Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Black Hills of South Dakota

  20150816_140246 We headed to The Black Hills of South Dakota for one reason and one reason ONLY, Mount Rushmore!  I think it’s written into law that you cannot take a trip around the US and not see Rushmore!  So we headed out to do just that! We spent 9 days in Custer, SD as our home base.

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The main drag.
The family owned market, where the owner showed the girls how to stock the produce.
The family owned market, where the owner showed the girls how to stock the produce.  We loved this store, and walked to it almost everyday!

It was so much more than we expected it to be!  There was so much more to do and see then just Rushmore! It’s funny how a vacation can sneak up on you right smack dab in the middle of a year long RV trip, but that’s how this place felt to us; a surprise vacation!  I highly recommend you visit The Black Hills! First, the place we stayed.  It was a tiny little RV park, right on the edge of the tiny town of Custer, where you could walk to the quaint neighborhood market.

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This was the “front office” where the manager, a feisty old lady lived full time, and held weekly potlucks where guests and locals would all hangout and talk and play corn hole around a fire. If we ever own and RV park, weekly pot lucks will definitely be on the schedule!
The kids even met some friends on potluck nights!
The kids even met some friends on potluck nights!
The spaces were crazy tight, but at least we were on the end.
The spaces were crazy tight, but at least we were on the end.

So just to name a few of the sights and things to do in the area.. Custer Sate Park was so big and had so much going on in way of wildlife tours, ranger talks, campgrounds, jr ranger programs, etc. that it’s much more comparable to a national park, then most state parks!

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Buffalo herd in the park.
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Burros, aka Wild Donkeys. So cute how all the mamas had a baby that was its exact twin!
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Feeding the burros apples.
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Reconstructed fort that trappers illegally built on Native American land at the time.
This was a hard booklet to complete!  Good thing we had 9 days to do it!  Jr Rangers once again!
This was a hard booklet to complete! Good thing we had 9 days to do it! Jr Rangers once again!

Also not too far away is The Badlands National Park!  Named for its impossible terrain to cross, and a very cool sight to see….and climb on!  We saw loads of big horn sheep and rabbits, and prairie dogs during our day in the park!

Right before we took this picture I fell out of the truck racing to see the big horn sheep herd that was walking near our parking spot.  And I mean I fell bad!  The rest of the day I walked around with a scratched up leg and bum.
Right before we took this picture I fell out of the truck racing to see the big horn sheep herd that was walking near our parking spot. And I mean I fell bad! The rest of the day I walked around with a scratched up leg and bum.
But I got the shot!
But I got the shot!
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Look Mama! I climb too!
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So fun to climb on!

20150816_171251 On our way back from The Bad Lands, we stopped at Wall Drug.  It’s one of those places that becomes famous cause it was close to something cool, before that thing was cool, and it gives out free water.  That was important in this landscape way back when.  Wall Drug is just as crazy and over the top as we expected.  Our only surprise was that we actually liked it!

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We had lunch and played and headed back on the 1.5 hour drive back to Custer.

20150816_141001 20150816_140451 So there were also a couple of caves in the area to see as well!  Jewel cave is a National Monument and Wind Cave is a National Park.  Both were less then 30 minutes away from us!

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Very rare “Box Work” formation in Wind Cave.
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Ranger led talk was great and gave us lots on information on the family that first ran tours in the cave!

 

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Jewel cave, where we just popped into one of the rooms, cause Mama had all the littles by herself this day.
On a hike.
On a hike.

And then of course, there was Mt Rushmore!

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Each eye is 16ft wide, and Gorge Washington’s nose is 20ft long!
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We walked the Presidential Trail all around the monument.
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We had a great day walking the trail, learning about the monument and the sculpture, including the tools that were used to make Mt Rushmore. And we also randomly caught a ranger talk for kids on how to set up a tee pee.
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Our impression? It’s smaller than we thought. Just kidding. It’s amazing! And just the right size! Very well done national monument!
We left with a couple of not so new Jr Rangers too!
We left with a couple of not so new Jr Rangers too!

In addition to all these natural wonders, there is also a TON of tourist trap type places to visit!  We did ONE of them!  And only because I had planned to meet up with another fulltime RVing mom and her kids.  It was great to talk with a mom that is doing the same thing I am with my kids and she’s from Austin too!  And the kids did have fun at The Reptile House!

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You want to pet the alligator Jonah?

20150814_160844A lot of our time was spent just hanging out in Custer Stat Park, driving Needles Hwy, swimming, hiking, etc. 20150820_142207 20150820_135441 20150820_132347 It was a seriously sweet 9 days in a place we’d never been before!  I see us returning in the future and will think of it fondly until then.

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Homeschooling Update

So it’s been about 6+ months now of our homeschooling adventure.  How are things going, you ask?  Pretty good.  It turns out that homeschooling doesn’t have to be THAT hard, or so we have learned.  My rigorous schedule for homeschooling was overwhelming and just plain IMPOSSIBLE for a newbie with two younger kids to accomplish and as it turns out, unnecessary.  Hours and hours of homeschooling everyday is unnecessary because it turns out that when kids have lots of free time on their hands, they do a lot of learning on their own!  Loralai is now a master bike rider and roller skater, can cook her own simple meals, draws often, and is a tenacious reader!  Her reading level has gone from beginning 2nd grade level to a 4th grade level since we started homeschooling!!!  This can be only be due to 1 thing: she has time to read now.  Period.  When she was in school, she was too exhausted to do much of anything in the afternoon, and getting up at 6am didn’t leave much time for night reading.  Now she stays up WAY too late most nights reading for hours, which has its good and bad points, but it is the sole reason her reading level has jumped 1.5 grade levels in 6 months time.

Loralai is a wiz at math.  It’s great!  Keeping her attention on the lesson is a challenge, but she gets things quickly.  We are progressing.

Spelling and writing continue to be our weak points, but those are also the most difficult subjects, so we’ll keep plugging (EN: one could even say, “chuggin'”) along, and I feel confident she will be able to write an acceptable story (with the aid of spell check) before she’s 20.  This is the one area that I’m actively seeking a curriculum though.

We go on lots of adventures!  To the library, to  museums, to community events, to caves, to lava fields, to national parks, and to reservoirs, and, and, and…  We hike, we swim, we explore, we have fun!  These are our social studies and science lessons, and sometimes math, reading, writing, and PE lessons as well.  We’ve made prints of animal tracks, used our 5 senses while hiking to observe our surroundings, seen dolphins swim, petted alligators, made volcanoes explode, seen Old Faithful erupt, watched buffalo herds, fed apples to wild donkeys, skipped rocks, climbed rocks, visited farms, and collected “pets” to study in almost every location we’ve visited.  It’s been a blast for the entire family!  My favorite part is that we got to do it all TOGETHER!

Drive days are great for getting big chunks of school work done in a short time!  That’s one trick I’ve learned!

Juliet is learning a ton as well!  She demanded to do school work like her sister and what Juliet wants, Juliet GETS!  So my little preschooler has learned the days of the week, the months of the year, how to work a calendar, how to count and write numbers to 20, count by 10’s, and her letter sounds!

It’s amazing!  I CAN teach my own kids!  And it doesn’t even take that much effort on my part.  Who knew!

