Monday, December 6, 2010

Are you a list maker?

I am. I used to not be but now I make lists. I DON'T make lists of lists, but I believe there are some out there that do {giggles}.

With our upcoming travels and the holidays, I NEED to make lists. Otherwise stuff wouldn't get done, packed, decorated. But I find that while I make some lists, some detailed some not, I don't always USE the lists when it comes to doing things.

Several years ago, my husband and I made a list of things we would like to get done for the year. It was the first week in January and we sat down separately and made our own lists and then came together to combine and discuss a family list, a joint list. It was really meaningful to do this. We spent probably several hours on this process. Then once the process was done, we closed the notebook we were using satisfied with our goals for the year and went back to our "regularly scheduled" programs. I found that list last month and I went to him and we read it together. Of the ten things we wanted to accomplish we did one, sell our car. It needed being sold so it wasn't really something we had to "strive" for, you know.

My lists do a couple things for me. One it settles me, two it organizes me, three it makes me focus. Right now I have three lists going. I have our Christmas preparations list, our Christmas gift list, and a packing list for a trip. Yup we are traveling, actually twice, this holiday break.

Along with my lists for major events I also like to make a time line. This helps me prioritize and give a deadline for getting the items on the list done. Does anyone else do that?

Often though, with my list, I don't seem to use it. Particularly when it comes to packing. Sometimes my list is just to organize me, and once I have written it, the items are in my brain and I don't need the list. Other times I will use it, refer back to it, and cross off the items on it.

What do you write your lists on? For me, it is usually anything I can get my hands on, a scrap of paper, an envelope, a torn piece of notebook paper, a legal pad. My lists aren't to keep forever, saved for future use. They are temporary. This brings me to replicating my lists. When we pack for a trip, we usually take the same stuff, pants, shirts, underwear, socks, toothbrush. But I still feel the need to write them down, there is something in writing the word "socks" that makes it stick in my brain. If it didn't write it, I would forget socks, 100% of the time! So for me, making a standard list on the computer and then printing it out and adding additional items as needed doesn't work for me.

So tell me about your list making??

Oh, and follow me (well this blog). Click on the "follow" button and you will get the updates. I would love some followers!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Helen, Georgia

My husband called me the other day and asked me to look up So I did and I found a wonderful little town built with the "old Bavarian style" buildings. RIGHT HERE IN THE USA!!! It is about an hour from Atlanta from what I can see on Google Maps. It is also set in the southern part of the Appalachian Mountains. It looks fabulous.

They have little local stores full of arts and crafts stuffs. They have carriage rides and other winter festivities. They decorate for Halloween and Christmas. What fun!

There are a bunch of museums and The Cabbage Patch Babyland General Hospital, birthing center for the Cabbage Patch Kids. I still have mine!!

It would be a lot of fun to go there. This year their big festivities are this weekend, but they are still decorated and have other events through the season.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Funny how I hear about things I am thinking about.

My last post was about keeping our camper stocked for emergencies, etc. Well, after I posted it that evening I heard on the news that we shouldn't get rid of our food storage and other emergency supplies even though hurricane season is officially over. They said on the news that we should keep our stuff because we may need it for power outages in the winter due to winter storms. {giggle} It is funny how I start thinking about things just as officials are telling us to do the same thing.

THEN on Glenn Beck I see this. It is an article on food storage. This article is actually pretty good if you are just starting out in your emergency preparations. It gives a good step by step list of how to go about storing food and what foods to store.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's in your camper?

Do you ever think about "what if"? What if a big storm came and we had to evacuate quickly? What if there was an emergency with a family member and we had to rush to their side (but they live out of town)? What if we were told by emergency people we had to evacuate our neighborhood because of gas leaks?

How quickly could we leave? Piggybacking on my post here about how quickly we can pack, I want to talk about what we have in our camper.

Several years ago there was a lot of talk where we live about emergency preparedness. The nation had been attacked by terrorists, devistating hurricanes, and other emergencies where families were displaced or sheltered in their homes for days, weeks without electricity and basic necessities. The nation seemed to be on a wave to get prepared. There were advertisements, trainings, and information disseminated everywhere about what you need and should have on hand and for how long.

While we don't live daily in fear of any of this happening it still is good to be prepared, right? It got my husband and I talking and while we already had a pretty good food stores at our house we decided to make a few tentative plans ourselves. We live two hours from our nation's capital and two hours from the east coast naval headquarters. This puts us in the line of fire for any international attack if {knocking on wood} war broke out. Oh, did I also tell you we are 45 minutes from a nuclear power plant? Yeah, that would be us. So we made a few quick plans and if we had to evacuate we would hook our camper up to our truck and head out of Dodge, so to speak. But the question then was how quickly could we do this and have what we need for several days?

This is where we started to consciously prepare. We decided that we would always have three days' worth of food on deck. We would also have basic hygene supplies (ie. toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, etc). We would keep a pretty decent first aid kit. This was a no-brainer since we also use that first aid kit while traveling. We would keep water stored too.

That was a few years ago. Today I am proud to say that for the most part adding a few perishables and a few clothing items we are still pretty much set. When our camper was parked a couple hours away we had it stocked similar to our house. Of course we had electricity and running water hooked to it so that kept items in the freezer and refrigerator from perishing while we weren't there.

Do you stock your camper? For emergencies?

This is what we have on board all the time.

Food: basic food items in cans and boxes. We try to keep about three days worth of food, just in case.

Water: we try to keep a few gallons in bottles.

