Salisbury Massachusetts

Before saying good-bye to the east coast, we wanted to get in one last trip to the Atlantic Ocean!  So we headed to a state park beach in Mass (Salisbury Beach State Recreation Area), that was also near Salem, MS (The Witch Trials).

The place was pretty packed!  Which meant LOTS OF KIDS for the girls to make friends with, and they did!  It was a great place to ride bikes, and play on the beach!  We did lots of both!   One day on the beach we found tons of clams, tiny crabs, shells, and a sand worm!

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We had a couple of fun days at the beach, where a major river meets the Atlantic. We could swim in fresh or salt water. Both were COLD!
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I discovered that if you picked up clumps of seaweed out of the water, there were dozens of tiny crabs attached to it! The kids are building an aquarium to keep all the crabs in with their new friend, Fabian.
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Those kids had me hunting 24/7, and I loved it.
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The littes were more interested in building a mound, that Jonah would then walk through.
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The tides coming in! NO!!!
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Um, how cute is Darby’s boyfriend, Sunny?!? Fabian had a Chug too!
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Here are a few more friends the girls made while there. Bikes and roller skates were the name of the game!

While the girls played outside with friends, Joe and I took a mini date one night and walked the baby around the campground in the stroller and checked out all the vintage RV’s that were parked here.  There were some really cool ones, and if the owners were outside, you better believe I told them how cool I thought their rig was!  It really was so much fun!  And it’s a nice reminder that you can eek out some couple time together even while living full time in 200sqft with your 3 kids.

This was also the week that I had to use my old, maximum storage filled phone while I waited for my new phone, so I didn’t get many pictures.

We also spent a day in Salem, MS, checking out the visitor center there, and seeing and doing the Jr Ranger program for The Friendship Sailboat, having lunch at a cafe, and exploring The Peabody Essex Museum.  The museum had a great room where the kids could build robots and other inventions without using any glue, tape or staples.  We stayed until they closed, before returning to our truck parked in a garage that we barely fit in.  It was a full day with me and just the kids, and we had a lot of fun!  I decided to save all the witch stuff until the kids were a little older, despite my intense interest!  But we did see and talk about a few statues as we walked.

It was a good week and by the end of it, I could even pronounce Massachusetts correctly!  Now don’t even talk to me about being able to properly spell it without the help of spell check!  Baby steps….

We Made it to Maine!

IMG_20150613_195717228_HDRsmMaking it all the way up to Maine from Texas, is the equivalent of making it all the way up to Alaska…almost!  None of us had ever been before and we were excited just to be in the state!  Not to mention, we would have our personal tour guide, who’d been raised there, one of my besties, Niki!

We had rushed up the eastern coast to get to Maine in time to meet Nicole and her girls, Mabel and Effie.  And we had made it!  Don’t you just love it when a cross country plan comes together!

We spent just 2 weeks in Maine, but in 3 different locations.

Since Joe works during the week and we mostly can only travel on weekends, we got to the Portland area a few days before the girls and spent our time at a lovely rv park just 20 mins outside of the city.

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Our digs at Wassamki Spring Campground.
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Fairy’s in Wonderland
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Sisters!

IMG_20150608_121727321_HDRsm We spent our short stay there, watching community softball games on the grounds, swimming  and building sand castles at the lake, ridding bikes, getting the truck serviced, and seeing for ourselves what all the Duncan Donut craze was about.  To add to the campground excitement, there was a polygamy family parked near us in two matching rv’s, with two matching trucks.  “The Husband” spent one entire day in his suspenders washing both of the RV’s, and I spent all day watching him!  At night they would all take a walk together, and one of those nights, they said hello to me!  It was awesome!

One day I took the girls into Portland to check out the town and get my first lobster roll!

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During our day in Portland we visited this lighthouse.
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They loved rock hopping out to the lighthouse. It scared me to death!
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A boy and his stick

When we got the call that Niki had arrived, it was time to pack up and drive the hour to her sister, Poppy’s house, where we parked the RV for 4 days of uncut fun and freedom!

Our Spot!
Our Spot!

It was so so great to see Niki and her girls!  My kids were over the moon, as Mabel and Effie are some of their besties as well!  But to add to this, we got to piggyback onto Niki’s family reunion of sorts, with her mom and dad, and her 4 sisters and their kids and husbands.  There were kids, barefeet, and popcicles EVERYWHERE!

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They found the craft drawer!
They found the craft drawer!
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The yard. Want to swim? Dig? Play cars? Jump? Slide? Swing? Run?……..
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Bean just adored Ari!
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Jonah mastered his cheesy camera smile while here.
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Loooooobsta

IMG_20150613_185021322smIf you want to have a good time as a parent, you need to have happy and occupied kids!  Period.  That’s all it takes.  And it was 4 days of that!  Kids ran, and swam, and played, and fished all day!  And the grownups got to hangout, have converstations that lasted longer then 30 seconds, and play cards against humanity.  We also managed to squeeze in some fishing, swimming, and bridge jumping too.  And to top it all off, Joe and I (who’s birthdays are one day apart) managed to turn one year older here as well!

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Friends Forever!
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She caught a perch!
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Jonah mostly just played with the worm bait, and had a great time too, at the pond that Poppy’s property backed up to. Such a cool spot!
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Our trip to the beach, on my birthday!
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The sand looked like this
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The Gang
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The water was full of this red seaweed
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Play!

IMG_20150612_160303643_TOPsmReally, it was such a magical weekend.  The Hilarious Poppy and Super Dad, Jason were awesome hosts to this wild band of crazy, and I’d take every one of those kids with me, if I could fit them into my truck.  Sweet, sweet!  Thank you for the new friendships and Memories!