Now the big question: Will we go back to regular schooling when we return?  Answer:  I don’t know.  I guess we’ll see.

Until then, we will be learning everyday, in sometimes unconventional ways, TOGETHER!

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A Birthday Girl in Pipestone Minnesota!

20150812_155532smSo we headed to Pipestone, Minnesota for 3 reasons:

1. We had not been to the state of Minnesota yet and I wanted to put that sticker on our US map.  (Yes, these are seriously the things that drive me (EN: there are weirder bucket lists.)

2. It was home to a National Monument. (Which we are very fond of.)

3. It was just a 1-day drive away and that was important because Lou’s birthday was on Sunday and we didn’t want to be driving for two because that would overlap her special day.

Lots and lots of sunflower fields on our way into Minnesota.
Lots and lots of sunflower fields on our way into Minnesota, like a CRAZY amount!

So we arrived at Pipestone RV park and it was a fine park.  We liked it enough.  We could have done without  the crazy amount of flies and slight trash smell is all.  But it was within walking distance to a pretty cool park.

Skate Park!
Skate Park!
Bean conquered a fear this day!
Bean conquered a fear this day!

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Turns out Jonah is not into the meditating.

In the town near Pipestone and the surrounding area you couldn’t walk a block without running into a tee-pee, so this meant we spent a lot of time in tee-pees this week which was fine by us!

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Picnic in a tepee
Picnic in a tepee

We also spent some time at Pipestone National Monument, the only place where pipestone is still mined today by registered Native Americans.  We watched videos and walked the property and watched Native Americans carve the stone into pipes, and earned jr. ranger badges!  It was a cool place.  I really should have bought a pipe!  Drat!

20150812_151857smThe biggest part of this week by far was celebrating our oldest Little turning 8!  How did this happen?!  I know everyone says that and it’s so over done,  but I’m seriously asking: Please tell me, how do I have an 8 year old (EN: Time, for an individual, is experienced subjectively; time flies when…)?!

20150809_210429smI’m so proud to be this sweet, spunky, fun, adventurous, caring  little girl’s Mama!  We love you to the moon, all around Jupiter, bounce off Pluto and into infinity, times infinity!  Please just come visit me LOTS when you are all grown up, and you can have as many popsicles as you want!

20150809_210654smNow, STOP!  Right now, this was it!  8 is Great!  But stop RIGHT HERE!!!!  No more growing!

We had a day of presents, including Lou’s new inline skates that she barely takes off now, and a scooter!  Daddy made her 3rd birthday cake to celebrate, and I took the girls to see In and Out at Lou’s birthday request.  It was a really fun, family day celebrating our special girl!

Being so close to Sturgis time and place, we saw some interesting hogs!
Being so close to Sturgis time and place, we saw some interesting hogs!

This was an okay stop for us, and I did get to put that Minnesota sticker on the RV map, but we decided to leave a couple of days earlier than planned and head to The Black Hills of South Dakota where there was lots more to do!

Oh, the skies!
Oh, the skies!
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Down on the Farm

20150807_112240smWriter’s Note: I had written a masterful piece on our visit to Gina and Brandon’s Farm in Kansas.  It was witty, heart warming, and portrayed them and their fabulous kids as the rock stars they are.  And then it got deleted.  Don’t ask me how (editor’s note: wasn’t me either (editor’s note: from now on further editor’s notes will be abbreviated to simply EN (EN: this is nice))).  And definitely don’t ask Joe how; he will tell you it was my fault.  So I took a couple of days to cry about it and now this is my attempt at recreating the incredible post that was lost.  Here we go! 20150803_101729smOnce upon a time in Austin, long ago when we both only had one kid, I met Gina in a parenting group I ran.  She was awesome and had cool tattoos and I wanted to be her friend so bad.  However, she moved away to start a farm with the love of her life before I really got the chance.  But thanks to Facebook we stayed in touch.  We started this trip and she’d message me about her love of travel, and I’d message her about our (Joe’s) love of farming.  Joe had been harping on the farm thing more than usual in the weeks leading up to this visit, and so on a whim and in a wine induced state, I messaged Gina one night and asked if she’d be willing to put us up on her property for a week and we’d pay it off with Joe’s very eager farm laboring.  She was like, “Come on with it!”!  (I’m paraphrasing here, she talks way cooler than this!)  And that is how we ended up in Kansas in August! 20150803_101004smWe pulled up to their rolling, 20 acre farm on a (I have no freaking idea what day we rolled up on, I’m so far behind on blog posts, the details have left me).   We drove up their lovely long driveway, past one of their ponds, and parked under a huge pecan tree.  It was so farmy and perfect! 20150803_172941smAll week, Joe kept busy working as usual, and when he wasn’t working he was mowing, driving the tractor, hauling things, or setting stuff on fire.  He was happy and very much in his element.  I realized just HOW in his element he was when he was out doing farm work one afternoon and Jonah was insisting that he get to drive the mower Daddy was on too!  So I walked him over to Dad.  And where I go, Darby goes.  And since Joe was working by the goats, Darby took the opportunity to tell them who was boss……again.  This time she got the female so worked up that she jumped the fence, and was set to bolt far, far away.  That is, if Joe had not leaped into action and caught her mid air and placed her back into her pen.  My hero!  (I’m realizing now that reading this may be the first time Gina and Brandon discover this fiasco even happened.  And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for my my naughty little chug dog.)20150807_111604sm

20150808_110513smI was busy with the kids, as usual, but on a farm; so awesome! 20150805_174808smWe hunted for eggs, fed the chickens our scraps, recycled, and burned our paper.  And that’s what I miss about being in one place.  Weird?  Maybe.  But nonetheless true. 20150807_191707smLoralai had a 10 year old boy to try and keep up with, Dylan.  They did all of Dylan’s farm chores together, rode bikes, made prank calls (to me), watched movies on their gloriously fast internet, and occasionally ignored one another just long enough so that the other didn’t think they didn’t have better things to do if they had to.  This is definitely a sign of having an older kid.  Sigh, where does the time go?! 20150808_112222sm

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Loralai’s homeschool was summed up this week in a unit study about the food service industry…blah…blah…bullshit….bullshit. Okay what I meant to say was, Loralai was too busy playing to do much schoolwork this week, but she did spend one full day creating an entire restaurant including menu, cooked food items, cleaned RV, painted place mats, wrote monetary amounts for items, made signs to market restaurant, and more! Homeschool!
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Oh yeah, we reviewed time too! That spelling is a work in process, as it is for me too.

Bean tried to keep up with those bigs for a day, gave up, and did a lot of painting, and trying to sneak into “the big house” to watch Annie a million times. 20150803_102431smJonah had Harper to learn lessons about sharing with others.  They jumped on the trampoline, swung around, and generally made a mess of things, but together.

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Sand pit made out of an old tractor tire, in the crop fields, so kids can play while you plant. I mean, this is just cool!
This old rocking horse was a pretty hot item!
This old rocking horse was a pretty hot item!