First aid kit: this is a must for traveling anyway.

Hygene items and OTC medicines: Pain/fever relievers, bandaids, ace bandages, antibiotic ointments, lotions, etc. Also, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soaps, toilet paper, feminine products.

Paper products: paper plates and cups, napkins, paper towels.

Other items: A set of sheets for each bed, several blankets, towels, hand towels, plastic bags, trash bags, basic tools, rake and shovel, lanterns, flashlights, batteries, etc. Small toys and books for the kids. Extra set of clothes for everyone, rain jackets/ponchos.

When we had our camper parked at the campground we were more stocked then we are now. In fact right now there isn't much in the camper. I emptied it out when we brought it back to our house. Since it is in the backyard, I am not that worried if there is an emergency and we need to go quickly. We can pack it pretty quickly from our supplies in our house. Also since it is getting colder outside, I don't want water to freeze and rupture in the camper. Also we don't want any food to freeze and spoil.

In summers and while we are using the camper, I like to rotate the food in there so it doesn't spoil and I try to keep foods that we eat a lot on the road in there anyway so food rotation is easy.

Do you even think about this? Do you consciously keep extra food on hand in your house? Your camper? What would you do in an emergency?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting that itch again!

We are all getting that itch. It has been only three weeks and this third weekend that we are on I can feel that the kids are ready to GO somewhere, anywhere and frankly, I am too.

I sit with a heap of laundry surrounding me, a family room that is in crisis right now and all I want to do is pack up and go. Two weekends ago we brought back our camper from our seasonal campsite about an hour and a half away. It sat in our driveway for a week and we moved it to the backyard. We unpacked all the food and perishables and parked it for the winter. The camper is sad, I can tell. I am too.

I don't know why traveling is so in my blood. I remember when I was little we were always going places, camping for a weekend, traveling for the day. Perhaps that is where I get it from. When we first moved to Virginia from Maryland, my dad announced that we need to get to know our new state. For the first two years we traveled all over the place, exploring, discovering what it was to be in Virginia. It was a good thing we did that because my first year here we had a big project to complete about Virginia. We had to make a book and divide it by the regions of Virginia and then explain the different regions, the land, the industry, cities, etc. Most people took brochures and cut them up and used them as their photos of the regions. NOT ME! I had real pictures, real stuff. Why? Because my dad took us there, showed us around, and we took pictures. So for the coastal region you have me at the beach. For the piedmont region you have me with the Richmond skyline, me in Fredericksburg at the battlefields. For the mountain region you have a photo of me in the mountains, me apple picking, me with the fall leaves, me me me me me. I got an A+ on that project but the teacher didn't like me any better and I was lucky to have moved on to the fifth grade and not have to do fourth grade over again. (But that is another story).

So back to the point here. We are itching to go somewhere but we are pretty much stuck here for the time being. The holidays are fast approaching, there are decorations to hang, more laundry than you can imagine, and a family room that needs some semblance and order.

My question today is: How fast can you pack the family and be off on an adventure? Let's say, for a weekend? A week?

My answer: we can pack for a weekend without having to take linens (like if we are going to a hotel or our camper in the summer) in an hour. That does not include shopping for food. But it does include packing food and drinks.

To pack for a week: 2 hours tops. And that is everyone in the car and ready to pull out of the driveway. We have gotten really good at packing. Every person knows what they need to pack. They know how to pack their own entertainment for the car ride. I pack all the toiletries, food, drinks, and linens. We have this all down to a science.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Traditions with Kids

Because we travel so much, we try to make certain family traditions unchangeable in our house. The holidays are a perfect time for traditions. This makes whatever 'craziness' in our lives feel much more normal.

We make sure at least for now that we are HOME for Christmas. We can travel prior to Christmas and we can travel after Christmas but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are sacred for us and they are spent (for now) at HOME! When I was a little girl we lived in a city where I didn't have grandparents close by. So at the holidays we tended to travel just after Christmas or even for Christmas. Those holidays when we weren't home in our house seemed a bit odd, different, not right. We decided that at least until the kids are much older that this holiday would be spent at home and so far we have succeeded in making sure that happens.

For our kids, this may not even make any difference to them. They are pretty flexible kids. Last year for example we traveled to Disney World prior to Christmas. Our intent was to get back on December 24th. But while we were there a big cold front hit the East Coast and Richmond was covered in 19 inches of snow. This began to concern us that we wouldn't be able to get back home in time. We might have traveling issues, although we drove our 4WD to Florida we might have icing issues, road closures due to other accidents, etc. We began to prepare for an alternative plan. As flexible as our kids are they do much better with a plan, and one that we stick with. So we began to talk about maybe not making it home in time for Santa. We talked that Santa would come anyway to our house and not to where we were. We talked about possibly getting hom on Christmas Day. Once the kids knew that we had a plan then all was fine. We decided not to go into the park on Dec 23rd, as planned for the morning, but to begin to head on early again not knowing what we would encounter. As it turned out we ended up driving all day long and we actually arrived home that evening around 9:30. We didn't hit any bad weather, poor roads, or traffic until we were just outside of our city and the roads were just wet at that point.

The holidays are so filled with tradition for us. The visit to Santa, the REAL Santa! Decorating the Christmas Tree, hanging the stockings, and sending Daddy down to see if Santa came on Christmas Morning as we all wait (not so) patiently at the top of the steps. Watching the Thanksgiving Day parade as Mom makes waffles and bacon. Going to a grandparent's house for dinner and then, for me, shopping the next day at the great sales.