OUR swimming hole!  Frequently often!
OUR swimming hole! Frequented often!

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It was hard to leave Poppy’s, but contrary to the song, the party does end, and we headed down the road to Acadia National Park.  Not such a bad place to HAVE to go to, and that helped sooth our broken hearts.  Once again, we were pleased with the park we chose, which had well spaced spots, and was just 15 mins from Acadia Park and Bar Harbor.

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We just LOVE National Parks! They are always stunning and unique places, with so much to learn about and see! Acadia was no exception. The park boasted rocky coast lines, beaches, forests, lakes, mountains, and adorable towns! Every single day we were there, I drove us into the park. There was a park loop road that we drove and took us up to Cadillac Mountain with some amazing views from its barren top. I wanted to hike that mountain so bad! Just another reason to travel again with the kids when they are older. Or just maybe, we’ll never stop?!

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Push Baby!
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The Views

IMG_20150620_170801269sm IMG_20150620_170142138_HDRsm IMG_20150620_170000835smWe saw Thunder Hole and combed the beaches at low tide in the freezing cold water.

Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole

We hiked. We went to ranger programs where we laid out under the stars on a beach one night while learning about constellations (granted, the kids were jerks that night; I say it that way cause it’s the most accurate description), and another where we hunted down dragon fly larvae (as well as humongous tadpoles, leaches, frogs, and other creatures) to help assess the mercury levels in the lake. The kids had so much fun tromping around in the mud and finding these treasures! I don’t think they actually caught any dragonfly larvae, but that’s what us moms were there for.

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The research group
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We didn’t know tadpoles this BIG existed!
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She is holding the biggest leach I’ve ever seen and ever want to see! She was the first to volunteer!
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Our catch
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Always making new friends.
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Interviewing the ranger.
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Our hunting grounds. Except where we were on the lake, it was much marshier.
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Lou continues to scare us to death with her never ending sense of adventure and rock climbing feats!
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Light house!

We found a great put-putt golf course and played a game.  The place, with its pirate theme really blew us away.  And we Shaw’s LOVE putt-putt!

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Joe and I are pretty competitive when it comes to put-putt.

 

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IMG_20150617_193520192_HDRsmOne evening we walked to Bar Island, only accessible at low tide.

About to cross the sand bar to Bar Island
About to cross the sand bar to Bar Island
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Cool evening of building cairns with the rocks and finding sea creatures like crabs and tiny shrimp.

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We hike to a beach and the boy throws rocks.
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Low tide

And OF COURSE we left with a couple new Jr Ranger badges.

We really loved the park and the experiences we had there!

And that was our time in Maine.

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The Big Apple

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This kid LOVED the subways! So much, she scared the heck out of me! It’s like she’d been jumping trains her whole life.

New York City!  The City!  The Big Apple!

I had been to the city once before when I was 20, and it was January and the towers had just fallen less than 3 months before.  Needless to say a trip 15 years later, in summer, with my 3 kids, was very different!  Hubs had NEVER been!

With the RV parked in a dump of a campground (but cheap!) in the tri-state area, we drove the truck over the hills and through the woods, and over one very expensive toll bridge to Joe’s sisters house!  There we were, New York in June for 4 glorious days!

Are these kids New York or what with their street meat?!
Are these kids NY or what with their street meat?!

Usually we are not too keen on huge cities.  But I’ve seen NY in so many movies that I feel like I’ve lived there!  And I use those movies like my personal tour guide, that I’ve been studying since childhood.  So I’m totally prepared and just excited!  Of course I wanted to see and do everything I’d ever seen in “How I Met Your Mother”, “Big Business”, “Secret of My Success”, “You’ve Got Mail”,”Hackers”,  and “Big”.  And to my family’s credit, we just about did!

That poor bulls balls and horns were being pulled all day long!  So we just stood next to him.
That poor bulls balls and horns were being pulled all day long! So we just stood next to him. No line for that.
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Central Park Zoo This photo is being taken by a man telling us we are all brothers and sisters in this world and asking Amanda if she knew why flamingos were pink…she total did!
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Shakespeare Statue in Central Park
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Evidently FAO Shwarz  is OUT and ToysRus is IN! (No really, FAO is closing! Horrible, I know!) Since I had been to FAO before, we checked out ToyRus. WOOZA!!! Life sized moving T Rex, ferris wheel, 4 stories tall, and even I was impressed! Here’s us in front of Barbie’s mansion. I’ll admit that Lou and I dorked out a little over this……okay A LOT! Bean could not be woken up for our entire time here! She even missed the ferris ride.
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On Broadway Baby!
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I had real kids with me to take to play at Central Park this time! 3 Points for parenthood!
Real NY Pizza by the Slice!
Real NY Pizza by the Slice!

We also went to Times Square, had Korean food in Korea Town, visited the Native Indian Museum, visited the Twin Towers Memorial, Saw the Statue of Liberty from the ferry, and rode numerous subways, of which I actually liked the grittiness of, cause it was just like in the movies!  Just not the elevators though.  The elevators are not a part of NY that we ever want to visit again!

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We also reserved some time to just hang, and that included visiting Aunt Amanda’s neighborhood park. Which was just SO NY!
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And hang at their awesome Upper Manhattan apartment and play, play, play!

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It was priceless having Amanda and Nick and Little Evie there to navigate us through the city!  Our trip would not have been 1/16 as fun and productive as it was!  They spent 3 straight days with us, showing us the city they were probably sick of already, and we love them so much for it!  In between all the site-seeing, the kids just played non-stop!  It was intense and awesome!

