Our 1 Year Fulltime RV Living Anniversary

One year ago last week, we purged & sold 90% of our belongings and moved into our 30’ camper (187 square feet) fulltime.  It’s funny because a couple years ago, living in an RV was something we only dreamed about for retirement “one day”, but now it’s our every day reality – and we LOVE it!

I really meant to update a lot more during our first year, but life got in the way of my blogging.  I’ll work on that and try to do better this year.  I can hear Yoda now saying “Do…or do not.  There is no try.

Let’s recap the past year, shall we?  We moved out of our house and into our camper on March 30.  For the next 5 months, we enjoyed life at a campground in Maryland near Rob’s work.  It was a great “first home”.  We woke up each morning to a beautiful view of the water, made some amazing friends, celebrated all 3 of our birthdays there, dealt with a couple storms with no issues, cooked and ate lots of meals outside, went swimming often, & fed lots and lots of ducks.

 

Memories from Bar Harbor RV Park in Maryland

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Then, before we knew it, it was time to move down south to Georgia.  The Army said it was time to go, so we went.  That’s how it works.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it was the easiest PCS move ever!!  We took a 2 week vacation to get down here, camping and sight-seeing along the way.  Then, we settled in at a campground in far eastern GA right near the coast.  Or so we thought.  It turns out we weren’t settled after all and that God had other plans for where he wanted us to live because then the hurricane happened.

We’ve now been at our current campground – Beaver Run RV Park – for 6 months and we couldn’t be happier.  The campground, the people, the friends, the community….they all truly make this a HOME. 

 

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A really great playground where the kids feel right at home

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A beautiful spring fed lake perfect for swimming, kayaks or paddle boating

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So, how has it been for 3 people and a cat living in 187 square feet? 

Absolutely wonderful!  Does that make us crazy? Probably, but we’ve learned to embrace that title.  There are definitely bigger families than ours in tiny spaces, though. 

 

Seriously, this has changed our lives for the better.  Pretty frequently, Rob and I check in with each other to see if we still like this way of living.  Every time we both answer a definitive “YES!”.  In fact, we often say we can’t believe we are getting to live like this daily. We’ve always loved camping and getting to do it every day makes me feel spoiled.  Life is just more simple. 

 

We spend so much less time cleaning.  Our weekends are now filled with family time instead of cleaning house, yard work and chores.  In fact, we’ve had to get really creative finding jobs for Emily to do to earn money.  She does a lot of chores just for being part of the family, but we also pay her a salary for certain jobs as a way of teaching her how to handle money wisely because that takes practice.  However, with this lifestyle there are a lot less household jobs to be done!  The entire camper can be cleaned in under 30 minutes, and there is no yard work to do.

 

We buy less stuff & spend less money.  There is no room for a bunch of randomness, so we think twice about every purchase.  It has to have a true purpose and a place to go once it’s inside the camper.  No shopping sprees at the thrift store on a whim, or buying random things at a yard sale just because.  If something comes in, something else probably has to go out so better make it worth it.  I also spend more wisely at the grocery store because there is only so much room in the fridge or pantry to put things.  We are forced to use up what we have before buying more.  We make great use of our Amazon Prime for shopping though because we can buy our vitamins, cat food, cat litter, and even clothes without going to the store and being tempted to buy more than we planned.

 

Our daughter THRIVES in this environment!  She gets so much outside play time! She practically lives outside, which is truly her element. She rides her bike, plays at the playground or just in the nature with other kids, participates in an art class here at the campground, and is enjoying meeting new people too. 

 

Even the cat is happier.  She has several choices of prime seating right in front of a window where she can watch the birds & squirrels play.  Unlike most cats, she is a “pack” animal and loves her pack of people.  She used to follow us around from room to room in the house so she could lay down near us.  Now, she can just pick a spot and her people are always nearby.

 

We have so much more family time!  This happens naturally because we are all in the same space instead of off in separate rooms doing our own things.  We play more games, cook more meals together, chat more about all the little things and just enjoy being together.  We aren’t fools – we know time is limited before our daughter will be off on her own doing grown up things, so we are cherishing every bit of time we can.  It’s also great for our marriage.  I fall more in love with my husband every day, and it’s nice to be able to be together in the same space doing our own things instead of being in opposite sides of a house.

 

Oh, the people you’ll meet! One of our favorite parts of this lifestyle is meeting new people!  Living in a house it always seems people come home, go in through their garage, close the door and never come out.  At a campground, people are always out taking walks, cooking on the grill, or sitting by a fire.  New people are coming and going all of the time – some just passing through and others staying a while.  We’ve met so many interesting people with some incredible life stories.  Getting to know people at potluck dinners, game nights, Bible studies, or just stopping to chat while on a walk is a great part of the experience. We’ve made some great friends over the past year, and many I think will be friends for life now.

 

We don’t miss the STUFF.  We haven’t missed all the stuff we purged before moving into our tiny space.  Not at all.  Ok, I take that back – there was one thing.  Hangers.  We accidentally got rid of too many hangers and had to go buy more because we hang most of our shirts to dry.  That’s it.  We do still have a storage unit for now to hold some off-season items, Rob’s tools, our memory boxes, and a few extra craft items for me or toys for Emily that get traded out from time to time.  Once we upgrade to a 5th wheel, we will get rid of the storage unit because we’ll have more storage built in.   But all the boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff that we sold/donated/gave away/trashed??  We haven’t looked back.  I haven’t even missed all the coffee mugs or craft supplies I let go.  Emily hasn’t wanted 90% of the toys she thought she would.  It’s been so freeing.