But the holidays are not the only times when we have traditions. Going to the beach in the middle of the winter, bringing Lucy the witch down from the attic for Halloween, and even those lazy hammock times in the summer are traditions for our family. Picking the dinner on your birthday.

What traditions do you all have in your family? Anything special you do with the kids?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traveling with kids

In the recent few days I have been thinking a lot about our travels this year and in years past. I was asked the other day in an email if we travel every weekend. Well, no not every weekend but many and most weekends we are going somewhere or doing something.

So this got me thinking about how we travel with kids. As I said before we have been traveling for years with our kids and I think that since they know no different they have learned to cope with long hours in the car. They are easy to travel with for the most part. My kids are currently 11, 10 and 8. They get along with each other well. But that doesn't always mean that they get along well in a car for hours on end. I help the process of traveling out a bit too. Here are some of my tricks to help kids cope with long hours cooped up in a car.

1. Packing:
Clothing goes in one bag or a suitcase but the kids have small backpacks that they can stuff with other items to help them stay busy and entertained in the car. These smaller backpacks now are packed by them alone, and as toddlers and younger kids I packed their backpacks for them.

When they were little like 4-7 years old I packed a favorite stuffed animal, a new pack of crayons, a new coloring book or activity book (love these and get them from the dollar stores), a hand held battery operated game, a couple reading books and sometimes other small toys they could play with in the car.

Now as they are older they usually pack their MP3 players, Nintendo DS games, a coloring book or two, reading books, pencils and crayons, a stuffed animal and other little toys or entertaining stuff. One rule I have is that it all has to fit in that bag and the bag must close. We only have so much room, you know.

2. DVD player:
Oh my heavens! I was in paradise when we finally got a DVD player that was attached to the ceiling of our suburban. We had it installed last year before our big trip to Florida. This was wonderful because we opted to get the headphones for the kids as well. Now we can drive for HOURS in silence as they watch a movie. As toddlers we had a portable DVD player and before that a larger VHS player. This has been a godsend to our traveling. When we didn't have those we had those VideoNow hand held devices and as little kids they loved watching Dora the Explorer and Clifford the Big Red Dog episodes on it. They eventually broke and we upgraded.

If you are going to travel far this is a must have in a car.

3. Stop Often:
My kids need to get out and run every couple hours. They still do. And personally I need it too. When we are on long trips we like to stop every couple hours and have a bathroom break and perhaps get a snack or a drink. I will talk about food later. We try to find a place where there is a bit of space or a fast food restaurant where the kids can play in their playground area for a few minutes before getting back in the car. Now this will add time to your trip but the end result of having happy kids in a car will more than make up for this inconvenience.

Oh, also it is our rule in our family that everyone MUST TRY to go to the bathroom when we are stopped. There is no "I don't have to go" and then 30 minutes down the road they are complaining that they have to go "right now and can't wait".

4. Food and Drink:
One way to keep kids happy on the road is by making sure they have full bellies. We always always pack a bag of snacks for the road. We often will pack a cooler of drinks too. Even if we are driving an hour out of town a bag of snacks and a drink is a necessity. I pack several options, salty, sweet, healthy, junky. This way you hit all the possibilities. Oh, and pack more than you think you will need. It is amazing how much kids will eat!

5. Bag of tricks:
Yes you heard that right. I always pack a "bag of tricks" that I sneak in the car. I am not talking magic tricks I am talking stuff that the kids have either never seen before or haven't seen in a while. For shorter trips I usually try to save my stuff for the ride home. It can be the worst part of the trip and the kids can be very cranky on the ride home. This breaks up the monotony of the car ride and gives them something new to do or play with that they haven't done already this trip. For long trips like our trips to Florida I like to try to wait as long as possible in the ride there before I pull out anything new for them. Last year on our drive to Florida (a 14 hour drive each way) I didn't have to pull anything out of my "bag of tricks" until the ride back home. The kids were so excited to get there that they were great the whole ride down so I saved my stuff until our drive back. Sometimes I don't even need to pull anything out and I will then just save my stuff until the next trip. This is great too because then they don't know to expect new stuff because it doesn't happen on every trip.

What's in my "bag of tricks" you ask? Well for my kids a brand new coloring book or activity book for each of them is in there along with two or three packs of brand new crayons. I pack, for longer trips, a new DVD or two. We usually purchase them as we will want to own them but you can rent movies also. I love the new RedBox movie rental kiosks and love that you can rent a movie one place and return it somewhere else. We have rented a movie here before we leave and return it at our destination, then rent again for the ride home. At a buck a day, this is a deal for us. My kids love to write and draw so I often will pick up those little notebooks you can get at craft stores or in dollar stores for a $1. I also will put in a book that we haven't read as a family yet. When I pull this book out I will read it out loud from the front seat (not driving of course) while the kids listen. I show them the pictures as we get to them. I will save the longer books for this and it is great with toddlers if they enjoy listening to you read. We can read for a couple hours this way.

I don't spend a lot of money on my bag of tricks and often will include small toys that they have ignored for a while too. Now, I don't pull everything out at once. I save stuff and pull out one thing at a time. I let them play with that for a while and when they start to get bored again, pull out something else.

6. Pillows and blankets:
This is a must. My husband likes to keep the car cool even in the winter so a blanket will save a lot of fuss about who is too cold. They each have a blanket the size of a sofa throw in the car and so do I. Each child also has a pillow in the car that is accessible to them. If they want to take a nap, then they have everything they need. Often the will lean their head against the pillow to watch the movies too.