But after 4 days, it was time to go and leave Amanda’s spa-retreat bathroom with its huge tub  and more products of awesomeness than I can list, and go back to my 1.5’x2.5′ tub and the tiny bath self I share with my husband.  Ah, I miss you so much……Amanda!  I miss you so much AMANDA!  ;)

So we picked up our little chug from the boarder’s and got our truck out of the garage (I know, we are SO New York!) and we’re on our way down the road again with menu item ideas bouncing in our heads for our joint venture idea.  “T&G”

Thanks for all the sites and laughs and fun y’all!!!  We Love NY!

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And if every family get together could be summed up by taking a picture on a ruby-velvet couch in front of your ubber, creepy condo foyer painting, well then the world would be a perfect place!

 

The Shaw’s Do DC

So you should know that most big cities are impossible or just too expensive to actually stay inside of.  DC was no exception.  We did find a nice regional park just 40 mins north of the city though that was perfect for us!  Camping there was very similar to state park camping; very wooded, with trials, and bugs (thank goodness no ticks), and for the very first time ever, we did not have a water hook up.  We had to fill our fresh water tank up and try extra hard to monitor our water use.  It was an adventure in and of its self and I feel like getting us one step closer to boondocking (camping without hookups), which is also FREE!

View from our campsite.
View from our campsite.
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Playing at the playground

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Sweet Bean
Sweet Bean

So DC was great!  Better than I thought it would be!  But the very bestest, best part of being there, was that some of our best friends from Texas randomly were there that very same week……WITH THEIR KIDS!  We have just had the best luck on this trip with meeting up with friends and family!  I haven’t had a chance to be lonely even once!

So our first night there, Kim and Bryan came over to our campsite, and when friends come over, I make dinner!  Indian chicken.  The knats flying around our faces while we ate, just gave it that little something extra.

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As an added surprise, Kim brought gifts and letters from everyone in our neighborhood back home! We are a tight group, and this helped ease how much we miss everyone, and somehow made it worse too!

So Kim, being the no-nonsense girl she is, and me being the procrastinator I am, made a plan to go and see the city with the kids the next day while the boys worked.  The girls got to have Lily spend the night, which is a rare treat on this trip!  And the next morning I met her at the train, 20 mins late, with all the kidos.  Kim had a perfectly thought out, survival-like, light weight backpack stuffed with everything from personal water bottles, to dehydrated rations, and boogie wipes.  I on the other hand arrived with my usual diaper bag crammed full of empty bags of goldfish, two crumb-filled diapers, kids jackets (that they would not be wearing on this 90 degree day), and bandaids (I always have bandaids!  Added bonus: it’s the single item Kim never has, so it makes us equals.).  Alright, ready to go!

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This was our first time on a subway as a family, so I hadn’t yet learned to strap Jonah to me while ridding and he ran and fell all over the place; bandaids! I had just thought subway=fast. No. About a 45 min ride into the city.
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We took pictures in front of the white house.
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And went inside the newly renovated white house visitor center, where we got our Jr Ranger books, learned about the white house, and watched a movie on it as well.
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The city is filled with old buildings like this one!
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Jr Rangers!
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We walked all over that city, with Kim navigating our way with subway and city maps. That goodness for Kim! And then we rode the carousal.
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And the kids played in the park while we had a beer.

It was a fabulous day and the kids were all troopers, walking everywhere with very little whining, and only needing a few more band-aids before the day was done.

It was on Joe’s must do list to see Gettysburg while we were in the area as well.  So we all loaded up one day after work, and crossed the state line into PA.  We took the auto tour of the battlefield and enjoyed making stops along the way.

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The eternal flame

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Looking out onto the battlefield.
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Bryan with his huge cannon.
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These kids are guarding a monument that looks like a castle. Some of them were massive! This one you could go upstairs to the “tower”.
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Here is the Pennsylvania Monument. It was the most impressive one was saw while there!
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Very sobering to see how many young lives were lost in this battle.

We also found time to all fall in love with the little town of Fredrick, MD while we were there.  It was an ADORABLE town with steeples, and underground music stores, tons of coffee shops, cool bridges, and ice cream stores.  It was just the right size and had so much to do!  So we spent a couple of days there.  I could have spent the rest of my life there, I liked it so much!

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When you find a good place to eat while on the road, you go there twice! And we did!
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And then we got ice cream, twice!
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Another day we went to the visitor center and watched a movie on the town and then went and saw one of the painted bridges. Cool!

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And with that, it was time to say goodbye to our friends.  We had such a good time with them!  And I always just feel good knowing there are people we know near by.  But all good things must come to an end.  We love you Osborne’s!

We had a few days left in the area, so one of those days I took the kids to an indoor aqua center.  It was pretty awesome!

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I was going to take the kids to a river to swim, but Bean requested “pool water”.

IMG_7559Out last day there, we took Daddy into DC since he had not yet been.  Knowing how much walking we would have to do, and knowing that not having their friends with them as a distraction would mean our kids would whine like banshee’s all day, we decided to do a bus tour of the city instead of walk it.  It was a good call!

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The Lincoln Memorial did not disappoint! It was amazing to see and at the top of our list.
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The capital, under renovations for the next two years.
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It was so cool to stand here and look out at this historical view!
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This is our “The Shaw’s Do DC” pic.

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As much as big cities usually intimidate us, this was a good trip!  The monuments and historical sites, gave purpose to navigating the city.  And as you know, if there’s a gold colored, plastic Jr Ranger badge in it, WE ARE DOING IT!  We all learned a lot while we were there.