 

Any bad parts?  Honestly, the only downside is that we can’t travel as much as we want due to Rob’s job.  Retirement will come one day though, and we’ll do more then.  At the same time, we really enjoy staying put and being a part of this community here at the campground and in the local city.  

 

Lessons we’ve learned:

* Propane tanks are way cheaper to refill at Tractor Supply than to trade out the tanks elsewhere. 

* Space heaters are really nice in the winter and make a huge difference in comfort.

* Dehumidifiers are a MUST! We started out with a couple tiny ones, but ended up with a 30 pint model.  It might be in the way from time to time, but it is worth it for the amount of moisture it pulls out of the air!  You don’t want mold growing because it’s too humid.

* Emptying the gray/black tanks are really not a big deal at all.

* Pinecones landing on the roof of a camper during a hurricane can sound like bricks falling from the sky. 

* The night sky always looks better from a campground.

* Campfires never get old.

* Doing laundry at the campground laundry room is not only not a big deal, but I also like it.  Unlike in the house, now I wash, dry AND put away all our laundry in ONE day!

* My husband was right – we didn’t need to bring the ice cream scoop because a spoon really will do the job.  I did however, reclaim my lemon squeezer from storage. 

* You don’t need a dishwasher when you have a 12 year old.  I’m now understanding how my parents went so long with a broken dishwasher when I was in high school.

* Folding step stools are extremely helpful when you are only 5’3”!

 

Where do we go from here?  Will we ever live in a house again?  Not if we can help it.  Of course, we don’t know what the future hold or where the Army will send us.  It’s possible we could go somewhere that living in our camper isn’t feasible, but for now we have no plans of leaving the camping lifestyle. 

Hurricane Matthew in an RV

This past September we moved from Maryland to Georgia due to Army orders.  We took a fun 2 week family vacation on the way here, and then settled (so we thought) in a little town called Townsend near the coast of Georgia.  It was a cute little town, but evidently it was not meant to be our home. 

 

Before the storm

Just a couple weeks after moving here, Hurricane Matthew headed this way.  I know there are a lot of people that are quite familiar with hurricanes, but we’d never been this close to one before.  In Texas, we had tornados.  In Maryland, we went through a record-setting blizzard.  In North Carolina, we lived far enough inland that all we ever had was lots of rain during a hurricane.  But this time, we were only about 10 miles from the coast of Georgia.  Right where the hurricane was headed.

As it got closer, I just kept feeling like we should move further inland. After all, we live in a camper.  It’s portable.  Why stick around if we can move out of the danger zone? I truly believe that the Holy Spirit was urging me with this.  I love how God communicates with us when we are trying to listen to him.  I had this feeling in my gut that was so strong I had no doubts about it.  So, I started looking for campgrounds further west. We couldn’t go too far because I knew the Army would still want Rob to show up for work, but I found a place that was much further inland and looked like a good location.  I called to make reservations for a couple days later, and it was God’s perfect timing that I did so when I did. 

The next day, mandatory evacuations started for places on the coast, and campgrounds started to fill up as people either moved their RV homes, or left their “sticks & bricks” home in their RVs.  We were 1 mile away from the mandatory evacuation line, but then a couple days later even our area became mandatory.  By then, all the campgrounds were FULL.  I was so thankful I listened to the urging when I did.

It turns out, it was a GREAT move for us.  I can only give God the glory for using the storm to bring us here.  We arrived at Beaver Run RV Park on Wednesday, October 5.  We had a couple days to get settled before the storm was to arrive.  The community at the park came together for a potluck dinner, and prayers about the upcoming storm.  What I didn’t realize when we made the reservation was that the park is owned by a Christian family.  I loved that we all came together to meet our neighbors and pray together before the storm hit. 

 

During the storm

That Friday, October 7, Matthew was scheduled to arrive.  We had done all we could do to prepare.  Our fresh water tank was FULL.  Our propane tanks were FULL.  We had plenty of food on hand, and coffee of course!  Rob was off work that day, so we sat around playing games and watching the weather channel all day. 

Rob and I made a pot of coffee and planned to stay up all night watching it just in case we needed to make a run for it. Our area was forecasted to get tropical storm winds and some flooding. We prepared ourselves and our stuff in case we needed to make a quick run for the truck to get out of dodge. If that had happened, we’d have left the camper behind. Thankfully we never had to leave here. Saturday morning at 1:00 AM, we lost power, and we had to listen to pine cones and some smaller branches falling on our camper all night, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad. Once we lost power, we decided to lay down and sleep if we could. Emily had already been asleep for a long time and was peacefully unaware.  Thankfully, the weather wasn’t too hot, so we opened some windows for some fresh air.

All night long, I prayed.  Not as much for us to be protected, but that I wouldn’t be fearful.  God controls the storms, and I knew that no matter what, he was with us. A verse that really stuck out to me during this time was:

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:4-8

 

After the storm

Saturday, we surveyed the damage, and we were all ok. Rob’s truck got a small dent from a branch falling on it, but it’s so old it doesn’t matter. Only 1 camper here got damaged, and NO ONE got hurt. I felt so much better once I saw that even a pop-up camper was still standing the next day.  God is good, all the time! 