20150807_203509smAll this going on while in a setting with two goats, that Darby just loved to get riled up, 20150803_101259smdozens of chickens clucking about, 20150807_211021smand two sweet farm dogs, Mavis and Sven. 20150808_111539smI left my heart in Kansas with Sven when we said our goodbyes.  He went from barking at me as I sat outside, to  scaring the hell out of me by silently sneaking up on me in the darkness as I stared at facebook, and finally just chilling with me and putting his huge head in my lap and demanding I pet him and never, ever stop.  We are in love, and set to me married in June.  Darby does not approve and is planning to make a big stink at the wedding (EN: how scandalous). 20150806_184206sm 20150806_175420smBeing at their home was a gift.  They have the farming, fields, ponds, zip-lines, bike trails, hills, and everything is just so green!  Their house was old, full of character with a great big kitchen right in the middle of it all that always had a box of home grown veggies sitting on the counter and dozens of farm eggs in the washroom.

I think the best gift anyone can give me at this point in my life, is a carton of farm fresh eggs.  Gina gave me two!
I think the best gift anyone can give me at this point in my life is a carton of farm fresh eggs. Gina gave me two!

On any given night, they’d pull out meat from their basement freezer full of animals they had raised and processed.   And everything tasted a million times better then anything we get in the grocery store.  They’ve got a pretty cool thing going and I hope that even when they face breaking appliances, rusty tractors, faulty wiring, and soggy basements that they know what a good thing they have!  I think they do.

20150807_111412smIn the midst of all the farm fun, we did get out and do a few things in the tiny town of Atchinson.

Swimming at the town pool!
Swimming at the town pool!

One of my favorite field trips was visiting Amelia Earhart’s house that she grew up in!

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Nice digs!
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Her Daddy was a judge.
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She also loved to sew and had her own design company.
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Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

We also visited The International Trees of Friendship, where they had different trees from all over the world.

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I think that as long as I live there will never be, a poem as lovely as a tree.

And we visited a lovely city park.

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Such a great week, even with the heat, and the fried power cord, which meant no AC for 2 days!  And I don’t think it did anything to rid Joe of the farming bug, quite the opposite.  Shucks!

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The Gateway to the West!

 

20150801_130818smHow appropriate for us to pass through St. Louis (known as The Gateway to the West) on our way out west!  We so rarely get to be “appropriate,” so we thought we’d take this opportunity! Joe’s Uncle, Perry Simeroth and his family were the goal for visiting the fine city of St. Louis.  It was a short visit, just 4 days, but it was a good one!  This also marked the second week in a row that someone let me do my laundry at their house there by avoiding the usual $15 charge and semi-dry towels that usually plagues our RV tripin’.   Happy me!

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The Simeroth Clan. We had such a good time with Joe’s family!
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This lucky little girl got to celebrate her birthday for the 2nd time with family, a week early this time!

Then as a total surprise to me, during one of my regular conversations with my mom, (you talk to your mom more than anyone while road tripping across the US), she told me that my cousin, whom I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, lived in St Louis!  It blew my mind, and I set to work getting ahold of him right away!  He made room for us to hang out and meet his twin boys at Magic House!  It was a fun time, but really just so special seeing him again, reminiscing about old times, like when we would steal grandma’s cigarettes, and drive the golf cart through ditches.  And of course getting to meet his boys was a treat!  I just kept thinking what a good Daddy he turned out to be!

Little John
Little John
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Just look at all this CUTE LaFourness right here!!!
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The kids had a blast playing with each other. Eventually we just let them run and quit trying to keep up with them.
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Serious fort building going on right here!
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I swear, she’s my cutest kid! ;)

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Just sad we didn't have more time to spend together.
Just sad we didn’t have more time to spend together.

Another day the Simeroth clan escorted us to the famous FREE St. Louis zoo!  It was magnificent!  Best I’ve ever seen!  But I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Picnic on the lawn.
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We’re suckers for merry-go-rounds!
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This was also a big day for AJ, who learned to hold a baby!
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This gorgeous guy was so close, he was spraying us with water! I could have stared at him all day!
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Sweet elephant family.
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LOOK at how CLOSE! Crazy!
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But if we had never left the elephants, we never would have seen the hippos!
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Or got to work on the farm.
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And I don’t even want to think about how crushed Jonah would have been if he hadn’t gotten to see those meerkats!  Not to mention how devastated I would have been if I didn’t have this picture to look back on for years and years and years to come!

One night, Perry, Mary, Thomas, AJ, and Rob all came over to our RV for dinner.

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The girls were ecstatic when Thomas played Life with them! Guilty mom moment! Since they are always asking me to play but I’m always busy. Glad they got that out of their systems now! ;) Thank you Thomas!
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Rob and Jonah just chilling. Rob followed our little guy around the whole week! Which was AWESOME, cause Mama had laundry to do!

And now a few random pics from the week.

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Joe, doing what he do! Love him!
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Miss Sassy Pants helping Daddy do what he do.
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I got the gloves Dad!
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Buddies.
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Lou loved watching Thomas practice his flute. He’s pretty killer at it!
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Jonah was in heaven with all these toys they brought out! Evidently, if you have lots of age appropriate, manly toys for your toddler to play with they leave you alone for a few minutes at a time. Mary let us take a few on the road with us. My sanity thanks you, Mary!

We also threw in a trip to the old courthouse near the arch and Joe and I were released to GO ON A DATE!  How do I even describe the peace that comes from being able to sit at a table while someone brings you delicious, hot food and you talk at a normal volume to someone you generally like (editor’s note: really?)?  I can’t.  I will just say that it was a much enjoyed and appreciated night.

Thank you for the good time St. Louis, Simeroth Clan, and Lafour’s!  I’ll think of you every time I use a clean towel for the next 2 weeks!  We hope to see you again soon!

Writer’s Note:  After this week, Rob Simeroth is now the official editor of our Chuggin’ Along Blog.  Cause we should all be able to embrace our weaknesses; and some of my worst happen to be spelling and grammar.  And Rob happens to be brilliant in those departments and funny too (editor’s note: as well as witty, charismatic and most of all, humble (but not photogenic apparently))!  So THANK YOU for being smarter than me Rob and making me look smarter just by knowing you.  You are making this world a smarter place.  I think you are smart.  I hope you got that. (editor’s note: I got it)

These are the two people bringing you these blog updates.  You are in good hands.
These are the two people bringing you these blog updates. You are in good hands.
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10 Things You Need As A Full-Time RVer (with kids)

Every beginner RV’er has one burning question: “What do I need?!”  Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not an Insta-pot (don’t have one), the latest shelving system, or a bike rack made out of PVC pipe.  The things you need are basic, require no creativity or visits to your Pinterest boards, and they are laid out for you below.  You are welcome.  Now go get started traveling!