Our Time in The Mountains

 

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Our time spent in The Smokey Mountains was wonderful!  The weather was so cool during the day, it felt like air conditioning.  It smelled like trees and the place we were staying, Maggie Valley, felt like the tiny mountain towns I spent my early childhood in.  Plus, I believe there’s no stress that can’t be cured by putting your feet in a cold mountain stream.

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The stream that ran through our campsite, with ducks! Can you see them?

We were advised to go to Asheville, NC by several friends.  I’m cheap, so we didn’t end up staying in any of the campsites actually in Asheville.  Instead, we stayed 30 mins outside of the city, in Maggie Valley.  The campground looked a little sketchy at first, but as we so often find, after a day we got used to the place and liked it a lot!  We did end up driving though the town of Asheville a couple of times, but felt like it was a little too big for us to get a handle on with only a week there, and so we ended up spending most of our time in the little towns surrounding Maggie Valley and loved them!

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IMG_7303We went for several dives along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway, stopped at several overlooks, and took a hike!

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Our 2.2 mile hike with our bad ass kids, took us to some incredible views!
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As usual, we were racing the sunset and almost turned back several times. So glad we kept going!

 

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The views were amazing!
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But I like this one BEST!

Another day, when it was a little rainy, I took the kids to a bounce house, at Bean’s request.  That kids just loves bounce houses! We had the place to ourselves and it was a great time!

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Oh, the slide.

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As a special treat, I took the girls horseback ridding one afternoon.  I love ridding horses, and so does Lou.  Bean, not so much we found out.

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I loved going on this hour long horse ride. My horses name was Slim. He followed the leader well, but I liked making him go wherever I wanted to on the trail. ~Loralai
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Ridding by fields of flowers.
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Bean was over it, but she was a good sport and posed for the camera.

I took the kids to The Great Smokey Mountains one day.  We had gone once before in 2013, but it had been awhile and the kids saw the place with new eyes.  As in, they didn’t remember it from before.

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We spent most of our time at an old farmstead they have preserved, learning about the buildings and how they stored food.
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The girls chose this day to dress like fairies. Oh wait, that’s most days.
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We also visited a working mill there.

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We also took a hike with the whole family in the park one day and several more hikes to waterfalls, all when Joe got off of work.

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Soco Falls

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Here’s a video of us hiking in the Smokey Mountains in 2013.  Jonah’s there too, just in my belly, so he’s not on the screen.

And sometimes this week, we just hung out too.

Here's a shaving cream lesson.
Here’s a shaving cream lesson.
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That maybe went a little too far!
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I wonder what plans are being cooked up in there!
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I love my little dog. Especially because she’s chubby! But also because we always get snuggle time together! And I dressed her up for this picture. ~Loralai
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My sister always falls asleep first! ~Loralai

The girls also meet a pair of 4 and 7 year old sisters and played with them every second we were at the campsite.  One night, Joe and I went over to their camp fire and had a good time for a few hours.  Always fun making new friends!

There was also a big Memorial Day Dance and Live Music the last night we were there.  We all danced the night away, and Lou got to dance IN the show later that night!  Gota get that girl some cloggin’ shoes!

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Dancing Friends.
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My dancing partner was the lightest guy on his feet there!
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Into the night.

It was a sweet time, and we’d definitely go back!

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Getting a Handle on this Traveling Thing

IMG_7353So we are 2 months in….OMG!  Has it really only been 2 months?!?  It feels like much longer then that!  But in actuality, we have only been out and about, on the road for just 2 months now.

Things are going well.  I mean Joe and I still like each other.  And we haven’t lost even one of our 3 kids while zipping around and touring new places yet.

We’ve seen a lot of nature, and new cities, and beaches, and even friends, as well as meeting some new ones.

We are having a generally good time.  Thanks for asking!

So what’s not perfect?  Cause FB is so good at making it look like everything is annoyingly wonderful, but mostly cause no one wants to watch a 2 hour video of your kid throwing a fit when you tell them there are  no more popcicles, and after you’ve had an especially rough day, the last thing you want to do is think up some whitty way of saying your day sucked in a FB post, so you just don’t.  And some issues are just too real and drawn out to bother even talking about, and you know deep down could probably be fixed by you just waking up at 6am everyday, but you just haven’t started doing that yet.

So yes, there are “challenges” to this lifestyle, in addition to all the adventure and excitement!  Like, we still haven’t done our taxes!

And here are a few  more…

Top of the List!  Homeschooling is damn hard!  Okay, homeschooling Loralai is Damn Hard!  It’s a pie chart of problems (no time to plan, no incentives for completed lessons, no solid cirriculum, no quiet time for her to work without siblings around, with changing locals a schedule is hard to keep, she’d rather be playing, she’s Loralai).  We are addressing each of the issues in different ways and seeing what works, but we seem to have a ways to go!  Damn!  And I was hoping this would be easy!  Bean on the other hand, LOVES to do school work!  I think partly, just to rub it in her sisters face.  But I’ll still take it!  She’s actually been quietly painting for over an hour while I write this.  Too bad she’s not the one that is supposed to start 4th grade when we return.

Learning new places EVERY WEEK is overwhelming!  I mean, I grab the brochures!  I have brochures coming out of my ears!  But then I have to read those brochures, and they are never enough.  So I have to search online “Kids, place, hiking, events, parks, dog parks, stare at google maps, libraries, stores, etc”.  And I have no time, cause I have these 3 kids, ya know.  And all the time I take to research, is time taken  from actually DOING things, or homeschooling, or keeping up with laundry.  So we are going to SLOW DOWN after we meet up with our friends in Maine in the upcoming couple of weeks.  We’ve been moving fast to get there in time and we are feeling it.  The plan is to start staying in each place for 2 weeks instead of one.  I can’t wait!  Not only will this give us  more time in each place, but I’ll feel less pressure to figure it all out and do it all in 5 days!  Maybe I’ll even have time to do the laundry!

