Archive for Road School

Ponderings of 7 Months in!

This post has been marinating in my head for quite some time.

As in, the day we started this trip.

I wonder how to really portray what goes on for us while we are out here traveling the country. In the age of hiding behind facebook and instagram, where everything can look picture perfect, I want to be real.

Most of the pictures and status updates I post ARE real. I am pretty much a “what you see is what you get” kind of gal, and I would say that usually people post the good stuff because that is what we gravitate towards. But then there is this nagging voice inside of me that never wants to come across as complaining when things aren’t picture perfect because…. well…

I realize we are very lucky.

Blessed.

Fortunate.

You pick your word – that IS what we are. I mean WHO gets to do this? Not very many people.

oreo-lounging

Oreo is always happy.

Lately, we have had our pondering days wondering if we are doing the right thing. By ourselves, by our kids. We still have kids who complain all. the. time. You know, like when I say, “hey lets go to the pool, or how about snorkeling or let’s go watch the sunset.” All we get is whining and complaining and boys who only want to play video games and watch you tube.

Nothing has really changed in that regard. I mean kids will always be kids right?

We really are just a normal family with the same struggles as everyone else, only we are doing it while seeing the country.

And then there’s this constant struggle between always feeling like we are on vacation, but knowing we can’t be because Brandon still has to work to pay for this trip (and life), and I am trying to get a business off the ground, and our boys still need to learn something everyday, and I am still their teacher.

Though we have no debt, we still live paycheck to paycheck because this lifestyle is NOT cheap and my husband has his own business and so when he doesn’t get paid, we don’t get paid. We have had those stressors just like everyone else who is self-employed, only we are doing it while on the road.

And then there’s this 300 square foot home we live in. I will reiterate as I have said in the beginning, I really do NOT miss the space of a big house, but we are always together, always in each other’s face, and I am outnumbered by a lot of boy juice… and it can be hard sometimes. We never quite know the surroundings we are going to be in when we sign up for an RV park. We could be in the middle of nowhere, with only super expensive convenience stores around us or we could be smack in the middle of the city and I have to drive this monster truck around and try to fit into tiny parking spaces and drive around cities I know nothing about.

And sometimes, we are just bored. We have no schedule, nowhere to be and sometimes there really isn’t much to do and if Brandon’s only good means of WiFi is to go to a Starbucks, that means the boys and I are stuck at the RV park. So we read a lot of books, do a lot of swimming and lounging by the pool and the boys play a lot of games. Sometimes I just want to start my nursing career already…. and I wonder, the longer time goes on, will I even be able to find a job?

And then there is homeschooling.

Meeting friends who love minecraft always helps!

Meeting friends who love minecraft always helps!

I was under no illusion that this would be easy and I have had it confirmed. Homeschooling is hard. Especially when you are on the road and just figuring it out, trying to get your groove with it. We have no space to do it in, no extra supplies in a closet somewhere, and sometimes our only WiFi is at a tiki bar on sight.

And did I mention kids who complain. all. the. time?

Who could complain doing school here?

Who could complain doing school here?

Our home schooling routine has gone from a formal online curriculum, to half curriculum, half whatever, to minecraft home school, to unschooling, to a combination of all of it. My kids really do surprise me at times by how much they are learning and I am learning so much about them as well. And you know what? I don’t mind if this year is a detox from public school kind of year. We’ll figure it out. If we come out of this year and my boys can tell you more than you would want to know about the Alamo, World War II, how and where our food is grown, the different states and their climates/eco systems, our government, and we do it all while still liking each other, I think we did a pretty darn good job.

This video I found when I was at a super low point one day about how I was feeling about homeschooling really encouraged me:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJUu4P9nJnw&sns=em

If this post sounds like complaining, then so be it. I felt I had to get a real picture out there of just how we feel sometimes. Brandon and I have learned that when both of us keep these thoughts and ponderings bottled up we just feel awful, but as soon as we vent them to each other we make our way to the other side where we realize that the 4 of us are really becoming best friends, our kids are pretty amazing (we get told that by everyone we meet), and we are seeing some amazing sights. We aren’t doing everything or seeing everything, and we aren’t even doing everything we set out to do, but we are living a simple, slow life and learning a lot from it.

When we DO find ourselves or our kids complaining, we try to push through to do something fun in the area or try something new like snorkeling or fishing. I think its the same if we are in a house in a normal daily routine, or in an RV in the middle of the Florida Keys. Great life lessons are being learned here.