7. Traveling clothes:
Many years ago my grandparents traveled a lot. They are now deceased. When they traveled they had their "traveling suits" on. These consisted of a pair of pants that were comfortable, a shirt, and a matching blazer or jacket. A suit of clothing. But these suits were not like a suit you would wear to the office they were decent enough to go into a restaurant and have a meal and nice enough for you to not be embarrassed when others saw you. But comfortable enough for you to sit for long periods of time and not feel like your pants are cutting you in half. This was a different generation then but their idea is still the same.

For us the rule is that the clothes have to be comfortable but appropriate enough to be in public in. For our family that means that we do NOT travel in lounge wear, pajamas unless our next stop is a hotel or a place where we will be going straight to bed. Otherwise we wear clothing that is comfortable, sweat pants, or shorts, long pants that are not tight or binding. We wear layers on top. We start with a shirt and then add a sweatshirt or sweater. If we are traveling in the winter then we will bring our winter coats but not wear them in the car.

While traveling if we plan to be late getting in we will put the kids in pajamas around their bedtime and let them fall asleep in the car and carry them into the hotel or our destination for bed that night. But they do not start out in the car that afternoon in their pajamas. If you have really small children then pajamas may be more appropriate for traveling. But for us we wear our clothes.

8. Know your kids/Allow extra time:
When planning a long trip in the car, the best rule of thumb is to know your kids. You know their tolerance level and you know their escalation signs. You know how long your kids can tolerate being in their seats. Knowing these key things will help to diffuse any problems in the car. Don't wait until it is too late. When you begin to see signs of travel fatigue that is the time to change the situation. Don't wait until it is too late. Sometimes simply saying "We are going to start to look for an exit to eat dinner. Who can spot a sign for McDonalds on it?" That will give you a few more minutes of calm. Or pull out something new, start DVD, or begin to read to them. The idea is to change the situation. Sometimes at this point I will pull out the food bag and begin to hand out snacks even if they didn't ask for one.

Allow extra time for stops. We average with our family of 5 30 minutes for a bathroom and drive thru break. If we stop to eat in a restaurant we can add an additional hour to our travel time if not a bit longer. We have tried to shorten this time and the kids get too stressed out. So we know we can't rush this. We love Google Maps and GPS. Google maps is great because you can change your course of the trip with a click. It gives the travel time also. As an example, it takes 11 hours almost to the minute to get from our house to Disney World. But for us we know it takes us 14 hours. Our trip down is broken into two days. We start in the afternoon and drive as long as we can into the night. We stop twice, once for dinner and once for a bathroom and clothing change break. We switch the kids into their pajamas around their bedtime. We find a hotel (not always the best idea with traveling with kids to just leave it up to chance) and we carry them into the room in their pajamas and tuck them straight into bed. The next morning we pack up and continue on our way. We will stop two more times on the way. Once for a midmorning bathroom break and once for lunch. No matter how fast we try to go it still takes us 14 hours. On the way home, we travel in one very full day if we can. We stop for a mid-morning break, lunch where we get out and eat, a mid afternoon break and then dinner where we sit down and get served. Then usually we are pretty close to being home, well, within a few hours. In short, plan for breaks and lots of them.

Traveling with kids can be fun if you are prepared. I have heard horror stories of families on the road, kids fighting in the back seat or kids screaming and crying the whole way there. That is not a fun way to travel. It is better to be even extra prepared with your bag of tricks than to be caught short and short tempered.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Long Weekend in the Outer Banks, NC

We love being at the beach in the fall. This year with the school calendar the way it was and the fact that Election Day was just two days past Halloween we headed down for a long four day weekend. Boy did we have a good time. We really relaxed.

One thing that we were originally concerned with was Halloween and Trick or Treating. Our kids are still of the age where they enjoy trick or treating and we didn't want them to miss out on that fun. But since we would be at the beach in the off season and we weren't sure how many neighbors would be trick or treating also, nor did we know about other neighborhoods where we could go, we opted for Trunk or Treating.

I searched the internet and found that a local church down there would be offering trunk or treating, a carnival like atmosphere with games, activities, and bouncy things as well as free hot dogs and popcorn. So it sounded like a plan. On Halloween we hopped in the car in early afternoon and headed down the road a few miles to the church to check things out. We wanted to have enough time to come up with a plan B if we needed it. We drove by and they were setting up the bouncy things and they had a large area roped off for the event. So things were looking good. That evening after carving our own pumpkins:

Halloween 2010

Trunk or Treat 2010

We headed down to Trunk or Treat. We expected some people but were totally taken back by the number of people there.

Trunk or Treat 2010

We had to park down the street and walk a little bit back to the church. It was great though and well worth it. The cars were so well decorated and the people were so nice as we went through. The kids enjoyed the evening so well they asked if we could come back next year. Now that is a good sign!

Trunk or Treat 2010

They said the kids belonged at this car:

Trunk or Treat 2010

A pirate truck:

Trunk or Treat 2010

and a robot:

Trunk or Treat 2010

Very fun.

The next day we headed out on the beach for some honest to goodness salt air. It was chilly but we had a great family time.

Collecting seashells:

The find of the day.


And trying desperately to fly a kite:

Kite flying

Kite flying

Sea oats:

Sea oats

I love this guy!


And walking with my girls!