We spent that next day helping to clean up around the campground – picking up branches, moving tree parts, etc. We had clean water, plenty of food and gas to cook with, so we were totally fine even though we had no power for 43 hours. Can’t complain – we weren’t hurt and didn’t have to suffer. The temps even cooled down at night so it got cold with the windows down. Glad it wasn’t crazy hot for all those without power.  A great thing about the camper is that the stove & oven run on gas and the fridge can be electric or gas.  So even without power, we could use our fridge, keep the food cold, and cook like normal. 

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Eating breakfast outside after the storm

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Getting creative making coffee.  No power, and no french press so we boiled water on the gas stove and poured it though the coffee maker.

After the storm passed, we decided not to return to our previous campground.  We discussed it as a family and even gave Emily the final choice.  We’ve moved her around so much that we wanted her to have a say in this.  We’d already started looking for churches and activities in the first place, so it would mean starting all over. It would mean Rob had to commute an additional 10 minutes to work (we were now on the opposite side of post, and a little further away), but he was willing to do it.

She wanted to stay. We all agreed that it felt like we were HOME.  The co-owners (who own the place with her parents) have a couple kids that are homeschooled. Emily was having a blast playing with them. The camp has a cool playground here and it’s just a super friendly environment. They do regular potlucks and other events and it feels like a community.  Many of the people here are regulars, so they really are like a family.  The grounds are absolutely beautiful with lots of trees and a very woodsy feel to the sites.  The individual sites are huge so we have lots of room, and there is a pond for swimming. 

 

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Our new home at Beaver Run RV Park – I think we’re going to love it here!

Our PCS Vacation from MD to GA

I’ve already told you how this recent PCS was the easiest one ever, but now I want to share some of the fun we had along the way.  We had some incredible family time enjoying God’s creation in many different ways. 

Our First Stop was Luray, VA

We chose Luray because we wanted to see the caverns the area is famous for, and we were not disappointed!  Absolutely beautiful. We stayed at Outlanders River Camp, right on the Shenandoah River.  What a breathtaking view we had!  Sunrises & sunsets were magnificent from this spot.  I’m not sure I’d want to be there much in the middle of summer with no trees for shade, but I guess with the river nearby you could just spend all day in the water and it wouldn’t be an issue!

 

The view from our campsite

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Our camper at sunset

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A panoramic view

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While we were there, we spent some time hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  We plan to through-hike the entire trail one day after Rob retires, so we just really enjoy any chance we get to set foot on any part of it.  We also spent a few hours driving and exploring the views along Skyline Drive – a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service’s Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of the mountains.  I highly recommend visiting this area!  By the way, we drove on Skyline Drive in just our truck….not pulling our camper. 

 

Along Skyline Drive

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And of course, a visit to the Shenandoah River is not complete unless you play in it – so we did!

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Our second stop was in Fancy Gap, VA for just a quick overnight stop before heading to our third stop in Chapel Hill, NC.  We stayed at Spring Hill RV Park and we chose this campground because it was close to our destination – Carolina Tiger Rescue.  Our daughter’s favorite animal is a tiger and she loves all cats, so we couldn’t resist stopping to see some big wild cats up close.  We were all very glad we stopped here.  We went on a tour and saw lions, tigers, ocelots, servals, and many more.  This is a great organization that really cares about its animals.  They rescue and take care of animals that have been mistreated or surrendered by owners that finally realized they had no business trying to keep one of these wild animals as a pet.

 

Our campsite at Spring Hill RV Park

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Carolina Tiger Rescue

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Our fourth stop landed us in Charleston, SC.  We had a great campsite at James Island County Park.  We didn’t get to stay long, but there is a LOT to do in this area.  We were there long enough for a fun Water Taxi boat tour, and to eat at the Early Bird Diner.  The diner was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri and it definitely lived up to the hype!  We at there for dinner one night and liked it so much we went back the next day.  For a family that rarely eats out, that’s saying something!  I recommend it as a “must do” if you are ever in Charleston.

 

The Water Taxi ride – very relaxing!

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The Early Bird Diner

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Our last stop (or so we thought) brought us to Townsend, GA where we settled in at Lake Harmony RV Park.  This is a nice little campground in a super small town set on a beautiful spring fed lake that is good for swimming.  I recommend it if you are passing through or if you want to be settled in a small town away from it all.

It was a really great vacation in the middle of our Best PCS Ever, and I’m so thankful for all the amazing family time we had together.

 

We thought we were going to stay there in Townsend, but a couple weeks later – The Hurricane Happened.  Go read that post to see where we ended up.

Best PCS Ever: Living in our RV from MD to GA

We recently completed our first Army PCS since moving full-time into our RV 6 months ago!  PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station, but it’s never permanent.  In fact, we were at our last duty station in Maryland for just 9 months before the Army decided to move my husband’s unit away from that post, resulting in his orders assigning us to Fort Stewart, Georgia.  This was our 3rd PCS as a family and by far, this one was the easiest!!  We are definitely loving our decision to simplify.   Leaving MD wasn’t easy on the heart because of all the wonderful friends we had made there, but the move itself was quite painless.

 

Prepping to Move

Since we’d been living in our RV for almost 6 months, everything we needed for daily life was already in our RV, one of our trucks, or in our storage unit (off-season clothes, extra tools, books and things we aren’t yet ready to part with).  About a week before the move, the Army movers loaded up all the boxes and belongings we had in storage into their big truck and drove them to GA for us.  The Army gives us up to 90 days of free storage, so they held on to all our items until we arrived in GA and secured a storage unit in the area.  Once we arrived in GA and got settled, we just called them to give them the address of our new storage unit, scheduled a day to meet them there, and sat back while they unloaded all of our belongings for us. 