1. Water jugs- You need them!  Because having them makes your life BETTER!  If you drink and use the jug water for cooking and washing you can stay parked in a site that provides no water for LONGER!  Do you understand what this means?  No?  Let me elaborate then.  First you need to know that when you have no water connections you only have the water in your 80-100 gallon RV water tank(Joe and I argue about the precise capacity of this tank, I say 80, he says 100 and both of us are too lazy to actually look into this, so we just argue about it.  We call it flirting).  This is all the water you have for 5 people to drink, bath with, cook with, wash dishes with, and flush the toilet with.  And 80-100 gallons goes fast!  Enter water jugs!  We have 5 of them and I wish we had 10!  People say that for every cigarette you don’t smoke, you add minutes to your life.  Well for every time you use the jug water instead of tank water, you add minutes for your stay.  You see, moving your RV means packing it all up, cleaning, pulling in the slide, hooking up the truck, pulling up levelers, making sure none of your kids get run over, driving to the dump/fill station, waiting in line (there’s ALWAYS a line), doing your thing, driving back to your site, parking that big motherfucker, and setting it all up again!  I didn’t even put in the part about the exhaustion that comes from the mental preparation this takes and it somehow ends up taking a whole half day to do.  Sooooooooo, anything we can do to put this off for as long as possible is an important thing.  Enter water Jugs.

2. Box Wine- Box wine is perfect and nessessary for a Family RVer on SO many accounts. It is not glass and therefore no worry about it breaking in transit.  It’s 4 bottles of wine in 1; how awesome is that?!  Once removed from it’s box, the space it takes up shrinks with the amount it holds in that classy bag with the spout thingie it comes in.  And if you need more space, just drink wine. (editor’s note: classy, sassy, or safe: choose 2)

3. Electric Heater- You might know enough about RV’ing to think this is that I am so cheap when electricity is included in your RV stay regardless of how much you use, whereas our RV heater runs on propane that I have to pay out of pocket for.  But no.  I must have an electric heater so when Joe is adamant about 64 being an acceptable temperature to sleep in, I can aim that bad boy right at me, and me alone while I read a book under a queen comforter and wearing sweat pants, a sweater, and fuzzy socks.

4. Hair Wrap- I know, I know; I should throw that thing away!  I look like a sister wife, trying to pull off looking like a hippy when I wear it.  But I LOVE it!  And, it’s very important, cause you see back to that limited water thing at the top of this list, you don’t take that many showers in this lifestyle.  I mean, I’m sure there are some that do, and there are some that will lie and tell you they shower frequently.  But my truth is that I get two a week.  For realz.  So my system is this:  shower, rock great bangs for a day while keeping rest of hair that I haven’t gotten around to brushing yet in a sloppy bun.  Day two, still rock the bangs and finally get around to brushing my hair, but still wear it in a bun because I have 3 kids and stuff to get done.  This ain’t no beauty pageant; this is real, yoga pant wearing, get shit done, life!  Day 3, The hair wrap comes out, and when it does I’m actually relieved!  I don’t have to have any hair AT ALL touching any part of me!  I have an excuse now (my hair is too greasy to any longer be acceptable to be seen in public)!  Yahoo!  And that is why the hair wrap is a MUST; for Day 3…..and maybe Day 4 as well.

5. The BOB or any good/BIG stroller- I could not live without the BOB!  When we first started this RV lifestyle, we questioned even bringing it.  Where would we put it was the biggest question.  But my stubbornness won out when I insisted that we had just bought the thing, NEW, and I was bringing it if for no other reason than I had spent so much.  Now I would gladly drive with that thing sitting on my lap if I had to.  On days when Joe’s working and I have all the kids it’s like having 75% of a husband with us.  It holds all our crap.  It picks up 2 and sometimes all 3 kids at once and takes them places (okay, maybe 90%).  Everyone is happy when they don’t have to even walk to the places we go!  And it has cup holders to hold Mama’s coffee, or wine depending on the time of day. (editor’s note: wine and strollers together? see previous note)

6. Sound Machine- How do you do it!?  How do you keep a baby asleep with 5 people in 200sqft and no real doors?!  With a sound machine.  That hugely annoying imitation of a water fall sound is what keeps my sanity.  It gives me my nights so I can stay up until 2 a.m. scrolling FB or watch episodes of The Office on my phone, all the while telling myself that this really is going to be the last one, and making plans for distracting Joe when he gets the ding on his phone from AT&T the next day notifying him he went over on his data plan (again), so I can erase the text before he sees it.  And once in a blue moon, when the stars aline and we are actually home at Jonah’s nap time, it gives me an hour or two to cook, or teach, or read without someone stuffing their hand down my shirt.

7. Quarters- You can NEVER have enough quarters!  You need them to do laundry.  You no longer have those magical machines 5 feet from your bedroom.  You have to actually haul all your stuff (Thank you again BOB!) to a place separate from your home then pay (with quarters) to do your laundry and then actually move clothes from the washer to a dryer in a reasonable time.  So mildew smelling clothes caused by them sitting in the washer for 3 days, is a thing of the past.  But clothes washing is a much more intense chore now!  You have to be on your game.  You first have to scout the wash room to check out the situation in there.  You have to sometimes case the place to get a spot near a washer if it’s busy.  You have to engage and  talk to the other launders to find out what dryers actually dry the clothes, if any.  You have to have all your ducks in a row.  Soap-check!  Bounce sheets-check!  Stain Booster- Check!  Quarters-Shit!   So then begins the task of finding quarters.  This single task can sometimes take 3 days to accomplish, while you all trip over the 2  huge laundry bags sitting in your tiny living room.  And when I do finally find a place that will give me quarters, I always say the same thing, “I’ll take $10 worth please.”  Doing our laundry typically costs around $15 each time.  I always ask for $10 in quarters.  I cannot explain this behavior.  So mid wash, I am out hustling for quarters again, but this time with wet clothes depending on me and glares of waiting launders staring me down.  If you ever come across one of those change machines, get as many quarters as you can!  You can NEVER have enough quarters!

8. Good Hand Soap-There is not much time for a full timer with 3 kids to slip away to the spa, get your nails done, or even get a haircut.  And we’ve already talked about that showering thing.  What I do have time for, on a good day, is to wash my hands.  Yep, that’s it.  So you better make it GOOD!  I use Meyers Rosemary, and for that minute it takes me to wash I imagine I’m being massaged with hot stones while my feet are bathed in a tub rose petals and my cuticles are shaped to perfection, and then someone opens the door and tells me they have to poop.

9. Dish Towels- Man I love a good rag.  You use them for every task!  Washing dishes, drying dishes, cleaning up spills, napkins, wiping off counters.  You need lots and lots of them, especially with 3 kids and Darby!  When I’m down to my last dish towel, that’s when laundry is at def-con level 1 (editor’s note: the lower the def-con level, the higher the chance of nuclear winter, or, in this case, something much worse).  Must be done now.  Get your ass up and go find some quarters; we are no longer playing around!  That’s what I want in my stocking this Christmas; more dish towels.  In Estes Park we went to a once annual, huge, weekend long craft show with artists from all over the country offering their makings and guess what I bought?  Dish towels.  But the cool kind that button onto your oven.  So….  Anyways, they are very important to me and I probably spend too much time thinking about them.

10.Google- Thank the good lord for Google!  Never in our lives has the omnipotent Google been more important!  Because when you are on the road, in new places, and doing new things you will need to look up things like: “How to remove ticks from belly buttons” and “Do alligators live in ________ lake” and “What repels skunks.”  And these are all VERY important things to know when you are in the moment (moment of panic).  And so I salute you and thank you Google!  We could not do this without you!

