Thursday, December 30, 2010


Yesterday, hubby and I did some serious work on the camper.  We ended up taking out the table and chairs and all the carpet in the main area.  As I was ripping out the carpet I was reminded of our first house together. 

Right after we got married we ended up renting a 3 bedroom, 1 and a half bath house.  We were renting it from my old church so in exchange for a cheap rent we were asked to do some improvements to the house.  One of which was to pull up the old carpet (which was hiding beautiful hardwood floors).

Tomorrow we will be putting in Pergo flooring in the areas we took the carpet out.  This brings back some memories as well.  When I was 8 months pregnant with my first child, I helped hubby put down laminate tile.  We ended up having to redo that floor a couple years later and put down Pergo.  We spent a couple nights doing that while the kids were asleep.

To be honest, these times when hubby and I are doing "home improvement" types of things are some of my fondest memories.  Even though the carpets have been GROSS and laying Pergo is a sweaty job, it's been fun.  We've had some interesting conversations and some funny mishaps.

I'm hopeful that we can do more in the future.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not Much to Open

As we approach Christmas this year I've been trying to focus on the real meaning of Christmas with my kids.  We have never celebrated Santa Clause (we're evil I know).  That said, we have told our kids that there was a man named Nicolas years and years ago (I just found out how long ago - I had no idea he lived that long ago) who was known for leaving gifts for the underprivileged. 

I am happy to say that when asked, both of my children now respond that Christmas is Jesus' birthday.  It warms my heart every time when they tell me why that is so special.  They now understand that we give gifts as a symbol of the ultimate gift we were given by Jesus coming to earth in the form of a baby and then 30 or so years later dying on the cross.

This year I have also been reflecting on how our current living situation has made it so that gifts this year for our kids are more in line with things to do (trips to fun places) and not things to play with.  I have felt a bit guilty about it to be honest until I just realized as I was writing this, that Jesus was given 3 gifts from the wisemen. 

Think about kids in this generation being given only 3 gifts.  There would be a revolt!  I think this year we are going to focus on the fact that the "stuff" doesn't matter.  Does that mean that my kids will be receiving no "stuff"?  No.  It means that my kids are going to learn that we give them "stuff" because we love them (not because they deserve it as kids are told with Santa Clause), but we also don't go overboard... because we love them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Conquering Hero

I did it! I did a bunch of errands driving the truck.  What's more is that I got to the point where I feel comfortable driving the "Beast."  I still have not gone through a drive through but I think I've practiced in enough other situations that I can at least determine if I should even try a given drive through.  For example, I will be able to do my bank with no problems.  The Wendy's however is another story.

For those of you keeping track.. hubby is conquering the travel trailer (meaning the upgrades are in progress).  The hope is for us to be leaving Virginia by Jan 5th or so. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Baby steps

Yesterday I took the next step in learning how to drive our new truck.  I got rid of my training wheels (aka. hubby) and drove the truck by myself.  OK, maybe not totally by myself since the kids were in the back seat.  I was even driving it in the rain!  I did park WAY out so I didn't have to worry about crashing into anyone else.  Overall, a very good experience.

Today however I was a bit chicken.  I decided not to drive the truck while doing some errands with the kids.  Specifically, I was afraid I would not be able to park the truck at the library or make it through the Starbucks drive-thru.  I would have been able to park at the library, but when I saw someone trying to park a truck of the same size at the Costco I knew I'd made the right decision.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Diamond in the Rough

As I stated in my last posting, we recently decided to buy a truck and camper.  Good news!  My husband has the truck he's always wanted, and we have a pretty nice place to call our own. 

It was very surreal to be driving the truck the other day with my husband in the passenger seat giving me pointers like I was just learning how to drive.  I admit, the truck is a BEAST and is very different than anything else I've driven. 