We were reluctant to come back home on Tuesday but the adult in us made us come home. We could live there forever if we could......ahhhhh to dream.....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Touring our own Town--Richmond, VA

So many people forget to take a tour of their own town. We are included in this group. We travel so much but forget that Richmond, VA is a great place to be a tourist. We do go to the museums and utilize many of its cultural activities and places, but we have never taken a tour of the canal area downtown. My mother got a whole bunch of tickets really inexpensively and invited us to go along with her and her friends. The canal area has been really cleaned up in the past several years but the canal area has always been around.

In short we had a great time on the 40 minute little boat cruise of the canal area. The boat captain told us many things that I did not know, including that George Washington was the person who suggested that Richmond build a canal in the city. And they listened to him. We also learned that Richmond was known for its import of tea and we learned a lot about the tobacco export and the tobacco warehouses.

Richmond Canal Ride

It was such a beautiful day, warm but not hot.

Richmond Canal Ride

We really enjoyed ourselves.

Richmond Canal Ride

So an assignment to you -- go take a tour of your city. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Three Junior Ranger Badges in Three Days...oh my!

This past weekend we visited three different national parks. We did one on Saturday and two on Sunday. This proved a bit too much for the kids. Participating in the Junior Ranger programs at each site was just too taxing on them, mind and body. So we have a new rule in our house: one park, one day. We don't do more than that.

So here goes the first day. I will post the other parks in separate posts.

Saturday we visited the Wright Brother's National Monument in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. This is a wonderful park and while we have been there many times before we still learned something new on this trip.
(the monument at the top of the hill)

As you arrive there is a gate where you pay your entrance fee. Kids of course are free but adults are charged $4 each. We went ahead and purchased the annual pass for $80. It is a card that you get the size of a credit card. We parked and went into the visitor's center and picked up our junior ranger workbooks and a special pencil that had no eraser. (note to self: bring pencils with an eraser for the kids)

On the very day we chose to go to this park they also had a stunt kite exhibition and competition. We enjoyed watching the stunt kites fly as well as many large wind socks and other interesting kites.
(Stunt Kite Exhibition)

(helping the kids with their workbooks)

We then ran off to the other exhibition hall to search for the ranger who was giving a lesson in paper airplane making. It was a requirement for the kids to participate in a ranger led activity and this is the one we chose. As the kids were perfecting their paper airplanes the adults looked around the exhibit. We learned that it was only 66 years from the first flight to landing a man on the moon. That is pretty impressive. It also says a lot for technology. Once you figure out the basics you can improve it exponentially.

(Ranger Liz talking about the paper airplanes)

We walked around the rest of the museum and the kids finished up their requirements for the JR program. Then we hiked up the "mountain" (hill) to the actual monument. Boy is that a steep hill. The view from the top is well worth the hike!

(This Ranger was so funny with the kids and he added so much more to their
oath that the kids take. They promised to be good to their brother and sisters and
to clean their room every day!)

When going to the Wright Brother's National Monument allow for 2 to 3 hours to tour both the visitor's center and the exhibition hall. Don't forget to hike the hill to the top for the great views of the island and don't miss the ranger talk in the visitor's center where the replica of the original airplane is. That talk is great.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

National Parks Annual Pass

Recently we have been thinking about going ahead and getting the annual pass for the National Park Service. We so enjoyed the Ft. McHenry Trip and we are looking at focusing our next few trips around the National Parks and Historic Sites around the areas we will be visiting. So it makes sense to go ahead and purchase the annual pass.

This is a great deal if you know you will be visiting some of these places in the year.

If you are a senior citizen then you get the motherload of deals. It is a $10 lifetime pass. You can bring in up to 3 more adults with you and kids are free anyway. You can visit any national park or historic site or seashore you want free of charge.

If you are not a senior citizen then you get the regular annual pass for $80. This is good for a full twelve months from the time of purchase.

This pass gets you:
• Per Vehicle Fee Areas - The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a noncommercial
• Per Person Fee Areas – The pass admits the pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4
adults (children under 16 are admitted free).

And it does not cover:
• Overnight Camping
• Developed Boat Launches
• Swimming Sites
• Specialized Interpretive Services
• Concessioner Service (Concessioners may honor the Senior/Access passes if included
in the terms of their current permit)
• Facility or equipment Rental Fees
• Cabins
• Lookouts
• Day/Overnight Group Sites
• Special Conservation Programs

We have already spent $14 to go to Ft. McHenry and upcoming trips will be to Ft. Raleigh and to The Wright Brothers' Memorial in North Carolina. Ft. Raleigh is free but The Wright Brother's Memorial will cost us $8.

Another future trip will be to Jamestown and to Yorktown. These two are a bit more spendy at $10 a person. We are now up to $42. With the pass though, I think we will use it more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oceana Air Show

The boys went to the Oceana Naval Base Annual Air Show. They had a great time and was there from Friday through Sunday. They went with my son's Boy Scout Troop.

The Blue Angels.

A fun plane with The Pickle in front

Another cool plane.

In the helicopter...

The girls and I stayed home and held down the fort. We would have enjoyed ourselves if we went but for us, planes are just, well, planes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 we know it.

A couple weeks ago my husband went in for a routine yearly physical. He had bloodwork done, a chest x-ray, etc. The normal stuff as you get a bit older. Last week he got his results back. Everything looked great except for his cholesterol. It was a bit high. Well not sure "a bit" is the right wording. High but not high enough to freak out and start the roto-rooter meds. The doc said that he could bring it down with diet.