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Finding Family in Milford, OH

20150725_145127smOur time in Milford, a suburb of Cincinnati, OH, was one that I’m so glad we did!  The entire purpose of visiting this town was to see my Aunt and Uncle and cousins, all of which my kids had never met before.  Road life can be a bit lonely at times especially for the kids; not that this trip up to this point had allowed for much loneliness at all (Lucky US!).  But there’s just something about family.  The kids know it instinctively.  If you say this is your cousin, they are OFF, it is DONE, best friends are made immediately and for life.

Lou and Taylor.  It was back to back sleepovers for these two!
Lou and Taylor. It was back to back sleepovers for these two!

We arrived, late as usual, at a state park 20 mins from and recommended by my Aunt Yancy called East Fork Lake.  It was a fabulous, huge, EMPTY park on a lake.  We liked it, especially when I found out they take Passport America, making our stay just $14 a night.  But we didn’t spend much time there, since the party is always happening at Aunt Yancy’s!  So getting there; we try to enter the park from the wrong side and had to drive all the way around it, making us later then our usual late.  We pull in, get parked, and all that that entails, and book it over to my Aunt’s, whom I haven’t seen since I was 3 months pregnant with my first child.  Sweet as she is, she’s waiting for us with dinner!  Dinner is always good on a travel day…..okay, on any day!  We hugged and talked and caught up and got to know Laura, who is a family friend and living at the house as well, which is awesome cause Uncle Scott travels most days of the week and company is always good, at least in my family.

I think Jonah had a little crush on Ms. Laura, but I hear this is the case with all babies.  Don't tell Jonah.
I think Jonah had a little crush on Ms. Laura, but I hear this is the case with all babies, just don’t tell Jonah.

The whole week was filled to the brim with family hangouts, last minute sleepovers, and trying all the food that Cincinnati has to offer.  I’m still working the pounds off from this week!  I just hope that Joe and I are half the hosts to our visitors that The Leglue’s were to us this week!

My Aunt Yancy!
My Aunt Yancy!

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The first few days were mostly just Aunt Yancy, Laura, and Us.  And that was just fine!  We hung out at their house while they worked those pesky jobs of theirs that I tried to convince them to quit.  And while they went to work with hangovers, Joe LOVED working in Uncle Scott’s basement office with their blazing fast internet, and I did ALL of our laundry while the kids grossly over-watched CABLE!  It was glorious and very little school work was done this week, as well as grocery shopping.  They just kept feeding us!

This is the Skyline Chili Man.  Ever had it?
This is the Skyline Chili Man. Ever had it?

We really didn’t want to do anything but hang out with our peeps while we were there, so that’s mostly what we did!

We finally on Day 4 were approved for our memberships to the Redneck Riviera and allowed access to the pool.  My family is VERY classy!
We finally on Day 4 were approved for our memberships to the Redneck Riviera and allowed access to the pool. My family is VERY classy!  But mostly HILARIOUS!

 

Here's a pic of the kids doing "something" while Aunt Yancy and I drank beer.  Turns out they were reaping havoc on Uncle Scott's lawn in their attempt at making a dam.  We started to care enough to check into it when it was already too late.  I was trying to put plugs back in the lawn as Uncle Scott pulled up and Aunt Yancy yell/whispered "Get up!  You'll call attention to yourself!"
Here’s a pic of the kids doing “something” while Aunt Yancy and I drank beer. Turns out they were reaping havoc on Uncle Scott’s lawn in their attempt at making a dam. We started to care enough to check into it when it was already too late. I was trying to put plugs back in the lawn as Uncle Scott pulled up and Aunt Yancy yell/whispered “Get up! You’ll call attention to yourself!”
Jonah managed the water flow.
Jonah managed the water flow.
I got to babysit 6 kids for just an hour 1 day, at we all went on a walk around the neighborhood.
I got to babysit 6 kids for just an hour 1 day, and we all went on a walk around the neighborhood.
I packed our littlest cousin, Harrison, on my back and pushed Jonah and Juliet in the stroller.  Thank you BOB!
I packed our littlest cousin, Harrison, on my back and pushed Jonah and Juliet in the stroller. Thank you BOB!
Our evenings looked a lot like this.
Our evenings looked a lot like this.
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My cousin, Mallory, or Mal Mal. This pic totally wasn’t take #47. Got it on the first try.
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Mark and Joe. They had a little Bromance brewing with their love of whiskey, and music, and others things.
One night we all went and watched Laura play volleyball.  It was really fun!
One night we all went and watched Laura play volleyball. It was really fun!
At least Jonah had a good time.  Sand and popcicles?  Totally his scene!
At least Jonah had a good time. Sand and popcicles? Totally his scene!

We did venture out a couple of times on our own just so we didn’t appear too clingy, and since everyone was so tied up with those darn jobs!  One day I did make the trek into The City, Cincinnati, to take the kids to Dollar Day at the zoo.  We found the zoo easily enough, but one look at the half a mile long line outside of the gates and the full parking lot, and I made the executive decision that we were NOT going to the zoo, but to the museum instead, and taking advantage of our National Museum passes!  Cha-ching!  Free!  That’s cheaper then Dollar Day!

We all thoroughly enjoyed this museum once I was able to push, pull, and jigsaw our double stroller through their 100 year old doors.
We all thoroughly enjoyed this museum once I was able to push, pull, and jigsaw our double stroller through their 100 year old doors.
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We really liked the whole exhibit they had on the ice age!

We also snuck away one afternoon to meet up with my old friend, Meredith, and her boys for a playdate!  Meredith and I were in a very close mom’s group when our oldest kids were just babies.  She contacted me when she saw that we were just over the state line from her in Kentucky, and I’m so glad she did!  We’re always up for crossing state lines, especially when it means seeing friends!

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We started out our playdate at a sweet little café with very over priced goldfish.
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It was so good to catch up with this girl and see her doing so well. PHD bound and great mama to two awesome boys!
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We played at a park and then headed to the YMCA for some swimming. Jonah was having none of this and played on a little toddler playground just to the right of the pool, while the mamas chatted.
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I think they had a pretty good time!

And then it was right back to Aunt Yancy’s, now that we had done our job of showing that we weren’t the clingy type!

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I just thought this pic was so sweet.  Had to include it.
I just thought this pic was so sweet. Had to include it.

We finally got Mallory to hang out with us one day and it was awesome!

We took the kids to an indoor playland with trampolines and huge playscapes, and sports courts.  Right up their alley!
We took the kids to an indoor playland with trampolines and huge playscapes, and sports courts. Right up their alley!

And she showed us this cool bridge on the way back to our RV, that we drove over.  I just LOVE covered bridges, and this was the first one I’d ever driven over!  It was nothing like that scene in Beetle Juice; thank goodness!

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And one day everyone came out to see our RV and try to wrap their minds around how we all fit and live in such a small space.  And it was awesome times!

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See. We all fit!
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My cousin John and his Honey, Melody.
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Being on the road, I was super anxious about where we would end up for Lou’s birthday. I didn’t want her to feel like she didn’t have any friends or a party, so I bought a cake and everyone was sweet enough to sing happy birthday to her two weeks early, and Aunt Yancy even got her a gift. :) She loved it and felt very special!

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Right before heading out on the road again, we got a little playdate over at John and Melody’s house. These girls!