Thankfully we did not get a dually.  If we had, I'm not sure I would be willing to drive it.  You see, the truck we bought has a long bed.  It makes it nice when you think about storing things (especially since it also has a locking topper) but it is VERY hard to park.  Let's put it this way... for the next few months or so I will probably be "that" person who parks across two parking spaces (sometimes side-by-side and sometimes front-to-back).  I also intend to park so there is no chance anyone else will park next to me.  There is no way I will be able to park between two cars without hitting one of them... at least not for a while.

There is an up side to "the beast."  I have never felt more safe (from deer and stupid drivers in particular).  How can you not when you are the same height as a school bus?  I kid you not; we were driving in town and I could look straight from my window into the window of the school bus next to us.

The trailer is also a beast!  It is 38 feet long and has 4 distinct rooms. There is a room with bunks in the back for the kids.  Just in front of that is a bathroom (with a full corner shower).  Then comes the kitchen/dining/living area.  In the very front is the master bedroom. 

We have some work to do before the trailer is ready to go, but we hope to be going South before the end of December.  With the weather the way it's been lately we can't get South soon enough. 

It's taken a lot of searching but we've finally found our diamond in the rough.  Let the fun begin!!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Appologies from a slacker

I knew it had been a while since I had posted anything and I just realized it's been almost a month! I feel like such a slacker.  I have a friend right now who is working full-time, taking an accelerated cohort college program, and is a wonderful mother to a 4 year old.  Did I also mention she regularly posts on her own blog?  In fact, her posts over the last few days have guilted me into staying up a bit late to get something posted today.

My intent for this blog was to let you know what is happening as it relates to our travels.  I think the reason I have not posted anything has actually been because I really wish I was sharing different information.  I was hoping to be in Australia for Christmas this year.  Granted, we've known for a while that that wasn't going to happen.  Our most recent hope was that we would drive South in an RV just days after Thanksgiving.  That hasn't happened either.  The RV we were going to take has engine issues and we've decided not to fix it.

Now we are on plan 3.  Last week, we drove all over Virginia in search of a 1 ton truck and a travel trailer or 5th wheel camper.  This new plan is a bit exciting because newer camper layout's seem to be better than the RV we had.  It's a bit unnerving at the same time because we're going to be trading in our (read: "my") car for the truck.  I will miss our car.  It has just about every bell and whistle I could ever want. 

We are still hopeful that we will be going to Australia, but I feel like we've given up so much already (e.g. a great house near my family and friends as well as our cat) that to give up "my" car would just irk me that much more if we don't end up in Australia.  I feel a bit selfish and guilty considering what others are going through, but my husband has always wanted a truck so I am trying to suck this up and let him get his toy. 

This does seem to be the logical thing for us to do right now.  We could still move to Australia, which means we don't want to commit to a long-term rental. Not only that, but we don't have any furniture!  A camper means our furniture travels with us and we don't have to commit to staying anywhere for more than a night.  Not only that, but if we end up staying in the US, we're both thinking we want to buy a fixer-upper and having a camper will give us a place to stay while working on a house.

I am sorry I have been hiding from you.  I will try to be better about posting.  The next few days could be a bit hectic though (I'm pretty sure we will be buying the truck and camper this week) but I will certainly let you know what's going on.

Keep us in your prayers as we try to firm up our plans (and purchase a few rather big ticket items).

Saturday, November 20, 2010


"Things will work out. God will not give me more than I can handle."  That has been my mantra for the last couple of days.  You know what?  Saying that over and over has helped, but so was lunch with a good friend of mine today.

On my way to lunch today, I was doing everything in my power to not cry.  While leaving the house, one of my children did everything they could to guilt me into staying home (let's just say there was lots of crying and pulling on me).  In addition to that, it seemed like all my families immediate travel plans were either being put on hold indefinitely or possibly worse - not going to happen at all. 

By the time I was done with lunch, I was feeling SO much better.  Have our travel plan issues been resolved?  No.  But being able to just talk things through with a good friend who really knows how I tick was just what I needed.

Lunch had been planned with my friend for days, but God knew exactly when I would need to see her.  Love you J.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Up, Up, and Away

Well, I finally did it.  I took the kids on another field trip.  We meet up with a friend from my MOPS group who happens to home school children of the same age as mine and we drove to the Air & Space Museum located in Chantilly, Virginia.