A few days before the big move, Hubby drove his truck down to GA and caught a flight back home so that we could all travel together in one vehicle on moving day.  We were planning to take a couple weeks of vacation and do some sight seeing on our way to GA, and wanted to travel together in one vehicle.  

Oh, and we did NOT do a DITY (Do it Yourself) move, or even a partial one.  Some people say when they move with an RV, they unload it, get it weighed, reload it, and weigh it again.  The Army will technically pay you for whatever they would have moved, if they had done it all.  They won’t pay to move your RV, but they would have paid to move all the stuff inside it.  Therefore, if you get the weight of your belongings inside the RV, they will pay you whatever it would have cost them to move those things.  Honestly, with the little amount of weight we have inside our camper, it wasn’t worth the hassle to pull it all out and get the weight of it.  We just let the Army move what we had in storage, while we moved the RV and the belongings inside and we called it a day.   The Army already pays us a Per Diem to help with food, lodging and gas along the way so that was good enough for us.

 

Getting the Kitty Cat Ready

 

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We also had to prepare our kitty, Angel, for the move, especially since we were going to be on the road for 2 whole weeks.  A couple weeks prior to the move, we started taking her for practice rides in the truck.  Just short little ones around the campground or down the street and back.  We used to travel with her in a crate, but the crate stresses her out so much (it’s bad!), that we decided to try something new.  We simply carried her out to the truck and gently placed her in the backseat with her favorite girl – our daughter.  We had a harness and leash on her just in case she tried to make a run for it, but she never did.  She’s not really the type to bolt anywhere (she is 11 years old, after all), and she has never acted like a “crazy cat” so we weren’t too concerned about her running all over the truck or getting in our way.  She’s typically very mellow and laid back.  Unless, you try to put her in a crate and then she makes sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard.

She did GREAT with the rides, so that’s how we handled the big trip – just lose in the backseat with no crate.  We put her litter box in the back floorboard, just in case she needed it.  We never traveled for more than 4-5 hours in a day so we didn’t feed/water her during travel time.  When we put her inside the truck, I always placed her into her litter box because sometimes she pees when she’s nervous and I wanted to make sure it went where it should.  After the 2nd day, I don’t even think she was doing that anymore.  Most days, she just calmly walked around a little, looked out the windows and mostly curled up right next to her girl, or on top of the book she was trying to read.  She’d meow at us every so often to tell us she really disliked moving, but then she’d calm down again.  We also gave her regular dosages of Rescue Remedy for Pets (all natural) to help her anxiety.  At the end of each travel day, we’d put her back inside her home (the RV) again and she’d curl up in a favorite spot and take a nap. 

 

Moving Day & Beyond

When the big day arrived, all we did was hitch up the camper to the truck and pull out of the campground.  Here we go!  We spent a couple weeks on the road, exploring and having some amazing family time.  It was so nice to spend each night in our own home, in our own beds without having to live out of suitcases or in and out of hotels.  We didn’t have to worry about finding pet-friendly places to stay, because we took our home with us, which also caused way less stress on our sweet kitty since she got to go back to the same place each time rather than a new place every few days.  We kept our fridge and freezer stocked with food, so we were able to cook real meals each day rather than eating out, which saved a ton of money.  Eating out can be fun on occasion, but it’s so expensive and we much prefer our own home cooking most of the time.  Except for that one diner in South Carolina – it was so good, we ate there TWICE! (More on that and our vacation here)

One of our favorite parts was bringing our own bathroom with us!! It was so handy because anytime we needed a potty break on the road, we could just exit and pull over to use our own bathroom.  We didn’t have to find nice, clean gas stations or wait for a certain exit.  Just pull over and go! 

Every few days, we woke up in a new place, ready to explore and have some fun.  We toured caverns, explored a big cat rescue, played in a river, and did some hiking.  We played hard, and slept well – each day we woke up together as a family after a good night of rest in our own beds. 

Definitely the Best PCS Ever!

Preparing for full time RV life

We are now about 6 weeks away from moving into our RV full time!

How does someone prepare to move from a 1600 square foot house (with a garage) into an approximately 250 square foot RV? For starters, we have been purging like crazy around our house! We are selling, donating, & consolidating a LOT of stuff, and then storing the rest.

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It’s truly amazing (and not really in a good way) how much stuff we tend to collect and how little of it we actually use or love. So this is a perfect time for us to “pass it on” and bless someone else!  The 3 of us had a closet full of clothes, but we all tend to wear our favorites over and over. We pulled out all the items that we will likely never wear again and ended up with 4 trash bags full of clothes and shoes to give away.

Next, we tackled the kitchen! I am a lover of coffee and have been collecting coffee cups for years – usually from places we go on vacation or other fun places. I keep telling myself it’s good to have lots of cups for when we have company, but honestly, I couldn’t fit that many people in my house anyway. Hubby and I both tend to go back and forth between a couple of our favorite coffee mugs and the rest just sit in the cabinet taking up space. So out they went!! We kept our favorites – some with a special meaning to us and my Fiesta cups because I love the fun colors and they go with my small collection of Fiesta plates (that will also get stored for a little while) that have been gifts from my Mom. We purged a lot of randomness & gadgets from our kitchen that were taking up space but not getting used, and were able to give many, many things away to other military families. It’s actually fun to get to bless someone else like that, and WAY better than spending all day holding a yard sale just to make $20.