Now this is a guy. A man. A man who likes his meat. A man who likes his midnight chocolate snacking. A man who, well, doesn't like to be told he needs to eat rabbit food and granola. He was a bit upset about this at first, but we both started diving into research on the internet, talking to friends, etc., trying to figure out what he can eat, what he can't eat, how to raise good cholesterol, and how to lower bad all at the same time.

At first it was looking like rabbit food and granola but now we have found eggs, meats, and other items that help lower cholesterol. We have learned about Omega-3's and Omega-6's. We have changed our diet.

First changes were that we are no longer (well once we finish eating what we already own) eating meats and veggies that are not organic, if we can help it. We are eating much more fruits and veggies, and we are limiting our red meats. Not getting rid of red meats all together but limiting them. We are eating whole grains, trying new foods, and loving it.

A few weeks ago I accidentally grabbed the wrong box of blueberry muffin mix. I got the whole grain mix not the "regular" ones. Last night I made them. The kids were so excited to have these with our chicken last night. They could smell them baking and I think their mouths were watering when they sat down to the table. I never said anything about them being different, and one of the bonuses was that we hadn't had them in a long while. I made them with our omega-3 rich eggs and I used canola oil. The didn't puff up as much as the ones with white flour and they were much more dense. But the kids raved over them and they each at two and asked if they could take one for snack today. So I think they went over well. I will be purchasing these again.

For the most part the kids won't see any real difference in their eating habits changing. We already eat a lot of veggies and fruits. We already try to not have too much in the way of processed, packaged foods. But these little changes will be good for all of us.

This weekend I am off to the farmer's market to price purchasing 1/8 cow.

For a while we have talked about moving towards a healthier diet and shopping more organic but we planned to start this "on our big trip" we would say. We wanted to move to more fruits and veggies, healthier cuts of meat and more local produce. But now with the test results, we begin now. Now is better than never and now is better than later. I like our switch.

As for the husband-he thought at first we would starve to death but in the last night he commented that he was full but not stuffed and he was starting to feel better through the day with more energy. I think he is already seeing some of the benefits of this diet. He hasn't cut out his midnight snacking but has switched the Hostess Cupcakes with trail mix. A bit of chocolate but lots of protein.

Oh, and he has lost 5 pounds--the jerk! ;)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Did your table look like this?

the night before the first day of school? Ours did. In the weeks leading up to this event we shopped with all the kids to pick out their school supplies for the year. We also stock up on things like filler paper, notebooks, crayons, pencils, extra markers, etc., because of the great deals you can get. You just can't beat a pencil box for a penny!

So in typical Sears form we wait till the last minute enjoying every second of our freedom of summer and waited to the night before to get us all organized. We had been at the river for the whole weekend and with the intent to come home just after breakfast on Labor Day we lazed around, talked with family more, and piddled a bit in cleanup before finally getting in the car around 5pm. This put us getting back to our house at 7 pm and then we had baths to take. Once all that was done we put the kids in bed and set out to getting names on all their items and packed in their bookbags for the next day.

As a child I used to love the first day of school.

Now as a mom, I hate it.

It reminds me that my kids are one year older.

It reminds me that my kids are growing up too quickly.

And most of all it reminds me that my summer days with them home all the time is again at an end. {sniffle}

The next morning we were up early and out the door in typical Sears fashion- rush rush rush...

So much that the kids and Dad rushed out of the house without even a first day of school photo. {double sniffle} What was he thinking???

But luckily he remembered that he had his cellphone in his pocket and snapped a quick photo of the kids just before the bus came to pick them up. {whew!}

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Plan B, Plan C, Plan D

What if we don't sell the house? What if we don't sell the business? What if we use the money we were going to spend on our Disney Trip for a summer trip? What if we rent our house? What if we sell the house but don't go for a year? What if we have no money? What if something breaks down on us and we can't fix it? What if? What if? What if?

I don't know if this is panic or rational thinking at this point. I read so many blogs about families who up and sold it all and are now traveling. I have scoured their blogs looking for clues to how they pay for it all. There ARE expenses to living on the road and I want to know what their budget is and how they make their money while on the road OR if they have it in savings prior to being on the road.

One family sold their business and bought a big ole bus, gutted it and are now traveling. I know they are traveling on savings. Okay, I get it. But how much?

One family travels and then the dad will pick up a job here and there. The mom does photography. They work when they need to and travel about, but they tend to stay in one place a long time and they aren't out looking at the world like we would be so much. I love their family and I love their blog.

One family up and sold a lot but didn't sell their house yet so they traveled a bit and are now back home where the dad has his own business. I haven't been able to confirm but I think he just closed up "shop" and traveled and then opened back up when they returned. The are home and homeschooling and dad is working again. Not sure what happened.

One family up and sold a bunch, couldn't get their house sold and are now renting it out for a year while they travel. They started their trip in July. I assume they have savings? or something as there was mention that the dad lost his job a couple years ago. Hmmm....

One family (yeah I follow a bunch of them) sold it ALL including the house and the dad has a job doing something (don't know what yet) that involves travel so they travel with him and his job. Sounds fun, but limits you to where you can go.

I can only assume that these families have a bunch of money in savings. Plus I have also found that 3/4 of the families that I follow with kids have a motor home and not a travel trailer. I have found 2 with a travel trailer, no I lied, 3 families.

I know that expenses are actually cheaper on the road (believe it or not) and we are looking forward to that BUT....

there are just all these different facets to this project. We have come up with several plans to make this trip and they include the BIG Plan A which is sell it all and take off for a year and we have a Plan B and C which include taking off for a smaller amount of time and traveling only in the summer and keeping the house and our stuff.

Oh the options.....