We decided upon this because 1.  We weren't sure how our kids would do together for a long period of time,  2.  It was the cheapest and easiest option because we were wary of taking our kids on the metro, and 3.  It meant we didn't even have to go near the beltway.

Overall, we had a good time.  My daughter was a little less than enthusiastic about how much walking we ended up doing (I don't have a stroller anymore and they don't rent them out like the zoos do) but as long as she got to sit every once in a while she was fine.

One of our favorite things was the area where you can observe airplanes taking off and landing at nearby Dulles International Airport.  We could even hear the air traffic controllers as they talked to the pilots.  We were also taken to a display air traffic control room where we learned just how important the job of an air traffic controller is.

We also learned about the different things airplanes are made of and why certain materials are better than others.  We learned about the purpose of the lab on the space shuttle and why rockets have multiple segments.

It was a wonderful learning experience for the kids and the moms (at least me).  Yes, I learned something too.  I learned that my daughter is happier at the zoo and my son is just as happy at a museum or zoo.  I'm not sure if it's the age difference or being a girl or that she didn't want to walk, but it's something I hope I can work around in the near future, because I would love to do another museum trip with the same friends taking on Washington, DC next time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Places to go. Things to see

I can't believe it... I'm having trouble figuring out where to take my kids on a field trip.  When we were in Ohio we were going somewhere at least once a week.  Now that I'm back in Northern Virginia, I can't seem to find something I want to do. 

Maybe it's more accurate to say I can't decide on which of the many available options I think the kids would enjoy the most.  I mean who can pass up the National Air and Space Museum (both of them), National History Museum, the American History Museum, the Lincoln Monument, the Washington Monument, and the many other tourist sights in and around Washington, DC.

I think the biggest issue I'm facing is that I realize that most of the places I want to take them are in Washington, DC, and I REALLY don't want to deal with the traffic.  I gave up my job in the DC suburbs 6 years ago in part because I didn't want to deal with the traffic.

What do to?  I think I will let the kids decide where we are going, and then I will decide when (taking into consideration traffic) and maybe I can get someone else to go with us to make the trip more enjoyable.  Any takers out there?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Mountain Returns

A couple of days ago we had the tires on our car replaced.  The day after we picked up the car, I was pulling up to a stop light and a tire went completely flat.  I limped the car a few yards to get out of the driving lanes.  Luckily we'd just been to the library so the kids flipped through a few books and watched an educational DVD while we waited for a family member to come and rescue me and the kids.

Who knew that almost 2 years after selling our house on a mountain that the mountain would come back to bite us. We took the car back to the mechanic and apparently the gravel roads where we used to live were to blame.  The tire could not properly sit on the rim because of the grit and grime that had worn down the rim of the tire.  Hopefully the trick he tried today will hold up and we will not have any more leaking problems.

All I know is that this is just more proof that getting off the mountain was a good idea.  Strike that... a GREAT idea!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back to Ol' Virgine

Considering this blog is supposed to be tracking my family's travels, I should update you on our most recent trip(s).  Last weekend, we drove from Southwestern Ohio to Northern Virginia.  We did this while pulling a VERY full trailer of stuff.  Under normal circumstances this trip should have taken just over 8 hours.... it took us 12. 

The reason it took so long was two-fold.  The first was that we had a tarp covering the trailer to make sure nothing flew out and also that nothing got in (such as dust or rain).  The second reason it took so long was because our car struggled to make it up the mountains of West Virginia and Maryland.  There were places where the speed limit was 70MPH and we were only going 40 or 45MPH. 

We did have a few things going for us though.  The first was that we left Ohio at 3PM.  That meant that even if the trip would have been 8 hours long, the kids would have slept the second half of the trip (which they did).  The second was that the frequent stops to check and or fix the tarp were also a time to get the kids out of the car to stretch and take potty breaks.