We made a big difference by consolidating our CDs and DVDs by putting all the discs into a large capacity zippered CD holder and throwing away all the cases. Those plastic cases take up a lot of room!! I filled up an entire plastic tote with just the cases, but all the CDs/DVDs fit into a case that will easily fit in a closet or on a shelf.

We also purged our “memory boxes”.  15 years of marriage and 11 years of having a child means LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of cards – birthday cards, anniversary cards, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.  Rob and I came to an agreement that we were both ok getting rid of 90% of them without getting offended.  We know we love each other, and the chances of us going back to re-read most of them isn’t likely.  So we each picked a small stack of the really special ones – a few notes from family members, extra special notes we wrote to each other, or a few super sweet homemade cards from our daughter – and we let the rest go.  No guilt!

I have big plans to work the same magic on our photos. What prints we have in boxes have already been purged, but oh the many photos I have on my computer!! Yes, they are all backed up (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!). The problem is, we aren’t enjoying them as much as we should because they are all digital. So my plan is to get some photo books printed of our favorites, highlights from each year, etc. In the process, many need to be deleted. The problem with digital photos is it’s too easy to take 10 shots of the same thing trying to get the best photo, but then the extra 9 never get deleted. That will be a project to tackle after the move.

We do have a small list of items that we have sold or will be selling before we move. Things that will give us a little pocket money to get some needed items for the RV. But mostly, we decided to give stuff away. We’ve always been extra blessed when we needed things and in the spirit of being thankful, we wanted to do the same for others.

 

After all the donating, consolidating and selling – we will be putting the rest our stuff in storage.

What are we storing?

* Sentimental things that we know for sure we want to keep – A tote of memory items for each of us

* Things that we will need if/when we move back into a house or into a bigger RV and that would be hard/expensive to replace

* Things that won’t it in the RV but that we will want access to. For example, we’ll store our off-season clothes in the storage unit and swap them out as the seasons change. We’ll also keep a box or 2 of holiday/seasonal items and decorations and see what we actually use this first year. I’m sure those will get purged again as we see what we end up using in our new home. We’ll also store some of our daughter’s toys & books that she’s not bringing so that she can rotate them if she wants. For the most part, her main books will come from our weekly trips to the library anyway since she reads so much, but we are storing a few boxes worth of her favorites or ones she wants to keep for her kids one day.

What other preparations are going on?

We’ve made reservations at the RV park where we will be living. We’re actually really excited about this place. Hubby will be closer to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite library and grocery store. It’s the little things, sometimes! It’s got a beautiful water view, lots of ducks for Emily to feed, and a little store where she can have fun spending her money on snacks. She’s even asked if she can earn bags of duck food for doing well in school!

We’re also preparing the RV for us to live in it full time by making a few modifications. I’ll go into more detail in another post, but so far we’ve painted part of Emily’s area, replaced the master mattress, knocked out some false walls to increase storage, and we’re giving our fridge colorful, magnetic front panels! I’ll also be making curtains to replace the brown ones for Emily’s bunk area and for ours to brighten up the place.

Next, I need to work on purging my sewing supplies and deciding what I’m taking with me. I’ll be taking my sewing/embroidery machine with me so I can continue to do my crafty projects, but with limited space, I’ll have to be very organized and try to only have supplies on hand for the projects I’m currently working on!

We’re making progress! Stay tuned!

We are going to be full time campers!

Yep, we bought an RV and are planning to move into it full time soon!  We’re going to be full time RVers and get to go camping every day!  Our family has always enjoyed camping together.  Rob and I used to camp 1-2 times a month before Emily was born, and after she came along we introduced her to the great outdoors.  If you know anything about Emily, you know she is truly a nature girl!  When we first took her camping, she was still a baby so we took the Pack-N-Play and set it up inside our tent for her to sleep in.   As she grew, she eventually graduated to her own air mattress – first a toddler size and then a twin size.  Through it all, she has always loved being outside in God’s creation.  She loves the dirt, water, mud, birds, creatures, hiking, sticks, rocks – all of it!

The only downside to camping in a tent is the weather.  For a while in the summer, it just got unbearably hot and too uncomfortable to sleep well.  Then there are also the lightening storms.  You do not want to be in a tent with metal poles in a lightening storm.  In the winter, the opposite problem creeps up and it was sometimes way too cold for the camping gear we owned.  We’d go camping as often as we could, but sometimes the weather would force us to cancel some trips.  For many years we’ve looked forward to getting an RV with heat & A/C so we could go camping year-round.  We finally did it! 

We ended up getting a Jayco x213 model.  It has a rear slide for the master bed at one end and bunk beds at the opposite end.  When the slide is out, it really opens up the space and gives us plenty of room.  It’s really a great layout for our little family!  We will use the top bunk area for storage, while Emily gets her own bottom bunk.  She can even fold up her bed and have a good size play area.  She and Hubby are in the process of painting her space now to make it more her style.

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We have a dinette area and a comfy sofa for hanging out

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We did replace the master mattress with a better memory foam one – it is OH SO COMFY!  The space for the mattress is for a King, but we bought a Queen size for our replacement since that’s what we are used to at home anyway, and this gives us room to add more storage.  I love the windows by our bed, too!

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Emily has a twin size bunk bed with a big shelf for her belongings.  She even has her own door to the outside! We’ll be hanging up some more storage for her and she’ll also keep some boxes of toys & books under her bed.  She’s being silly in this picture and it makes it look like she’s crowded up there, but she really has plenty of room – her bed is the same size as the one in our house that she sleeps on.