But for now the boys are off at an air show having the boy time of their lives I am sure and the girls and I are heading to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The boys took the cameras but I have my phone so I will post photos of our trip soon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Planning, planning, planning...

and more planning! We sat for an hour today and mapped out at least two do-able plans for "the big trip". There were lists of pros and cons, lists of priorities, and lists of to dos. The lists were good. Sometimes I need to write things down to "see" it in my brain. Also when I write things down I am able to get a better sense of what needs to be done first. We keep saying "sell the house" has to be done first but there are so many things to be done prior to selling the house. In order to sell the house we have to make some repairs to the house. That will cost a bit of money. Then we have to pay off the second mortgage to make our house price more marketable. To pay off the second mortgage we have to sell my car. See where I am going with this?

So really on top of the list of things to do is get supplies to repair the fence and clean up the car to take pictures of it so we can list the car for sale.

Oh the planning! This trip WILL happen. It will!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Organize, Organize, Organize!

That is the name of the game today. The kids are cleaning their rooms and we are finding we have too much stuff for the amount of storage bins we own. We are reducing our stuff and purchasing more storage bins at the same time. The kids I think will have the hardest time with the downsizing I think. Our son has one foot in childhood and one foot in tween time. He struggles with giving up stuffed animals, toys etc from when he was younger even though he knows he doesn't play with them. Our middle daughter, well I just haven't figured her out yet. Perhaps she likes a messy room as she doesn't seem interested at all in cleaning it up unless she has one of us adults in there with her doing most of the work. I have thought it was laziness but I just don't know. Our youngest though would rather just throw it all out. Give her a trash bag and she is the first to fill it up. We love that she does this, however, we have to go back through her trash to make sure there aren't toys in there that she will one day miss.

Everyday we think about our trip and what purchases we make today will either help us on the trip or we will have to sell it or give it away before the trip. It makes purchasing items much easier when you think, "well I can't take it with me so in 10 months I will just be getting rid of it. Can I last that long without it?" Usually the answer is yes, I can live without it and I don't purchase. Such a nice feeling!

Today we will be purchasing two things. Storage bins for the kids toys and such. These bins will serve double duty for us on our trip. They will either be storing things for us or they will be going with us and used as storage for clothing and such. The rules are that these bins must have a top that is attached so we don't lose the tops. The second thing we will be purchasing today is a new TV. Our old, analog one in our family room died this morning. We considered going without TV for a while and that is okay with us but we think we will be better off purchasing one today. We will be moving our other analog TV down from our bedroom and purchasing a smaller flat screen to put in our bedroom. We will take this smaller, new one on our trip. We are researching how big a space the TV space will be in the trailer so we don't purchase too large. But right now we are thinking somewhere in the 29-32" range.

This organization today will also help in the sale of our house. We have another yard sale coming up next week which I hope to have a ton of stuff out there that we just don't use or need anymore. The money from the yardsale will go towards paying off debt.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My New Ride

My New Cruiser!!!

Isn't she a beaut??? I love this bike. Kenneth has been looking at getting me a bike for quite a while now. I haven't pushed the issue. Okay. Let's get the whole story:

Kenneth and I have been together since August, 1992. That is a full 18 years. In this time he has NEVER known me to get on a bike. Everyone else in the family has a bike except for Mom. All the kids have two bikes each! Mom had none. I didn't push the issue for a couple reasons. One: I haven't ridden a bike in over 18 years. Would I remember? Could I balance myself on a bike? Would I fall? All these fears flooded my brain. Two: I am fat. Would I even fit on a bike? Would the bike hold my weight? Could I ride and balance on a bike with my weight?

I can talk myself out of a lot of things given some time. Well, we were at Walmart getting a few things we needed for the weekend: cokes, lemonade, hamburger buns, and stretchy string. Kenneth decided to look at bikes (a surprise for Mom he told the kids). He picked one out and asked me how I liked it. I realized that today I would be getting a bike. Really this is my FIRST bike. I don't remember having a child size bike as a kid. I do remember having an adult 10 speed as a teenager, but that bike was my mom's bike that she had. I didn't have one of my own. So officially this is my first bike that is MINE.

I decided not to try it out in the store because well, there were people around and they were looking at me. Plus my kids were in the way and I wouldn't be able to get a good feel of it going up and down the short aisle. So we paid for it and walked it out of the store, put it up on the top of the car and headed home.

Okay so here is where the sweaty palms start. First I have no tennis shoes at the river with me. I had forgotten to pack them. But that excuse didn't work on the kids. They said I would be fine with my hot pink crocs. They did insist that I wear a helmet and I agreed. If I was going to fall off this bike in front of everyone I didn't need my brains splat all over the road for all to see. Cause, honestly if I was going down everyone would feel it like an earthquake! ha ha. (but seriously)

I tried to get the kids to go do something else while I try out this bike. I could feel the pressure of all the little eyes watching me and couldn't handle it, but they weren't budging. We adjusted the seat, adjusted the handle bars, adjusted the nuts on every part of the bike. Okay, no more stalling. I have to do this. (and I am scared!)

Well, I have to tell you, I lived to see the next day! The old adage is right, you never forget how to ride a bike. I got on and peddled and peddled and peddled. The whole family was following me and I was out in front, wind in my hair, not a care in the world except for the fear of falling.

We rode all over the park that day and had a wonderful time. The whole family now has bikes and we can go places now.

Kenneth said that he didn't mind spending the money for it because it was an item that we would take on our "trip".