All of us in 200sqft working, learning, playing, cooking, and napping….  It can feel a little tight at times.  Not always.  But during times when Joe gets a work call and we all have to go outside until he’s done, or the girls are being too loud and wake the baby, or when we are all in a rush and trying to get dressed or use the one tiny bathroom at the same time, it can feel cramped.  Usually we can work around things and it even feels roomy in the RV, but sometimes we do feel the tightness.

I have NO TIME to myself!  None.  I have my kids always.  And I think that’s great!  Until I don’t.  And then all I want is a babysitter!  Hey!  Maybe our sweet, teenage babysitter from back home would like to tour the US in an RV with us this summer!  Hummmm…

My truck is a disaster zone!  Yes, this is a big enough deal to include on this list!  The kids are definitely mostly to blame, with all their snack spillage, and toys they bring in, but never take back out.  But I can’t blame them entirely, cause there’s Joe too!  Just kidding, mostly.  The front seat is covered with maps, and those dang brochures, and receipts, and sunglasses, and, and, and.  And I can NOT keep it clean!  No matter what I try!  I clean it out at least 3 times a week, and yet, every time I open the door, it’s like 3 monkeys were let loose in there overnight!  Don’t even talk to me about actually getting to vacuum the floor or clean it with real cleaning products!  That’s just something I dream about.  You’d have to be able to SEE the floor to clean it and I’d  have to get those kids somewhere else to have the time to clean.

I have an 18 month old.  Enough said.

Darby is kind of an asshole.  But just kind of,  cause I love the crap out of her!  She does require attention and to be walked, 4 times a day, and then you have to pickup and dispose of her crap.  So that’s added fun.  I won’t even go into what she does when we are on long drives, but it’s stinky!  Very, very stinky, and requires me to change my shirt or bring a towel with us.  She barks like a crazy dog when other dogs go by our campsite, and sometimes at people too, and sometimes those people are children.  And she’s chewed up the screen door twice when we were gone.  But right now she’s laying peacfully across my lap while I write….so I’m glad she’s on this trip with us overall.

Internet, cable, water, laundry, cooking, propane, electricity, tank space…..IT’S ALL MORE COMPLICATED now.  We don’t just HAVE that stuff anymore.  It’s all something that has to be taken into consideration and researched, and worked around.

I worry all the time about the truck breaking down.  I mean, that would kind of render us homeless, in an unfamiliar place, with no one we know near by, on the side of the road, so….

I HATE driving through the mountains!!!!  But I love GOING to the mountains.  Equals problem.  Driving though the mountains while hauling 14,000lbs means your truck sounding like it’s going to blow up while driving 30 miles and hour on a hwy up and smelling your breaks while watching for run away truck ramps on the way down.  Terrifying!  See above for compounded fears.

Yes, cleaning your RV/Home only takes 20 mins.  BUT, those 20 mins just cycle over and over and over again.  It’s never done.  And the crumbs!  Don’t even get me started on the crumbs!  They are everywhere!  In the bed.  On the couch.  On the floor.  Gram Crackers are now an OUTSIDE ONLY food group, along with crackers of any kind, and cheezits!

So, as you  can now see, traveling the US with your family is AWESOME, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.  It has its challenges.

But now that I’ve written this, all of our problems do seem pretty trivial.  I mean, except that truck thing!  That would be real real bad!  But it’s all a process, and we are in it for the long haul.  Well, at least for 10  more months!  Living and Learning everyday.

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Georgia

IMG_7101We spent 1 week in Georgia, mostly in Savannah, but with a couple of 5 hour one-way detours into Atlanta to pick up and drop off my mama at the airport and sneak in a visit with some cousins.

Teenage Cousins!!!!!  Our favorite!
Teenage Cousins!!!!! Our favorite!

The placed we stayed, Red Gate Farms, was gorgeous and laid back.  It was an event center and farm, as well as an RV park.  Lots of big trees, ponds, docks, swimming pool, horses, peacocks, and trails to ride.  It was also just 20 mins from Savannah DT, but it was a little pricey, and since I’m so cheap, we opted for just an electric and water site, that kept it at $35 a night, instead of $45.  Cha-ching.

IMG_7120We’d heard great things about Savannah and weren’t let down!  I think my Aunt put it best, it’s like a cleaner, nicer New Orleans, with all the charm of the South!  We did a couple of drive by tours of the city, and for Mother’s Day my mom and I went to Paula Deen’s restaurant, Lady & Son’s and got the shrimp and grits…..OMG, I think I died for a minute right there in Savannah, they were so good!

IMG_7131Another day my mom and I took the kids to the local beach on Tybee Island.  It was a pretty day, a cute island, and a nice public beach for the kids of play on.  The water wasn’t the crystal clear oasis I was hoping for and the waves were huge, but those Shaw kids can have fun on ANY beach and played mostly in the sand, as usual.

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Another day we just hung around the campsite and took the kids swimming.  It was so fun to have my mom there to spend time with and the kids really enjoyed it!

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Keepin’ Nana cool.

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One of my favorite things about Savannah is that my cousin, Sydney, and her adorable family lives there!  The girls and I got to see our newest, little cousin, Mavis, who just turned 2 months old!  She was a ball of smiles and so so cute!