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When she wants more space inside she can fold up the bed and spread out her toys or crafts.  She’ll even have a folding chair and we’ll have a folding table she can use under there too.  We will be lining the floor with foam mats to make it more comfy and colorful under there.  Right now, she and her Daddy are in the process of painting the underside fun Hello Kitty colors!  I’ll show more pictures when everything is done.

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So why live in it full time? 

Well, why not?  People do this all the time.  There are especially many homeschooling families that travel around living in an RV.  Many with WAY more kids than we have.  I’ve even read about a family with 12 kids living in an RV!  Wow!  Of course, their RV is much bigger than ours, but then again we only have one child.

We did some thinking and realized that we can live in the camper full time at a local RV campground and actually save a lot of money monthly compared to rent or living on post!  We have an old student loan debt that we are determined to get rid of and this will make it happen really soon!  We know it will be an adventure and we’ll have some challenges, but we are used to taking on crazy challenges in this family so we are looking forward to it.  We love family time and getting outside together so that will be easy.  We’ll also be able to just load up our home on the weekends and go visit places that we want to see while we are living in this area.  We have a big list of places we want to visit while we live in the Maryland/DC area!  The next time we move with the Army (which might be later this year), it will be so easy!

We’re planning to sell/donate a lot of stuff that we don’t really need.  Turns out, there’s a lot of stuff we don’t need around here.  Then, we’ll put the rest of it in storage for later.  Hubby will be giving up his woodworking for a while, but he’s spending his extra time on school anyway so he says he’s ok with it.  I’ll have to simplify my sewing hobby a bit, but I am taking it with me and will be like the many ladies out there that sew while living in an RV full time!  Emily will have homeschool and her favorite things – Beanie Babies, arts & crafts, and reading.  Right now she’s really into making things with polymer clay so she’ll be able to do that easily in the RV.

And a BONUS – it will shorten Rob’s commute to work, and we’ll be closer to our favorite grocery store and library! Yay!

 

Will it be hard?

Honestly, we think it will be way more fun than it will be challenging.  We are all really looking forward to living simply for a while and cutting back on the “stuff”.  Rob and I have a goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail together once he retires, so we figure if we can spend 6 months in the woods with only a backpack full for each of us, surely this will be a piece of cake!

Privacy will be the biggest challenge because our bedrooms have curtains and not doors, but we are all committed to making it work and we’ll get creative.  Our plan is to work hard to save money and once we knock the debt out, we will upgrade to a 5th wheel model with more room and a separate bedroom (with a door!) for Emily.

 

I hope you’ll follow along on our latest adventure with us.  I’ll give a more complete tour of the RV once we have it all set up and ready to go.  We look forward to seeing how God grows and uses our family through this. 

Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

The word “abundant” means plentiful, generous, ample, even rich and lavish.  Christ wants us to have an abundant life, but that doesn’t mean more stuff.  That means finding the real JOY in life – in Jesus Christ and in each other.  It’s going to be a great journey!

Blizzard 2016

Our family has now been stationed in Maryland for a couple of months, and we’ve just experienced our first blizzard!  We just spent the last few days snowed in due to the Big Blizzard of 2016 that just swept through this area dropping over 29” of snow and resulting in snow drifts and piles that measure much higher.  This is our first experience with such a large amount of snow.  We’re from Texas, where we might get an inch or two on occasion, but even then it normally turns to icy mush pretty quickly.  This time we actually had to buy a snow shovel and clear out our driveway several times.  That snow is heavier than it looks! 

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In our backyard, the wind created a huge snow drift that was easily 3 feet tall.  Even now, there is still a good 2 feet of snow covering the majority of our yard.  (That ruler leaning against the door is 18”)

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Our poor little Texas Truck got her bed completely filled with snow!

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We had some fun outside, but spent most of our time inside where it was warm. 

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We’ve really enjoyed all the extra family time together as we played games, watched Dallas Stars hockey & Mythbusters, and did a little early Spring cleaning.  Unfortunately, Hubby had to go back to work today so our mini-vacation is over.  We’ll still have snow around for quite a while I think, but I’m ready to see it melting so I can look forward to flip-flop weather!

Our new adventure from homeschooling to public school

6 years ago we made the decision to homeschool Emily.  We homeschooled her for Pre-K through 4th grade.  It didn’t come naturally to us at first.  In fact, when we first became parents, we never even considered homeschooling.  Through a series of events, and a whole lot of prayer, we felt that homeschooling was the path the Lord wanted us to take.  At that time, we committed to praying about Emily’s schooling each and every year to determine whether or not to continue homeschooling or choose another option.  We didn’t know if it was for a year, a few years, or forever.

This past year as 4th grade came to a close, my husband and I committed again to praying about her 5th grade year.  Let me be clear – I absolutely love homeschooling! LOVE it! I love the flexibility in our schedule, I love the time with my daughter, I love seeing her learn and being a part of it.  But, for a few months, I had been feeling something stirring inside of me that had me thinking it might not be the right choice anymore.  I prayed about it.  My husband prayed about it.  We didn’t want to homeschool just because we always had or because we loved it, but rather we wanted to make the decision that was best for our daughter at time in her life.

We had some big things to consider.