Hubby ended up going back to Ohio by himself to get one more load of our stuff and hit a deer on the way to Ohio.  Luckily the damage was minimal and is very hard to see. All I can say is that I'm glad I was not in the car.  I've hit a deer before and I really don't want to do that again.

Now we are in Virginia trying to figure out our next steps.  The plan right now is to see if we can get an relatively inexpensive RV so that we can take it on a cross-country trip.  If that doesn't work out, who knows exactly what will happen next.  God has always shown the way and we don't expect that will change now.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Life is a Zoo

Not really, but I've been to so many as of late that it sometimes feels like it.  You see, I've gone to 6 different zoos in 5 different states over the last 4 months.  As such, I feel like a bit of a connoisseur.  Because of that, I'm going to rank the zoo's I've been to and explain their ranking.

1.  St. Louis, MO

Admission is free but you do need to pay for parking.  There are a few activities you can do at the zoo that cost extra (ride the train, ride the carousel, attend a sea lion show, pet a stingray).  We did pay to do many of the extra things and we don't regret that purchase at all.  We thought the layout of the zoo was well thought out and that the animals had not only ample space, but visitors to the zoo had a pretty good chance of seeing the different animals (even if they were sleeping).  Our only complaint was the cost of the food and drinks.

2.  Des Moines, IA (Blank Park Zoo)

This was the smallest of the zoos we went to.  That meant it didn't have as many animals but they were all laid out in such a way that you could see them without any problems.  They also had numerous shows and meet the keeper opportunities which the kids loved.  We also paid $1 to feed a giraffe a leaf of lettuce (OK we paid $5 and got 6 leaves), and we also paid $1 for each of the kids to feed some parakeets.

3.  Columbus, OH. 

I've heard lots of good things about this zoo because it is where Jack Hannah is based out of.  Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.  Maybe it was because of all the hype.  Don't get me wrong, it's a nice zoo, but the layout for the animal enclosures made it hard to see some of the animals.  They do have numerous meet the keeper opportunities and an animal show that is really cute (with primarily house pets that have been rescued from local shelters).  In addition to having lots of different animals (a plus when it comes to kids) they have a spectacular play area for the kids and a mini-amusement park complete with a coaster, log flume, and swing (the day we were there it was cold and a bit windy so most of the rides were closed).  The price of the foods at the zoo is also rather reasonable for eating out as well.

4.  Cincinnati, OH. 

Technically the Cincinnati Zoo is also a Botanical Garden.  That means the zoo is beautifully landscaped and for the most part well laid out.  It is rather hilly which made pushing around my 6 year old and 4 year old in a double stroller a bit difficult at times (I kept telling myself I was getting a good workout).  I love some of the special themed buildings they have (cats, insects and butterflies, etc).  I also liked how everything was well shaded (very important considering the day we were there it was 90).  Besides the hills, my biggest beef with the Cincy Zoo is the price to park and get in.  I also wished they had at least one area for the kids to just unwind and run around.

5.  Washington, DC. 

This was the first of the zoos I'd been to but it's also one I've been to multiple times because it is my "home" zoo.  The National Zoo is very nice considering it's in the heart of the Nation's Capital.  It is rather hilly in areas (again making pushing a stroller hard).  It was also undergoing LOTS of construction.  A necessity I understand, but it meant that many of the animals we were there to see were taken off display because their habitat was being renovated.  It would have been nice to know in advance just so I could have prepared my kids.

6.  Minnesota Zoo in Minneapolis, MN (Apple Valley). 

They claimed they have the second largest acreage of any zoo in the United States.  If that's the case, they are letting a lot of it go to waste.  They claim it is because they are trying to preserve some of the marsh land in the area.  I have no problem with that, but don't tout to me that you have all this space and disappoint me by having so few animals.  They did have a few kid play areas that were nice (including a water fountain for them to run in).  They also had a really nice aquarium complete with a dolphin.  That said, I would not go back to this zoo.  Instead, I would go to Como Zoo (in nearby St. Paul) which I hear is much nicer and also has a small amusement park.