When you find yourself bored, or everyone is complaining and you feel stuck. Get out and do something new. You don’t have to travel around the country to experience some pretty great things with your family right in your corner of the world.

 

 

 

The Big Easy

I love how now that we are traveling to more cities you really get a vibe of that city the minute you meet people.

Need I even say…. New Orleans has a really good vibe.

Driving to our RV park was interesting as you looked around at a city that leaves little to be desired, but when you meet the people and sense their kindness, their generosity, their spirit you know its a great place to be.

Everywhere we went people wanted to tell us the best place to eat, the best place to get king cake, the best place to experience music, and on and on. The people who live here really love their city and want you to truly experience everything it has to offer. The things we experienced while here really were the product of what the locals told us to do.

They did NOT disappoint.

One of the first things we did was head to the French Quarter to check it out.

Wow – what a party!

Its Mardi Gras season or “carnival” season right now so the place is hoppin, but I think its a safe bet that it is always hoppin here!

The food!

NO-cafe-dumond

The amount of powdered sugar we ended up wearing was spectacular!

The music!

NO-jazz

The balconies and architecture!

NO-architecture NO-balcony NO-balcony-2

It was just so beautiful and vibrant everywhere you looked.

The boys (especially Alec) really loved watching the magician street performers. Alec is a budding magic enthusiast himself so it was fun watching him get so into this.

As we are trying to experience as many national parks as possible, it was really cool to find out that jazz is actually a national park! In an old mint building here we were able to listen to a jazz group while they played and explained the roots of the music. We just loved this.

NO-jazz-2

One of the absolute best things we did was visit the World War 2 museum. It is actually rated one of the top WWII museums in the country so I knew it was a must see. I had no idea what we were in for. I learned more about its history visiting the museum than I ever have in school. The timelines here and the way you could proceed through the museum to understand what happened when was really amazing and well done. Talk about roadschool – the kids really got an incredible history lesson here!

NO-ww2-mus

Later in the week we also were able to be a part of a live webinar with a survivor of the holocaust through this museum. I think our boys really walked away with a great appreciation of what happened and how life changing this war was.

One of the final things we were able to see before leaving New Orleans was a Mardi Gras parade. Pretty much every weekend from the middle of January through to Mardi Gras there is a parade going on somewhere. It wasn’t one of the BIG French Quarter parades, but it was great nonetheless. I love how parades bring a community together. We talked to a few locals during the parade who told us that this area of Slidell was actually under water during Katrina. Unbelievable!

Most of my parade pictures seem to have gotten lost (stupid computer download issues!) and I had a great one of Alec truly getting into collecting Mardi Gras beads! It was so fun to watch. I got an after shot of the beads though, and don’t let the look on his face fool you – he had a blast. The sun was just so bright!

NO-beads

Speaking of Katrina, we were able to watch a powerful movie with the boys about the history of New Orleans, its people and the hurricane that has really changed everything for them. Just being there and knowing what happened, and seeing the devastation that still overtakes the city first hand was very memorable for us. It is also amazing to see the resilience and the pride that is constantly pulling the city together to be even stronger.

Beyond all the educational experiences there was SO. MUCH. FOOD. Here is some of the samplings our family had:

Shrimp Po Boys

Brandon getting a list of all the BEST places!

Brandon getting a list of all the BEST places!

Gumbo Z’herbes – Otherwise known as Green Gumbo!

Seafood Chowder

Beignets & Cafe au laits (the famous at Cafe DuMonde)

King Cake

I was even inspired to make my own Gumbo Z’herbes at home complete with a well darkened roux! It turned out delicious!

NO-gumbo

When you go on your next vacation – be sure to “eat your way” through the city you find yourself in!

 

 

 

Remembering… the Alamo and FAMILY!

We had a harrowing 3-day drive to our destination near San Antonio, Texas.

Winter finally caught up to us.

In Texas.

After we crossed into Texas and went through El Paso on the 2nd of 3 days of driving, we realized quickly we were going to hit some snow. At first it felt like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but as the near white out conditions and wet roads (which we knew would lead to black ice) and then witnessing many over-turned semis and cars in ditches, we decided though we were an hour from our destination for that day, we had to stop.

I am sure glad we did.

We ended up in a very small town called Balmorhea and the only hotel (where we were going to try and grab a room) was booked solid with a sign on the door and people were everywhere and we were hearing of the churches and police stations opening up for people to stay. I looked ahead and saw a teeny RV park right there! This is one of those finds that you don’t see on the internet and can’t plan for.