One of the challenges with homeschooling for us is that Emily is an only child.  As homeschoolers, we all laugh about the myth of “socialization”.  It really is a myth because as homeschoolers, we are out in the community and interacting with people all the time.  We also know that a room full of 20+ kids in a classroom setting are not allowed to socialize much anyway.  However, there are some benefits to learning in a group.  Many homeschool families have a built in group with their multiple kids.  That is not an option for us.  Groups of people can bring new ideas, new ways to do things, and a chance to build relationships.

Relationships.  That’s what Emily was missing.  Several of our close friends with kids her age had recently moved away.  The Bible study I was attending with a “homeschool room”, only had a couple kids Emily’s age.  Even then, we only saw them once a week and one of those two would not be returning the next year.   The church we attend on post also does not have a large number of kids her age.  This was becoming a problem for her.  She was spending all her time with me, and while she thankfully enjoys her time with me, she was craving those relationships like we all do.  People her own age that she can get to know and that can get to know her.  She said once that she wanted friendships with people who “really know what things I like and I can know what they like”.  Isn’t that what we all desire?  People to really know us?

Ok, definitely something to consider.  How can we best meet this need?  We considered for a while joining a homeschool co-op, but the one that would have worked with our schedule just didn’t offer great class options.  I didn’t want to have her just go take a class for the sake of taking a class.  I wanted her to learn something if we were going to invest an entire day of our schedule to this co-op.  We could still be part of the co-op just for field trips, but that didn’t really solve the relationship problem either, as it takes more face to face time to build those.

The more we prayed, the more we heard from Emily too.  We made a point to really listen to what she was saying and found a lot of thought and wisdom in her words.

She expressed to us her desire to learn with other kids.  She said she wished she could go to public school to see what it was like.  She was concerned that she would hurt my feelings by saying that, but I assured her she did not.  We wanted to hear her heart.   She said that she wanted to be able to learn with a group of kids her age and be able to see where she stood in relation to them.  I totally understood that.  We know we aren’t to compare ourselves to others, but only to Christ.  True, but there is something about knowing where you stand.  She just wanted to know that she was on track.  It’s not that she doubted my teaching ability, but she had nothing to compare her knowledge to.  Are other kids learning the same thing?  Do they struggle with similar things?  Am I ahead?  Behind?  She just wanted to know.

She wanted the chance to make friends.  To be around kids her own age several days a week and see the same kids.  To build relationships.  Even knowing that school would not be one giant field trip or playdate, this was important to her.

More and more, we felt the Lord was leading us to put her in school for 5th grade.  Why? I don’t know.  Maybe so we can serve someone at the school.  A family? A teacher?  Of course so Emily can be a friend to others and make friends herself.  It would definitely give us as a family a way to reach out to others in the community and love on them.  People we would have never met otherwise.  We can serve the school and the people that work there.  Be salt & light in the community by stepping out of our comfort bubble a bit.

I was starting to feel excited about her chance to go to school.  When we first started homeschooling, I had a list of reasons why we shouldn’t.  I wanted “me time” and a break.  I had things I wanted to do.  I wasn’t good enough to teach.  In the end, I realized all of my reasons were either selfish or fear based.  Fear is not from the Lord, so the more we looked at it, the more we realized we should homeschool.  At the time, Emily had some special needs that we also felt we could better address at home.  That turned out to be true for a few years, but as she grew, those needs diminished.

This year was different.  All of my reasons for keeping her at home were selfish or fear based.   I don’t want to throw her to the wolves.  Is she strong enough? What if she gets picked on?  What will she be exposed to?  What was I really afraid of?  I have MANY friends who have kids in public school and they THRIVE.  I have many Christian friends whose kids are shining their light in public schools and thriving.  But, I will miss her!  We lose our flexibility over what we study and our schedule.  Oh, our schedule! No more impromptu field trips just because we can.

In the end, I had to choose to trust GOD.  Again, fear is not from the Lord!! Emily belongs to HIM and He is in control, always.  If this is where He was leading us, he has a reason.  I can trust Him to watch over her when I can’t be there.  I trust that her faith in the Lord is STRONG and that she takes Jesus with her to school each and every day.  I can trust that any situation that comes up, we can deal with it if we take it to the Lord in prayer.

So, we enrolled her in school and she was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement before it started.  It was fun to see the excitement in her eyes.  We as a family definitely felt this was the right thing for us to do, right now, in this season.

It’s been a month already and things are going great.  I’ll share the details of how the first month went in my next post.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your path straight.”  ~Proverbs 3:5-6

Tween Life Lessons: Work Ethic & Earning Money

A couple weeks ago, my 9 (and 3/4!) year old daughter accidently broke one of my favorite coffee cups that was given to me by a dear friend.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  In fact, I think that was #3 or maybe 4 over the course of a year.

As you know, I have many favorite coffee cups and tend to attach sentimental value to each of them.  However, I also realize they are just cups.  Emily was so upset over breaking “the really special cup that one of your good friends gave you”, but I reminded her that the cup being broken does not affect my friendship with that person. 

She was so upset and through her tears she wondered, “Why am I always the one to break them?” and “Why are they always your favorite ones?”.  I joked that God was using her to purge my coffee cup collection!  I also reminded her of 3 important things:

1) SHE is the one responsible for emptying the dishwasher and putting away clean dishes.  She handles them more than I or Rob do, so she has more opportunities to drop them than we do.  

2) She’s growing and learning.  She’s learning how to handle the dishes, how she needs to hold them, how to slow down and be careful.  She’s at an age where clumsiness can sneak in as our bodies are changing. 