Now to cover some general information.  If you are planning on doing anything like this I would recommend that you  get a family membership to your local zoo.  The reason is because by doing so you are allowed into that zoo for free for the next year.  My local zoo is the National Zoo.  I figured out that I would need to go to the National Zoo 2 times in order to "make back" my money (your membership is tax deductible by the way).  Not only that, but having a membership to the National Zoo got me discounts at every zoo that I went to.

To ellaborate:  I got into the Des Moines Zoo for free (it normally would have cost us $30 for 3 of us).  Getting into St. Louis is free for everyone, but we were able to do all of the "extra" activities except for petting the stingrays for half price.  We got into all the other zoos for 50% off and we even got 15% off food or gift store purchases in Cincinnati just for showing them my National Zoo membership.

I have gotten back so much more than what I paid for the membership.  Not only have we gotten discounts at other zoos, but we've been able to experience 6 different zoos in 5 different states.  We've seen MANY different animals and have lots of pictures and memories that will last a lifetime.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Science of Cleaning out the Pantry

As someone who is about to move for the 4th time in 2 years I have come to realize that there are certain areas of the house that you can't just pack up at the last minute.  The primary one being the kitchen.  You would think that because you will be using the kitchen pretty much till the last minute that you would need to pack it up almost last.  Most think it's the equivalent of packing your toiletries for a trip right after you've used them for the last time before your trip.  However, there should be more planning involved that that.

The first move we made was only 10 miles, but it was down a mountain and we were moving into a short-term rental that was furnished.  My biggest concern with that move was making sure nothing broke on the bumpy roads and that I had enough food to last for a couple days once we got to the new house so I didn't have to shop right away.  That meant that I tried to make sure we consumed anything in a bottle before the move.  Anything that needed to be kept cold was taken in a cooler and at the last minute.

The second move was about 50 miles and we were moving stuff from storage into an unfurnished house while we were still living in the furnished rental house.  This allowed me to unpack pots and pans and such before we actually moved in.  Very convenient I must say.  Again, I tried to make sure we consumed as many bottled items as possible, but I also tried to finish off anything that was in large packaging.  The idea there was just to take up as little space as possible.

Move three was 300 miles.  In this case, I tried to clear out everything but staple goods (flour, salt, pepper, etc.).  How you ask?  About 8 weeks before the move I stopped shopping for bulk items.  That meant no shopping trips to Costco and it also meant that unless I KNEW I would use it all, I wouldn't even buy large quantities of meat from the local grocery store.  About 4 weeks before the move I started making menus based on what I had in the pantry and less on what I wanted to eat.  It meant we all ate things we weren't too fond of on occasion (just because of the way the canned goods were paired with other things) but I must admit that we didn't have much to move.

Move four is going to be 300 miles again but there is a bit of a twist.  This time we will be moving into an RV when we get to the other end rather than a house.  That means that I need to plan on limited storage space.  In addition to using up just about everything I can, I need to reduce the size (and maybe number) of staple goods I'm bringing. 

It is certainly not something that can be done at the last minute unless of course you want to throw a bunch of things away (including your hard earned money).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teaching everyday

Now that I am officially a homeschooler I've realized something very important.  Just about everything done in a day can be an opportunity for instruction.  I guess I knew it before, but it's been made more obvious to me in the last couple of weeks.  For example, we've gone to various zoos over the summer and even though I tried to use each trip as a learning opportunity for my kids, the last trip we took I was even more focused on the learning aspect and less on the viewing and photography of all the animals. 

The other day the kids and I had a picnic in the yard.  I ended up lying out on the picnic blanket and looked up at the tree I was under and saw it a a teaching opportunity.  I ended up giving my kids an impromptu lesson on wind, pollination, and why leaves fall off trees (we had a few land on us while lying there).