This was a very hard place to leave!  A VERY VERY hard place to leave!  We were so greatful for all the time everyone spent with us, and the fish fry, and the dinners, and the late night talks, and the KIDS!  We hope to return again soon!  We love you Leglue’s!  So very very much!

And just like that, we are on the road again!  In matching shirts.  Joe did this; I had mine on first.
And just like that, we are on the road again! In matching shirts. Joe did this; I had mine on first!
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Upstate New York

20150711_185456smFrom Conneticut, we headed north again to Up State New York on one of our many quests to see all things GREAT in our country; this time Niagra Falls!

We decided to make a stop in Ithaca, NY which sits at the bottom of the Cayuga Finger Lakes and is home to Cornell University, at the suggestion of a friend.  And that’s where we happily spent the better part of our week.

Our 100th Day on the Road!
Our 100th Day on the Road!

Getting to Ithaca was filled with our usual misadventures.  We left CT with no place in mind to stop overnight on our way there, and so yet again arrived at a state campground in somewhere NY at closing time, with no reservation.  But we’re old pros at this now, so we found a campsite that was open from the many, and parked.  A ranger stopped by later that evening to collect the outrageous fee for our one night with electric only connections ($37).  So it worked out, as it always does in one way or another.  We stayed there just one night and the kids and I explored the lake and grounds on an accidental LONG, HILLY walk/bike ride that ended and also practically began with me putting Bean’s heavy bike on top of the jogging stroller and pushing her and Jonah up and down the hills when she decided she couldn’t ride them, while wearing malfitting flip-flops.   Somehow exactly this happens to me about every day.  They lure me away from the RV with cries of, “Just look at this MOM!” and “Come over here, I want to show you something.” And before I know it, I’m miles from the RV with all 3 kids, in bad shoes (if any at all), and no food or water.  They get me every time!

We left “Somewhere NY” when Joe got off work and drove the remaining miles to Ithaca.  We had decided this was the weekend to turn Jonah’s car seat to front facing, thinking it would help him to stay entertained in the car longer if he could watch shows with the girls.  Ha!

The calm before the storm.
The calm before the storm.

We started driving and everything was going fine, but we’d gotten a later start then we wanted.  Because of this we did not beat the dreaded darkness that we try so desperately to try to evade when driving and especially parking the RV!  So night descends as we are pulling into Ithaca and still have another 20 minutes to our campground.  It’s at this time that the road starts to fog, and we start climbing the hills, on windy roads, that are poorly lit, and narrow and Jonah starts to whine.  Ya know, no big deal.  Then the fog gets really bad, meaning we have to drive really really slow and are taking longer to get there, and Jonah’s starting to amp up.  And Up. And UP!  Tick-Tock.  Family sing along of “Wheels on the Bus” (the only song that calms my crying babies in the car; all of them).  Girls fight over who gets to pick the next verse topic.  Parents yell, “Stop”!  Singing stops working.  Baby just cries.  And I pull him into my lap as soon as we enter the campground.  FINALLY!  Joe turns Jonah’s car seat back to rear facing that very same night after we take 40 mins to park the RV in the DARK.  Hello Ithaca!

20150710_121031smWe had a really sweet spot at Pine Creek Campground in Ithaca with lots of privacy and shade.  There was a pool, playground, lots of green space and best yet a fishing pond that was adorned with frogs that we would try to catch in the evenings.  As cheap as I am about camp fees, staying at a nice, roomy place makes all the difference!  ….Just got to find one that’s cheap too!

20150710_121036smIt was a super sweet few days with lots of campground walks and attempts at fishing and hunting down the many waterfalls that Ithaca has!

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We don’t usually catch much, but we sure enjoy trying….for like 10 mins, then we are board and want to RUN! Maybe that has something to do with it?

The Ithaca Farmers Market BLEW US AWAY!  I’d run across a mom going on and on about “The King of All Farmers Markets” on a website while I searched for things to do in the area.  And being the farmers market lover that I already am, that’s all I needed to hear to make sure the farmers market made our to do list.  So we all went and checked it out one afternoon.  We were intimidated just by the parking situation.  We couldn’t even SEE the farmers market from the parking spot we managed by the grace of God to fit our big dually butt into just as someone was pulling out!  Whew!   When we finally got our first glimps of it after our half mile  hike, I think I heard angels singing.  I was in a happy place for as long as I could keep my kids there without embarrassing me.  THEY HAD EVERYTHING!!!  And GOBS of it!  Good thing we came hungry!  We each got lunch from a different booth and shared family style!  After of course we had to get $1 ice cream cones and play in an old tree stump that had been turned into a playhouse while we looked out on the lake.  Sweet!!!  Oh, and not to mention I just had to buy more produce than we were able to fit into the RV!  And the hummus!  OMG THE HUMMUS!

As God as my witness, I will get more of this!!!
As God as my witness, I will get more of this!!!

My hippy self was so so happy there!  Probably my most favorite thing we did while in Ithaca.

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The place was shaped like a cross. This is just one cross arm of the market!
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They loved this; simple.
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If we lived here, this would be our Saturday every week!

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A very close 2nd Fav of ours was Joe spotting this little stream that flowed under a road near our camp. We packed up the fam and went down for a swim and it totally renewed us!

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Deeds had so much fun running free!
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Joe showed Loralai that there were minows in the water and then we found some crawfish. The kids were BUSY the entire time after that!
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“Come on Bean! Over here!”
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I love when just a little thing can make you all so happy, especially when that little thing is nature.

Our 3rd Favorite thing we did while there was go to the Science Center in Ithaca.  I had seen it while we were driving around and it looked cool.  Going was the BEST decision of my life!  Okay, maybe a little of an overstatement, but not much.

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This table was right at the front door when we walked in and was a topographical map that the kids could change by moving the sand around to create lakes, mountains, or deserts. They could make it rain by holding their hands over the map. It was such a cool teaching tool and all 3 kids loved it!
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Jonah just hangin’ with the boys. He loved this coin funnel.
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While Jonah wolfed down pretzels at the snack table, the girls made sound cones and learned that sound travels best over tight lines, wet lines. Cool!

 

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They played and played and we shut the place down! We also got our museum pass there that would get us into museums all over the country as we travel. Yay

And our 4th fav thing was done on our last day in Ithaca.  You see Ithaca has this saying, “Ithaca is Gorges”, cause it’s chalk full of gorges, and where there are gorges, there are waterfalls!  We had the town brochure that boasted 10 waterfalls in the area.  We got around to seeing 1 of them; Ithaca Falls.

20150713_185433sm The falls were beautiful, but would have been enjoyed much more if there hadn’t been a yellow caution sign at the start of the trail warning about lead poisoning from the water, and the couple playing grab ass on the rock would have been a little more discrete, and the dude who had never ever fished before hadn’t been learning to cast right in front of where my kids were sitting.   But even with all that, we had a good time.

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“Ithaca is Gorges!”

It was hard to leave Ithaca, but after 4 wonderful days there, it was time to see those Falls!  Niagara Falls that is.