Now, I need a new cushy seat for my rear parts and a basket for the front and a little bell to ring a ling a ling.

PS: in the photo of just me and the bike, you can see our camper in the background and you can see our suburban in the background of the photo of me and the kids.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An update on our plans

Wow, it has been a year since I updated this blog. We were so excited at the time about our big trip. We seemed to think we had everything together and a fool proof plan.

So here is what happened. We were taking the Dave Ramsey course and in the last post I said we were going ahead with the purchase of the new travel trailer. Well, we found out that we couldn't get a loan for it so we didn't get it. Our small 30 x 10 camper has done us well again this summer at the campground. We finished up the Dave Ramsey course and thoroughly enjoyed it and the love the message, however we didn't quite grasp it like we should have and didn't even make a budget after that first month (last October).

We were so depressed about not getting the trailer that we booked ourselves a Disney World trip instead. Probably not a very good idea but we got the food plan for free and we had a great time.
Winter and spring seemed to creep up on us and we continued with the status quo, wanting to change but unable to commit to change. We enjoyed our camper again at the same campground every weekend and the kids and I pretty much stayed there through the entire month of July.

Reality set back in when I realized that my summer vacation was over and I had a few days before returning back to work (as a teacher) August 2 from my month long vacation. (I only have a month off where I work). We decided to spend a few more days at our river house (camper) and during that time we made the final decision that we were going to make this 'big trip' work this time.

We came home with renewed interest in making all the necessary changes. My husband is working hard to make as much money as he can right now and in the process try to sell his lawn care business. We would really like for him to be able to keep it going while we are away but that doesn't seem possible really. I am working on a 'long shot' and making a proposal to my bosses to give me a year's paid sabbatical. It is a terrible long shot but I am going to go for it anyway. All they can say is NO.

Here is our plan: departure date: July 1, 2011.
*New fifth wheel travel trailer in tow using our existing Dodge truck. It will be a tight squeeze for the kids in the back but we don't plan to travel too far at one time. I think we will be okay for a start.
*Sell the house, move into an apartment or the trailer until school is over, save money and store the bare essentials.
*Sell all possessions that we are not totally in love with and worth storage fees to keep.
*Save, save, save. But before we can do this we have to pay off our second mortgage $17,000 so we can sell our house. Then we have to pay off a line of credit (another $17,000) so we have a cushion of emergency money if we need it and no debt on the road.
*Come up with a money making activity that we can do on the road to make us some money while out there. This is going to be hard and I welcome any ideas you all have for this.
*Explore, make lists, and try to plan for any hardships that we might expect. I know we can't plan for everything but if we can learn from others then we are one step closer to no surprises.

Here is the fun planning:
*purchase National Parks Annual Admission Pass ($80) and will be well worth its weight in gold! We just went to a National Park last weekend (post to follow) and spent $14 for admission. We figure a few more parks and we have this one paid for. Yippeee!!!
*Work on curriculum for the kids for next year.
*Begin to plan our course of action, where we will visit, approximate time spent places, research research research.
*connect with other families doing this exact thing, begin to make friends on the road.
*work on our re-entry plan, possible jobs, businesses, etc. This goes along with what to store, and what to sell. There are days I struggle with this.

I welcome all advice on these topics.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fort McHenry (War of 1812)

Today we went to Ft. McHenry. We were in Baltimore for a funeral but decided to make the most of the trip and we wanted the kids to earn their first Junior Ranger Badge.

The Junior Ranger program is available in most National Parks and Historic Sites. Fort McHenry is titled with being both an National Monument but also an Historic Shrine. It is the only park to have both these titles.

During the War of 1812 after the British had captured Washington, DC and
was in the process of burning it to the ground, the British set their sites on Baltimore, a large port city. In the distance the people of Baltimore could see the orange glow of the flames just beyond the horizon to the south. They were fearful that the British would in turn burn Baltimore
too. They began to set up defenses to keep the British out. There were several military forts in the area but Fort McHenry was the most important due to its strategic location on the Patapsico River and jutting out into the river thus protecting the ports of Baltimore.

The fort is star-shaped and gives the best defense for
this peninsula to guard its territory. Lt. Colonal George Armistead was in charge of the fort. He was an interesting man with a lot of bravery and, well, guts!
When he knew that the British were coming he commissioned two flags to be made for the fort. Mary Pickersgill was commissioned to sew these flags. The first one was a 17x 25 foot flag. A storm flag it was said to be. The second was even larger and Armistead wanted "a flag so large that the British would have
no difficulty seeing it from a distance". It was this large flag that flew over the fort and will forever go down in history, being the most famous American Flag. Why is it famous you ask? Not only is it the flag that now hangs in honor at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC but is the
very flag that Francis Scott Key saw in the early morning light
knowing that the British had not taken Baltimore and that there was hope for our fledgling country after all. He was then inspired to write the words of our, now, national anthem.

This flag is huge!!

We also saw the guard house where they kept prisoners, the enlisted men's bunkhouse, the magazine, and the officer's quarters. We explored many cannons that were used during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. We also saw the statue of Orpheus, which is a bit odd. In 1913 Congress officially made "The Star Spangled Banner" the official National Anthem, although it had been sung as
such for many years. In 1914 they commissioned this statue to stand in honor of Francis Scott Key for writing the anthem. Looking at it in the time period of a return to Greek and Latin
roots and loving all things "classical" it fits. However, nowdays, I think they would have been better off having a statue of Francis Scott
Key himself. While his name and face are on many plaques around the fort, there is no statue of him.