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On another night, I was surprised to see my Aunt Yancy when we all met for pizza at the best pizza place on the planet, Mellow Mushroom!  I was totally shocked!  It was great to see her as well!

So happy I got to see my aunt!
So happy I got to see my aunt!

While in Georgia, we did some other things as well.  Joe and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with a date night (Thanks Mom), at a Mexican restaurant, on our never ending hunt for Mexican food that’s as good as you can find in TX (Fail so far), and a trip to the book store.

We all got haircuts and Joe shaved his 6 month beard off!

Don't worry, Joe's not sporting the Colonel Sanders look.  This was a halfway through the shave pic.
Don’t worry, Joe’s not sporting the Colonel Sanders look. This was a halfway through the shave pic.

We all went on a long bike ride and took the dog on walks, and played on the playground, and enjoyed the cool Georgia nights.  And LOVED having Nana for the week!  We were sad to leave and hope to return!  And I did get some Florida/Georgia peaches at a road-side stand while there too, just in case you were wondering.

Had to throw in a cute pic of the babies.
Had to throw in a cute pic of the babies.

La Floridia

Ah, Florida!

We had a great time in The Sunshine State!  Originally we planned on staying in Florida for 3 weeks, but then we got here, and realized just how far The Everglades actually were!  Eek.  And with a schedule to keep in order to meet some friends further up the road, we bypassed The Everglades for this trip, but will return!

So instead, we spent 2 weeks in Florida!  After waiting out the storms in Dauphin Island, AL, we had to leave after Joe got off work one day, which gave us very little drive time with daylight (our favorite way to drive).  So we literally just picked a place in Florida that was close enough for us to get to before dark.  That was Waterfall State Park for the one night.  Pretty place, but we were not on our game!  We did end up getting there at dark, and the gate was locked since I didn’t call ahead first.  Which meant I had to walk a mile to the camp host site and ask them for the code.  Resourceful, but technically against the rules.  They did give us the code and we found a spot to park in, but it was a pill to get into, thanks to this tree!

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The next day, we took some time to explore Waterfall State Park.

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Fun family hike to see “The Waterfall”
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Then we took some time to play on the playground.

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After that, it was Adious, crummy parking spot!
After that, it was Adious, crummy parking spot!

Then we were headed to the next nearest place, we could get to before dark.  That place was Lake Waldena in the Ocala National Forest.  It was totally random.  And like almost all random places….It Was Awesome!  Minus the ticks.  Those sucked.

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IMG_20150430_200935285_HDRIt was a great spot, for the right price, and on a lake.  But what made it awesome, was that we made friends!  Good Friends.  The kind of fast friends that on day 3 you’re both like, “Hey, watch my kid for a sec!”  And all your kids outdoor play stuff gets jumbled together and you have to sort it out before leaving on the last day.  The kind of friends you have camp fires and dinners with.  And who let your kids reel in a fish, so they have that memory too.  And maybe you have a night where you both drink a little too much wine and do headstands too.

We make friends; I make dinner!
We make friends; I make dinner!
Kelley
Kelley
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She caught the biggest one!

We miss you Kelley and Bo and Harlo!

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The girls and Harlo (AKA: Carlos, via Bean).

We did a few things while there too!

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2 mile hike through the Ocala National Forest.
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To this gorgeous lake!
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The ground was covered here with Deer Moss. I’d never seen anything like it before and was amazed! It made the forest look like a fairyland.
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We also did some science projects with electricity, guided by Daddy.
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And went to The Ocala Library and playground, which was awesome!!!
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And kept tadpoles as pets for the week.
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And took naps.
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And had family picnics and movie nights.
Bean got a new bike!
Bean got a new bike!

We left missing our new friends, but headed to Disney World!  So the kids kept up their spirits.

Joe and I were apprehensive about going to Disney (not really our kind of thing), but our 7 year old had seen the commercials while watching TV at Nana’s, so it had to be done if we were going to Florida.  So I made the reservations, the expensive, overwhelming reservations.  And I started researching fast passes and rides, and the different parks, and Disney tips, and places to stay, and, and, and…

We arrived on a Monday evening at the Disney campground, Fort Wilderness, feeling totally overwhelmed and unprepared.  But it’s all about suiting up and showing up, right!?

The campsite they gave us was a real B@@@T to park in, but that seems to be the theme of this trip.  We did get parked and set up, with just a mild break down on my part.  I mean, I was due!

The next morning was Magic Kingdom!  We got up early and packed the jogging stroller with enough provisions to survive an apocalypse.  We walked to the bus stop in our campground, and took the bus to the ferry, that took us to the front gates on Magic Kingdom.  Note to self: Just GETTING to Disney takes about an hour.

IMG_20150505_110133398_HDRWe quickly learned to navigate the park and got set up to go to our Fast Pass places (I mean rides…whatever).  We did lots of stuff in our 10.5 hours there that day!

IMG_20150505_112730326I’m going to call these rides by the wrong name, but that’s just how much I care.  So just deal with it Disney Nerds!

Enchanted with Belle

It’s a Small World

Peter Pan

Space  Mountain

Meet Cinderella and Rapunzel

Meet Goofy and Donald

Dumbo

Mad Hatter Tea Party

Carrocel

Buzz Lightyear

Barnstormer

Under The Sea

Lelo and Stitch

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She walked the whole day like a champ with slushi and cotton candy in hand!
She walked the whole day like a champ with slushi and cotton candy in hand!

 

IMG_20150505_180835402”The second day, just I took the girls to Animal Kingdom, since we thought the baby would not enjoy 3 straight days of Disney, and I’m also cheap like that.  It ended up being a great thing!  This day, Joe just dropped us off at the front gates.  That was awesome!