Yesterday, I took the kids to the Cincinnati Museum Center.  It has a Natural Science and History Museum, a History Museum, and a Children's Museum all in the same complex.  I decided to see them in that order so we could get in the education part of the day first and then I could let them "play" in the Children's Museum.  Guess what?   Even in the Children's Museum we learned about different things.  We learned how to make our own kite (we are waiting for wind to test it out), we learned about water pressure, and we learned about pulleys.

My 6 year old has in no uncertain terms told me that just sitting down at the table and doing worksheets is not enjoyable, so I'm adapting.  I guarantee you this... he would not have learned about how the heart operates if we had learned it from a book but to see it in a hands-on way he has retained the information. 

I'm learning that while opportunities for teaching our children are all around us, it only works if we get on their level and teach them in a way they understand and enjoy or else it will be totally lost on them.  I guess more field trips are in my future and to be honest that's fine with me.  We learn and get to have fun all at the same time.  What more could I ask for?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Oldie But a Goodie

Over the last 3 months I have taken my children to 5 different zoos (and have plans to do another in the next couple of weeks).  What have I learned? 

1.  Make sure you bring a stroller (or get one from the zoo).  Even if your child is used to walking, they will inevitably get tired of walking.
2.  Get a membership to the zoo most local to you because you will get discounts at other zoos.  Don't forget to mention it everywhere you buy something inside the zoo.  You'll be surprised what you can get at a discount.
3.  Check before going to make sure you can bring in your own food.  If not, plan on going to the car to eat or plan your trip so that you are arriving or leaving around lunch.  Most food inside the zoo is overpriced and doesn't taste that good either.  If you can, make sure to pack not only a lunch, but snacks and lots of drinks too (20oz drinks cost an average of $2 ea).
4.  Be prepared to say "No" to the MANY requests for things from the gift shop.  I tried to avoid the gift shop entirely but marketing being what it is, they always seem to put it in a place where kids see it.  My solution for this was to get my kids started on collecting elongated pennies.  We wander around the zoo in search of the 1 design they like best.  This not only gives them something to look at later to remember the trip, but it doesn't take up much space and costs between $.51 - $1.01 each.  Many postcards aren't even that cheap.
5.  Before going to the zoo, find out what animals are there and let your child(ren) know.  Ask them which one they want to make sure they see and plan accordingly (very important in some of the larger zoos where it is hard to see everything in one day). 
6.  Be prepared for disappointment (theirs and even yours).  One zoo I took the kids to, didn't have the standard animals (elephant, giraffe, zebra, etc) and my kids were a bit disappointed but because we knew some of the animals that were there I was able to distract them with what we were going to be able to see.  I must admit it was our least favorite of the 5 so far, so there is something to be said for the old standbys. 

More zoo information to come after we visit zoo #6 (one of the top 10 in the USA).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Blogging Newbie

This is my first official blog so forgive me if I seem rough around the edges. 

I have decided to do this blog because I have been traveling a lot over the last month and it looks like there will be more to come.  You see, my husband has been offered a job in Australia.  We have lived on the East coast of the United States for our 11 years of married life and both of our children were born on the East coast as well.  This will be quite a change for all of us but it is one we are looking forward to.  Of course we will miss our friends and family, but we are looking forward to all the adventures we will get to have.  What an opportunity for our children to experience a different culture (and I don't even have to learn a different language)!

We are not sure when the move to Australia will happen.  Unfortunately, we are waiting for our paperwork to be processed and it doesn't seem to be any faster there than in the US.  While we wait, we've decided to embark on another adventure of sorts. 

In October, we are planning on getting an RV and setting it up so that we can not only live in it, but so that my husband can still contact his new employer in Australia.  Then we are heading South for the winter.  Our plan is to start out in Florida (near Disney) so that we can take the kids to all the attractions there.  Then we will move West.  If the paperwork takes long enough, we hope to be able to see the Grand Canyon and maybe even Old Faithful. 

I just started homeschooling my 1st grader in preparation for all of our travels.  It has been quite an adventure in and of itself, but it is one I'm enjoying.  I hope I enjoy the rest of my upcoming adventures just as much.  I hope you will too.