low and behold…another camper pulled up behind me and offered to back it in.  Being a nervous wreck, I hopped right out and let him have at it.  He pulled forward to undo whatever mess I had put myself in, then backed it right in like he’d been doing it since birth.  He hopped out, said ‘have a great stay’ and took off.  That was it…no pat on the back…no “you’ll get em next time”… Just left…

Now, although I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t show me how or offer any words of encouragement, it was still a turning point for my camping career.  I now understood that it could be done, and I knew that with experience I’d be able to do it too.  I also learned the camping code of helping your neighbor.  I think that’s one of the things we are loosing in brick and mortar society today, but it’s alive and well in the campgrounds of America….that’s for sure…

So, although tomorrow marks the end of this adventure, I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s also the beginning of a new one.  There will be new learnings and new memories, but my little TBUD camper will always have a special place in my heart.

Timeline game review

This game is great! It is like a history test for all ages! The box suggests for ages 8+ but anyone who can read can play.

It comes in a little tin box. There are different kinds like historical events and inventions. You don’t need a lot of room for this game, maybe two feet. We play on a small table. The cards are very small. They are good for little hands but my dad has big hands and wishes they were bigger. 
You start with 5 cards. The first one to have no cards wins.You have to take turns putting the cards in historical order.

A Typical Day

I’ve been asked a few times about what our typical homeschool day looks like. First, I would say there isn’t much that’s “typical” about our family. I don’t have a label for what we do either. When I first started this homeschooling journey I had some negative preconceived notions. The funny thing

is, I didn’t even know anyone who homeschooled. My belief then was that a rigorous academic course was necessary for my kids to stay ahead of their peers.

It didn’t take long for that to blow up in my face. Sitting at the table memorizing spelling words was a daily battle. Practicing math facts brought about tears. Even reading, a once beloved pastime, was a chore. I finally had enough of the fighting and just quit. I stopped requiring any time at the table. I didn’t talk about math facts, and I closed up all the books and put them on the shelf. Returning my children to a classroom was not an option. I had to figure out something.
Steve and I had long conversations about what we wanted for our kids and what we thought were important subjects for them to learn. We read more about various homeschooling methods and started making lists of our favorite curriculums. I joined a couple groups and signed up for a weekly coop.
I highly recommend a support group! That group can be made up of whomever you’d like and is probably more effective if their beliefs in homeschooling are different than yours. It’s in that difference where I learned the most. 
I also found the support of a coop to be very helpful. We have been participating in various co-ops for about four years. I make new friends, my kids make new friends and there is the expertise of other parents to help teach my children. There is also an accountability associated with a co-op. The only reason I have completed two volumes of Story of The World is because I was accountable to another family to stay on track. 
Back to the original purpose in this post. What does our typical day look like? My kids have a list of “requirements” that I ask they complete each day. The list changes based on individual need. I also ask for input from the kids to create their lists. Khan Academy, art, language, reading, writing, puzzles and chores are currently on the list. We do history and science in a weekly co-op. I purposely left the categories vague. For example, I’m not concerned about which language the kids learn right now. Stephanie was interested in ASL for a few months and then decided she’d rather learn French. Now, both of my kids study French online and are excited to be able to chat with each other knowing I can’t understand them. I call that incentive!  Reading is another category purposely left open for interpretation. I used to require the kids read aloud every day. I quickly found that I was creating a dread when it came time to read. It’s when I started allowing operations manuals, graphic novels, magazines, etc to count towards reading time that both of my kids were excited to read. In fact, many days they get sucked into a book and beg for more time. 
I don’t have all the answers, I’m still learning from others and from my own mistakes. I do know that when I lightened up and realized that there was no way the kids couldn’t learn that our days were much more enjoyable. There have been days in the past when I suggested we spend the day at Disney and blow off school work only to have one of the kids ask for time to finish up their math. (They are paid for math progress. I call that incentive, too!) 
In a perfect world, the kids would be in charge of their own education. I’m just available to facilitate the process. I hope to create a love for learning that spans all of the subjects and lasts a lifetime.