IMG_7031We were more seasoned by this point and knew enough to schedule all of our fast passes mid-day and close to one another.  I had also reserved a character dining breakfast that day at Tusker House as our first stop.

IMG_7041Immediately, it was much easier going with just the girls and no Jonah!  We enjoyed the breakfast buffet and meeting Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and Mickey.  However, the characters just buzzed over to us and just posed for a pic with the kids.  Loralai was really hoping that she would get to eat next to them and spend more time talking to them.  I think she missed the fact that they in fact did  not talk at all.

IMG_7028 IMG_7009While in Animal Kingdom, we did the following..

Tusker House

Rapids

Lion King Show

Safari

A Bugs Life 3D movie

The Tree Walk

Birds of Prey Show

Walked through and saw the animals (whatever that’s called)

Danced in Africa

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On safari

My goal this day was to get in and out before my already tired kids fell apart.  Joe picked us up by 4:30pm.  It was a fun 6.5 hour day!

Day 3:  Joe took the girls to Epcot.  He wanted to take them to Blizzard Beach once we had some experience, but alas, “downgrading” tickets is NOT allowed!  Disney! So he booked all their fast passed at midnight the night before and had a great day!  So if you are totally winging Disney like we were, and are afraid that you have to do everything 6 months in advance, rest at ease.  You in fact can switch your plans the night before and still have a fine day.

Here’s what Joe did while at Epcot with the girls, while I enjoyed Jonah taking a 2.5 hour nap in the RV.

The seas with Nemo and Friends – great aquarium at the end.

Test Track – designed a great looking car and rode like champs.

Circle of Life – Good show about how our actions affect the environment….also the building was unfortunately filled with food.

Saw several great side shows…and found the Margarita tent!

IMG_20150507_134249066It was 4.5 hours of fun in the burning sun!  And best of all, WE WERE DONE WITH DISNEY!!!

The last day in Orlando, we rented a golf cart and cruised around Fort Wilderness.  We went swimming and went to a campfire circle and movie, where Chip and Dale made an appearance.  Bean took a pony ride.  And just drove a speedy 14 miles and hour in our golf cart around the grounds.  And that was the BEST day we had while doing Disney!

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Pony rides! L was too tall to her utter devastation.

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So our final critique of the infamous Disney World?!  Meh.  It’s a theme park.  It’s not anymore amazing than going to Astroworld was as a kid growing up in Houston.  I had visions of the staff treating us like royalty.  But they didn’t.  I thought there was be cool characters hanging out on the streets and interacting with visitors, but there wasn’t.  I thought the rides would be world class!  But most were just so-so.

But we did it.  And I’m glad we did, cause now we know and we will have this to throw in our kids faces, when they say they don’t get to do ANYTHING!

Out campsite at Fort Wilderness in Disney.
Out campsite at Fort Wilderness in Disney.

Dauphin (Not Daulphin) Island

This was such a great 11 days!  We had a blast on this perfectly sized, little island off the coast of AL, where our friends, Allen and Sharon live and learned so much while we were there; including how to correctly spell “Dauphin”.

Here was our campsite.  For the first few days it rained A LOT!
Here was our campsite. For the first few days it rained A LOT!
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Upon arriving, we stayed at THE RV Park on the Island. Is was very treed with wide spaces and this awesome playground that the kids utilized a lot!

We went to the Estuary right off!  It was such a cool place and we learned so much about the sea animals that live in the area.

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Here Sharky Sharky….I want to pet you!

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We also spent a ton of time hanging out on the sugar sand beaches!

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This was the boardwalk from our campsite to the beach.
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Darby LOOOOOVES the beach!!!
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Deep holes with sand walls built up around, that’s how we like to play at the beach.

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Those rigs in the distance are drilling for natural gas.

We also visited a 200 year old fort.  Were we watched an awesome blacksmith who gave us a live presentation and then GAVE us 3 key chains we watched him make!  And of course I didn’t get a picture of that!  But here are a few shots of us learning about fort life, while I tried to wrestle a baby into submission.

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And one day, my 7 year old GREW UP a little more, when she learned to ride her bike without training wheels!!!!
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This was taken right after, when she was feeling pretty good with herself! Sob!
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Wild blackberries grew all over the island and we had so much fun picking and eating them!
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ESPECIALLY Jonah!

Then the Very Best part of our time started on Dauphin Island when we moved to Allen and Sharen’s driveway and our good friends Leigh and Kara showed up with Leigh’s boys!!! FRIENDS!!!!

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Driveway Camping, is our favorite kind of camping!
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One night the 3 of us went out for a night on the town! I was blow away by all the events that were going on this weekend! We hoped around from place to place, all with free drinks and food and tons of people! It was so much FUN!!!
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Leigh of course came to see me, but she also was participating in the craft show going on this weekend. She had some really amazing stuff! I was so impressed, that I had to steel a pair of earrings she made and keep them for myself! Here she is teaching Bean how to make jewelry. Juliet was hooked!
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Baby’s PLaY!
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The kids just took this room over for the weekend.
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This was a fun baby game, that kept them both busy!
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My Braden! And one of Loralai’s favorite people on the planet!!! I honestly did not see her for the last 4 days we were there! She played with Braeden, slept with Braeden, and went EVERYWHERE with Braeden. They were adorable!
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Me and Leigh
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More Beach Time with Friends!
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Goodbye HUGS!
Allen also has his own concession stand at the Ferry and we stopped and got LOTS and LOTS of ice cream while on the island!  The BEST!
Allen also has his own concession stand at the Ferry and we stopped and got LOTS and LOTS of ice cream while on the island! The BEST!
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In addition to EVERYTHING else that was happening this last weekend (craft show, motorcycle show, etc), there was also a GUMBO COOK OFF! YES! And Allen was one of the cooks, so we got to help! And it was so FUN! I think I was born to hand out gumbo to people!
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While I tried to charm people into voting for our gumbo, these cuties hung out under the big oaks and enjoyed the day.