Brandon ran over to the park and was able to find someone to help us and show to one final spot they had. Phew – at least we could park our little home on wheels and have a warm place to lay our heads for the night and hope for the best.

Not how I ever want to RV

Not how I ever want to RV

You see, we were anxious to get to San Antonio where my parents were meeting us and had already arrived! So, amidst freezing cold temperatures, snow and ice we holed up until morning hoping to get out the next day.

The next morning, now with blue skies, melting snow, and the all-clear from police and EMS crew we headed out. It was scary to see all the over-turned cars and trucks as we made our way out of town. We had definitely made the right decision. After only driving ONE hour, there was no more snow and it looked like everything we had gone through the day before was a dream. We arrived at our RV park5 hours away with 60 degree sunny weather.

It was SO wonderful to be greeted by my mom and dad and escorted in to our site. The hospitality of the RV park was amazing and there was a clubhouse area that we could use to hang out and play games or watch movies together. We had a wonderful time catching up with my parents with all the in-person stories of the last 5 months.

We declared this week “field trip week” for the boys school, so each morning they would do the minimum requirements (by mom) and then we would set out. Our first destination was The Alamo!

Alamo-2

I am sad to say that I really do not “Remember the Alamo”. History was a subject I really cared less about in school because it was always SO boring. But I tell you, to experience it in person, to watch a movie on what happened, see and touch the memorabilia made it come alive. I am so thankful that my boys are learning American history this way. After the Alamo we also enjoyed walking around the river walk downtown San Antonio which was beautiful and had appetizers and beers and the kids enjoyed ice cream. That is always a good time!

Alamo-1

Here is what Austin had to say about the Alamo:

 In 1836 on March 6 the battle of the Alamo had started. The people of Texas wanted freedom over Spain. so they had a great battle. They knew they were greatly outnumbered so a Colonel wrote a letter saying we need help. Only 32 people came even Davy Crockett. They held that position for 13 days everyone of those of Texas died including Davy Crockett. The Alamo symbolizes liberty and freedom.

And you can read Alec’s blog to get his take as well!

Another stop this week was the San Antonio Missions National Park, and let me tell you I had never even HEARD of this! The buildings were breathtaking and the story told in the movie we watched beforehand was emotional and humbling. The people of south Texas were saved by the Missions but in being saved they gave up their culture and their way of life to convert to Spain and its religion.

Missions-1

I learned so much about Texas history and the Alamo specifically. I will forever remember the Alamo and the sacrifice made there and the symbolism of men giving their life for liberty and freedom. I also learned the sad consequences that can happen when one religion in the name of spreading its message obliterates a people’s culture and beliefs. I better understand the fierce Texas loyalty that resides in the people here and the complicated history of the people’s culture.

Mission Espada

Mission Espada

Missions-3

Mission San Juan

Between the heaviness of the Alamo and the Missions there was… Austin!

I vote Austin one of the coolest cities we’ve seen so far. And we hardly made a dent!

food-truck-1

food-truck-2

We went to a food truck area and ate some amazing food, tried on cool eyeglasses at an eyeglass truck and walked around the main streets of Austin to experience the cool shopping district.

And then of course there was the infamous BBQ of the world trip which I will mostly leave to my husband to talk about on his blog which I am sure will be entertaining. I will say that though there was really nothing for me to eat (I ate before we left) it was a ton of fun watching my husband get giddy with excitement, and my dad try to eat BBQ with his hands (he eats EVERYthing with a fork). We went to THREE yes… three BBQ joints and even got a tour of one (that we were told never happens). So if you are in Texas and you eat meat, you better head to Lockhart for what I am told is the best BBQ in the land!

Vegetarian

Vegetarians enter here, Normal folks down the hall

We had the best week with my parents and really enjoyed our time in San Antonio. We didn’t take NEAR enough pictures because I guess we were having too much fun, but it was so good to see them and hang out. After they left on their way, the weather turned again and we were stuck in our RV with cold and rainy days to follow. We ended our time in San Antonio rather on a sour note unfortunately and we are sad to admit how much the weather affects us on this trip. We were SO happy when we left for Houston so that I could fly out to my girls weekend getaway in Kansas City and we enjoyed 60-70 degree weather for the extended weekend. Yay!

I guess you can’t completely avoid winter no matter where you are.

Florida is knocking on our door though! And New Orleans is UP!