3) Of course they are my favorite ones! Those are the ones I use and the ones that end up in the dishwasher.  She’s never broken one that was tucked back in the corner of the cabinet, right?  My mom and I always joke about this – why do we always break our favorite things?  Because we USE them!

 

I was fully prepared to extend grace to her (again) in this situation, because I’ve sure broken my share of dishes.  In fact, both Rob and I broke dishes at my mom’s house this past Christmas.   However, Emily insisted that she wanted to replace the cup for me.  She wanted to save up her money to buy a new one.  She earns money each week for certain jobs around the house and she was committed to not making any other purchases until she had bought me a new cup.

What integrity at such a young age!

 

A few days ago, she came to me and asked if she could do any extra jobs around the house to earn money faster in order to get me the cup sooner. 

Extra jobs? Around the house? ABSOLUTELY! I have plenty of those.

 

Saturday came and I presented her a list of available jobs along with the price I would pay her to do them.  She’s a smart cookie and chose the higher paying or faster jobs first! 

The choices I gave her were:

* Clean the flower bed in the backyard (remove all weeds and dead leaves that had accumulated) – $3.00

* Remove the branches in the yard that were a result of the ice days when part of the neighbor’s tree fell in our yard, and set out by the road for trash pick-up.  — $1.00

* Vacuum & clean out my truck (includes throwing away trash, bringing things inside that belong inside, wiping the dashboard, and cleaning the inside of the windows) – $3.00

* Clean my bathroom (she already does her own) – $1.00

* Clean the flower bed in the front yard (just leaves mostly, there weren’t any weeds), and a pile of leaves – $2.00

* Clean up a pile of dead leaves in the backyard – $2.00

 

She chose the 1st 3 and she worked HARD!  She spent about 2 hours working on the flower bed, another hour cleaning up sticks/branches, and at least an hour on the truck.  It was a warm, sunny day so she worked up a sweat for sure.  We made sure she took water breaks and a lunch break with a fruit smoothie – we aren’t mean, you know!

We paid her for each job as it was completed, and seeing that money come in helped motivate her to keep going.  It was hard at first as she had unrealistic expectations about how long the flower bed would take but a little encouragement and ideas on how to make it fun got her going again.  We encouraged her to put on her headphones and some fun music like we do when we mow to help the time pass.  She also gave herself little goals like “I’m going to clear all the way to that stone in 10 minutes”, and that helped to push her through.

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At the end of the day, we rewarded our “employee” with a $2.00 bonus for her hard work and great attitude!  She never quit or complained, but instead showed an incredible work ethic we are proud of.

 

Yesterday, she took me shopping to pick out a new cup!!  I ended up not getting a hot coffee cup though because I found something else that will be perfect for my warm-weather iced coffee drinks!  In fact, I came right home and made one.   I love mason jars, and I love the color teal so this was perfect!  I didn’t even use all her money.  I assured her I would not make her spend more than I would spend myself – and I’m pretty cheap! We found it at Hobby Lobby for half price, so she spent $8.55 on it.

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We are so proud of her for all her hard work, and I know that I will enjoy thinking of her every time I use my new mug!

Gift ideas that are low on cost but big on imagination!

Today Emily was re-reading one of her favorite books and it gave me a great idea.  I wanted to share this with you because it’s a perfect budget friendly gift idea that would be sure to please most young kids.  With Christmas coming, I thought it was the perfect time to share this.

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The book is called Christina Katerina & The Box and is written by Patricia Lee Gauch.    (You probably already see where I’m going with this…)

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As the story goes, Christina Katerina and her mother are both excited when the new refrigerator arrives in its large brown carton, but they are excited for very different reasons. Christina quickly claims the box, where she creates a castle, a clubhouse, and other fantastic playthings with her friend Fats Watson.  Every time her latest creation gets messed up, she simply turns it into something new until one day the box gets wet and Christina’s mother is all too happy to finally throw the box away.  That is, until Fats brings over 2 new boxes from his mother’s new washer and dryer!

This book is full of the imagination that should play a huge part in every child’s life.  Seeing something plain and simple and being able to turn it into something grand is a skill many have forgotten.  It is truly refreshing to see children get excited about something that doesn’t light up, make sounds or use batteries.

Back to my idea…

As parents we always joke that kids would rather play with the box the toy came in than the toy itself, right?  So let’s just skip the toy and give them the box!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pair this book with a huge cardboard wardrobe box as a gift for a child this Christmas?  Yes, I’m serious!  Give them a box.  I would bet that most children under 12 with any sense of imagination would love to have a HUGE box as an empty canvas for their creativity!  I know my 9 1/2 year old daughter would love this gift idea – if she didn’t already own the book, that is.  She’d still love the box!  If you really felt the need to dress up the gift, you could include a package of markers or crayons, but don’t go overboard.  The idea is to keep it simple.  Let them use their imagination to create – and re-create – new adventures. 

So skip the battery operated, noise making, video game playing gadgets and instead get to the dollar store for some extra wrapping paper.  You’ll need it to wrap that huge box.  Read the book together and turn them loose to see what they create.

 

My daughter, Emily, has always loved to play with boxes.  She has made everything from row boats to castles and race cars to animal shelters – all from cardboard.  She still tries to keep every empty box that makes its way into the house.  I hope that continues for years to come! 

Here are just a few of our favorites!

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Check out another one of my low on cost, but big on imagination gift ideas:  A Homemade Detective Kit!