We had so much fun during our time on Dauphin Island.  We loved seeing our friends and having locals to tell us all the great spots to go.  I loved the size of the island!  Just 9 miles long, but with lots of huge trees, a bird sanctuary, estuary, water slides, indoor pools, great beaches, and cute shops.  I think we could live there!  :)  But with so much more country to see, it’s too soon to make any big decisions.  One thing’s for sure, we’ll be happy to return next year, when we’ll take the FIRST PLACE spot for the best Gumbo on Dauphin Island!!!!

Swamp Thang

IMG_6483We were in the New Orleans area for 4 days.  It was rainy.  It was swampy.  And the mosquitos were off the chain.  So….

It felt like more of a layover spot for us then a destination.  But we did manage to have some fun in our very first state beyond Texas!

We stayed in St. Bernard State Park, which was nice, albeit over half an hour to the city.  We choose this park because it had a water playground for the kids.  The rain prevented us from visiting more than once, but we had a lot of fun that one day!  And I got in a run and some yoga!

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No Dogs on the Water Playground! Whoops.
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Jonah has 3 Mommies most days.

We also went into the city one afternoon and toured the French Quarter via $48 carriage ride, that was totally worth it!  There was no way we were going to make it around the Quarter on foot with 3 Littles in tow and the “driver” told us lots of neat facts and history about the city!  My favorite fact:  Why are the house fronts so skinny?  Because for years, residents paid property taxes based on the length of their house frontage, so the houses were built very skinny and long.

Carriage Ride!
Carriage Ride!

IMG_6510We also had some beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and got a Muffuletta to go from a corner restaurant.

IMG_6496It was a good, short trip for a family that doesn’t navigate big cities all too well, YET.

Another day when it was pouring rain, I took the kids to The Children’s Museum and parallel parked our enormous truck into a street spot, Thank you very much!  It appears I haven’t forgotten everything I learned while at college.  We spent most of our time on the first floor, that I thought was pretty run down and a little dirty.  But the kids were having a blast!  Especially Jonah, who couldn’t ride in the play cars enough!

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He was intense about driving!
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He really liked pushing the shopping cart around and hurling things into it!
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Human-size Bubble!

Finally, I was able to pull them upstairs to the second floor, and OMG!  It was AWESOME up there!  But alas, we could only stay for 40 mins cause my parking meter was going to run out!  There was an eye doctor area, miniture french quarter houses to play in, a super market with cajin foods, and a massive toddler area!  We would have stayed until they closed if we could have!  If you are in the area, definitely do the Children’s Museum and GO TO THE SECOND FLOOR EARLY!

IMG_6537On our drive into New Orleans, our check engine light came on in the truck.  These are the kind of things you have nightmares about when on a cross country trip in your sole vechical, that is your only  means of pulling your HOME!  Shit!

So we had to deal with that.  We were really hoping Old Sadie just needed her oil changed, since it was about that time.  But we also went ahead and gave her a coolant flush too.  We’ve been good ever since, with no check engine lights coming on!  Fingers crossed!

We made an afternoon of getting her worked on.  And after driving through the tornado and flood warning weather to get to the dealership in rush hour traffic, on roads we were unfamiliar with, we waited in their plush waiting area and tried to keep Jonah from rubbing his cheeto hands on anything that could not be wiped off.  Less than 2 hours and we were all set to go, and the kids were really pretty awesome during.

Here they are playing "make-over" in the waiting room.
Here they are playing “make-over” in the waiting room.

I got a recommendation from one of the workers there for a great place to get boiled crawfish, just 6 miles away, Sal’s Seafood.  It was GOOD!  Really GOOD!  And I’m a coonass, so I know GOOD crawfish!  And it was a great way to end our short stay in the New Orleans area!

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This was my ULTIMATE goal for our time in New Orleans!
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She spent the entire time intently getting all the meat out of the claws. …and then she sneaked some of them into the truck with her, which I found a few days later!

All in all, it was a good stay, and the first time on this trip that we were really on our own, not staying with or near anyone we knew.  It was good to get adjusted to it just being US sometimes on the road, for the kids and the parents.

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On our last day there we also fit in a visit to a historical battle ground and learned a little about the Battle of New Orleans.

IMG_6576FUN FACT: On the last day we were there, I talked to the Park Host, who’s beard was way bigger than Joe’s, and he told me, not only were there wild hogs that lived in the park, but there were a couple of alligators that hung out in the lagoon/swamp 4 feet behind the playground.  What the What!?  Shouldn’t this be in a pamphlet you hand to people when they come into the park!?  Like right off!  Good thing there kids didn’t spend too much time playing on the playground due to the rain!

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The swamp, just behind the playground, where the gators live!  "Just little ones though."
The swamp, just behind the playground, where the gators live! “Just little ones though.”

Me and Lou kept watching for snakes too, but never saw any.  Thank Goodness!  What we did see were, possums, loads of rabbits, armadillos, lizards, hoards of dragonfiles (and just after a gave a lesson on them, ain’t life weird like that sometimes), and Joe did see a baby hog just outside the park as we drove onto the freeway!

Glad we visited.  Glad to leave.

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