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They were MASSIVE! But totally not in the way I’d been imagining. I should pay more attention while watching movies. I thought the falls would be some of tallest in the world! They were not. What was so breath-taking about them was the total volume of water that poured over them on 3 sides!
It was cool, but very crowded all around the falls!
It was cool, but very crowded all around the falls!  Must be a popular destination or something?
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We rode on the boat, The Maid of the Mist to get as close as possible to the falls. It’s a MUST DO when at the falls! We all loved it! Even Bean, who hates getting wet!
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Rainbow! and Sisters!

We did pop over on rainbow bridge and drive into Canada for a bit.  We parked for $18 and got this shot of the falls from the Canadian side.

20150716_125634smEveryone says the falls are so much prettier from this side, but I wasn’t that impressed.  The CA side seems super commercialized with stuff like Rainforest Café, and water parks, and Malls, and Ripley’s right over the boarder.  The major viewing place to see the falls was right outside the mall.  I mean, I totally could have been doing the whole thing wrong, as doing things for the first time that is usually the case, but I just didn’t see the appeal.  Where as the US side had FREE parking, an overlook that stretched way over the river below to get pics of the falls and was lined with state park after state park along the river.

While in the Niagara area we stayed at Four Mile Creek State Park on the shores of Lake Ontario.  It was one of our favorite camping spots so far!  Huge spaces and GREEN!  And as we pulled into our spot, two sisters, about our girls ages stood on their scooters at their spot directly across from ours and watched us park.  It didn’t take our girls long to spot them and demand out of the truck and 5 mins later, this was happening…

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I think they are making mermaids out of clay, all orchestrated by Lou including finding everyone a smock to wear.

So definitely one of the best things that can happen to you while traveling is for you to find friends for your kids to paly with!  But even better than that (and we are talking white buffalo rare here) is when the kid’s parents are awesome and fun to hang out with too!

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Very intense game of “Spa” going on here.
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Me and Leah.
Eric and Joe.
Eric and Joe.

They had us at “We raised our own pig to eat.”

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Rock collecting, that quickly led to…

 

swimming in Lake Ontario.
swimming in Lake Ontario.

This was a very cool week.  We left with mad respect for Upstate New York, our first trip to Canada story (not that interesting, but still), and some new friends to visit in PA!

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Our amazing spot at Four Mile Creek State Park.

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Connecticut

20150704_214545smJoe’s sister, Jen, and her boyfriend, David, live in an adorable blue house just outside of Downtown New Haven, CT.  It had been too long since we’d gotten to hang with Aunt Jen for any real amount of time, so we were all really excited about spending the better part of a week with her and David!

Oh how he LOVED the moped!
Oh how he LOVED the moped!

David was kind enough to actually measure the curb length out front of their house to make sure we would fit.  We did!  Barely!  And it was our first experience camping on a neighborhood street.  I actually liked it!  It was kind of exciting and extremely convenient for getting to spend as much time as possible with Aunt Jen and hang in their cool basement as much as possible.

Our urban camping spot.
Our urban camping spot.

Jen and David graciously let me catch up on the endless loads of laundry I had been avoiding for weeks before arriving.  That kept me busy for days and gave me an excuse to regularly check on the kids. The kids were so in love with the idea of a basement that I could hardly get them out of it!  They were usually having a tea party, watching Netflix shows, or reading in a nook under the stairs lit with twinkle lights.  Loralai tried to sleepover in that adorable little nook that was just her size several nights, but alas sleeping with a whole floor level between her and any adults, along with her inability to fall asleep in under 2 hours time EVER, made this an impossible task. I had to come get her every time.

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Aunt Jen gave her a Kindle, and there was a lot of this going on this week.
Aunt Jen gave her a Kindle, and there was a lot of this going on this week.

We were there over July 4th and so we got to enjoy Jen and David’s annual 4th of July party!  Their house is set it seems directly under where the fireworks are lit on  East Rock every year.  It was such a great location that the streets around their house were blocked off for the event!  I kept chatting with the police officer that was standing at the road block in front of our RV as I walked in and out all night.

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Party cat.

20150704_192659smThe kids played with sidewalk chalk and bikes in the driveway, watched movies in the basement, held sparklers, and watched fireworks while Joe and I had a great time meeting and talking with new people.  It was nice to be at a party; especially one as well planned and organized as one of David’s parties!  The second you thought of a need like “I need to throw this napkin away” there a trash can would appear, practically at your feet.  Thristy? Just go help yourself to the FULL BAR downstairs.  Where’s a bottle opener for this beer I want to drink?  Oh, right here, hanging from this string with a laminated sign attached that says: “Best Bottle Opener Ever!” on it.  If I lived my whole life trying to have my shit together as much as David, I would die a failure.  So I won’t.  But it’s a thing of wonder to be in his world for a week and a wee bit intimidating, especially with 3 loud, messy kids (if I don’t say so myself).  However, he was nothing but gracious and accommodating.  We hope it didn’t take too long to get the place back in order after we left!

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Luckily Jen is a teacher and OFF for the summer, so the kids and I got to spend lots and lots of time with her!

One day she took us on a tour of Yale (Where she graduated with her PHD).  Somehow it made me feel like a GREAT mother to have my kids walking on Yale grounds.

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Yale Library
Yale Library. I got the feeling that they may have a little bit of money.
Any my personal favorite, Hogwarts!  Okay just a dining hall, but close!
Any my personal favorite, Hogwarts! Okay just a dining hall, but close!

Another day we went to the museum in Hartford, CT.  It was 6 full floors of AWESOME!

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She’s been so into building dams lately!
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He was just unstoppable while we were there. Go! Go! Go!
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And Beanie made a friend.

20150707_152012sm We also took the kids to play at some parks, met the family that Jen used to nanny for, and hit up a teacher store on the way home where I spent 3 hours reading everything, getting totally overwhelmed, and leaving with only one workbook.  Arg!

20150705_161402smYet another day when Joe and David were able to tag along we hiked East Rock to the very tippy top with Darby barking at other dogs the entire way up.  One the way down she was too tired to give a crap anymore and that part went much better.

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The View

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20150705_140857smAnd there was lots more fun too; eating Thai food, pizza, and being shown around David’s sound prop room!

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They really seemed to like the drums; this worries me.

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It was a great time spent with family and made me realize again how this trip is turning out to be so much more about the people we see and meet than the places we visit.  And now, after spending this time together, maybe Loralai will stop thinking that every redheaded 20-something woman she sees is Aunt Jen.

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And just when we thought the week couldn’t get any better our friend from back home, Tim, calls me and says he’s staying at his mom’s house with his girls, who are some of Lou’s besties, just 25 mins away.  And so we went!

Oh glorious friends!!!
Oh glorious friends!!!

We had so much fun visiting with them and meeting his rad mom and her husband that we came back the next day and spent the night in their driveway!  This is one of my favorite things about RV’ing: Home is where you park it!

Our driveway spot!
Our driveway spot!  Not bad, eh?
We had clam dinners on the porch.
We had clam dinners on the porch.

 

And laughed and talked.
And laughed and talked.

And just before Tim’s flight back to Austin with the girls, we fit in a trip to the beach!

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Where the shellin' was GOOD!
Where the shellin’ was GOOD! As a matter of fact, I got so lost in finding shells that my brand new saddles were swept away by the incoming tide. Whoops! We all searched for them and gave up. Then, just as we were driving away, I saw them and ran into the water to retrieve them! And now they are my favorite, lucky sandals!
So many treasures discovered!
So many treasures discovered!
Darby had a blast playing with Sue's little dog!
Darby had a blast playing with Sue’s little dog!
And I'd say this little guy had fun too!
And I’d say this little guy had fun too!

One of these days I’ll get better at remembering to get photos of new friends before leaving!  I would have loved to have had one of Sue and Charlie!  They were such wonderful people with lots of adventurous stories of their own to tell.  Thank you for the wonderful time at your home on the salt marsh!

And with that it was time to pack up and head to our next destination, recommended by Tim: Ithaca, NY.  Our next adventure awaits.

Sleepy faces.
I’m a sucker for sleepy faces.
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Mt Washington New Hampshire

IMG_20150627_153559400From Maine we headed out to the Mt. Washington New Hampshire area on a recommendation from my friend Nikki.  Some places are like that; we just throw out there to friends, “Where should we go?” and then we go!  So it all started with a sad, stale knock-off bag of bbq chips and a whole lota rain.

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We had no expectations on what it would be like and were surprised by what a hiking mecca it was!  We LOVE hiking!  We just don’t get to do it very much with 3 littles.  Joe and I actually aspire to hike The AT (trail that goes continuously from Georgia to Maine) one day when the kids are old enough to leave for the 5 months it takes to do it!  Stay tuned for that blog!

Well the AT runs right over the Presidential Mountain Range and drops hikers less than a mile from the park we camped in!  There were hikers EVERYWHERE!  There were trails EVERYWHERE!  There were supposedly moose EVERYWHERE!  It was awesome!

Our Happy Campsite
Our Happy Campsite

IMG_20150623_194951803The place we were staying actually had a hikers’ loft above their office where a father daughter team were staying while they  hiked parts of the AT.  I stared aspiringly in their direction for a day and a half, before hearing the dad mention on a phone conversation in the community laundry room that he was from Round Rock, TX (practically Austin!) and worked up the courage to walk over to him one evening and offered him a beer.  Then his daughter came out and drank a beer with us too!  Those two beers turned into too many beers to count and hours of good conversation and me serving up dinner.  We talked about the trail and them almost freezing to death on Mt Washington (you’re not a serious hiker until you have an “we almost didn’t make it” story), a little about our travels, our pasts, and aspirations.  Some time around 1am we parted ways.  We wish you well Chelsea and Bill!  Hope to run into you in Austin sometime when we all return!  Happy Trails!

IMG_20150623_202619143A lot of our time, and I mean A LOT, was spent at the campground playground/bounce house/pool/rec room.  The grounds were run by a husband-wife team who had owned the place for 20 years and they were great!  They gave us the front spot, right across from the playground.  Upon arrival I wasn’t too sure it was the spot we wanted since it didn’t provide any shade–or much privacy–but it ended up being the best spot for us!  Have I mentioned how much we loved that playground?

 

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One day there were Amish children that came to play at the playground! You know I LOVE this stuff, right!?

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The owners lived in a house attached to the office and would light a camp fire every night and sit outside.  Friends would come and join them every night and campers were invited too.  One night, when Joe took the kids to bowl, I walked over and sat with them for awhile.  I just kept thinking how cool it was that they were surrounded by friends and potential new friends every night, around a campfire, talking.  The kids returned and sat with me awhile too before we all headed back to the RV for dinner.

This was the small town, 10 lane, track your own score, bowling alley Joe took the kids.  So cool!
This was the small town, 10 lane, track your own score, bowling alley Joe took the kids. So cool!

Along with all the campground fun, we took a few trips out and about too…

One day, despite my intense fear of doing it, I took the kids and planned to drive our dually, supercab, extended bed truck over narrow, winding, dirt, mountain roads with no guard rails to get to the top of Mt Washington.  But thankfully when I pulled up to the entrance booth a guy came out and said they did not allow dual-wheeled vehicles up the road.  I could have kissed him I was so relieved!  I almost really did kiss him when he handed me $5 off coupons for the tour van that takes you up the mountain instead, making the tour nearly as cheap as driving it myself.  See it pays to be so cheap that you attempt to do things that scare you to death because then people give you coupons!

Yep.  Most sever weather on the PLANET!
Yep. Most sever weather on the PLANET!

So we rode up the mountain my 3 children and I in the backseat with 2 other couples.  My kids were decent on the 30 minute drive up, but not great.  There was some crying and getting out of seat belts (Jonah), but we made it with minimal looks back from the couples.

When we got to the top the wind speed was 55mph and a clear day so you could see for miles!

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One LOVES it. And another is just tolerating it. Can you tell which is which?

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Must see what climbing rocks at high wind speed feels like!
Must see what climbing rocks at high wind speed feels like!

There were several buildings on the top of Mt Washington, including the original inn that travelers would stay in when they arrived by horse and buggy.

Girls pretending to have dinner at the inn that was completly staged with castiron dishes and everything!
Girls pretending to have dinner at the inn that was completly staged with castiron dishes and everything!

There was also a small museum that told about the mountain, it’s wildlife and conditions, and was a lot of fun!  It had a cafeteria on the top floor and post office.  Cause even when you are on top of the world’s craziest weather having mountain, you still need to get your mail!

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They’re taking turns driving a snowcat to the top of Mt Washington.
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Yes, can I get some stamps please….

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In addition to all this, there was a well stocked gift store, that is held to the ground with chains so it doesn’t blow away.  Man, so much going on on this mountain top!

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If you could keep your hair from blowing all over your face, the view was not bad.
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You could also take the old cog rail road to the top!
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End of the line…

It was a fun day and THE thing to do in the Mt Washington area!  And we didn’t fall off the mountain, so that’s good.  Check!

Being around all these AT hikers and tailheads, had us itching to do a hike!  So on Joe’s day off, we all headed to the ranger station to pick out a family hike and get the girls their White Forest National Forest Jr Ranger badges (whew, say that 5 times fast!).

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It was a great station with a kids exploring room! Should have checked it out earlier in the week!

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And with Jr Ranger patches in hand, we started on our hike!

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Water Play

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Our waterfall
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Don’t worry Mom! He’s far from the edge and on secure ground.
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Lady Bug Girl and her sister Loralai, the Great!
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Didn’t do a very good job of capturing how big the falls actually were. It was very grand!

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He woke up just in time to see the parking lot!

Snail Art

We also hit a sad little farmer’s market, but I found my snail-rv art there!  And we went to Walmart several time to get Joe a new computer to replace his that finally bit the dust.  And I cleaned the truck, and I mean REALLY cleaned the truck, with a high powered vacuum and everything!  So that should keep for a few months, don’t you think? We found even more playgrounds to play on too!

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Awesome park that was located in the center of the town we were staying.
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It even came with friends!

That’s how New Hampshire was for us.  Unplanned.  Casual. Come what may.  Lots of hanging at the campground, doing laundry, swimming, yoga.  Sprinkled with new friendships.  We all really, really loved this place an extra amount!

Can you find Darby in this photo?
Can you find Darby in this photo?
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