Saturday, May 28, 2016

Wrapping Up with My Den

Even though graduation was on May 12th, my den is having our end of year picnic on June 14th, just due to schedules.  As Bears, we worked really hard on the Scout Law.  This end of year picnic is a celebration of each of the boys recognizing how they lived by the law during their meetings.  At the end of each meeting, I asked the boys to say which point of the law another scout lived during the meeting.  Having the boys observe each other, learn what each point really means, and verbalize how someone else lived a point of the law, was such a good practice.  I had to help at times, and I would ask if they agreed with my observation.  They didn't always agree with me of the person who noticed something about them.   This started after a particularly painful visit to the police station, a required field trip.  It was a very long visit, and the boys lost it.  They lost it before it was overly long, though.

As a way of reining them back in and getting them to focus on their behavior, I promised them a party after they had lived all the points of the law during meetings.  Reverent I allowed for outside the meeting, I counted church or other ways of living their faith or acting out their faith.   That was way back in October, and it took us until our final meeting in May to make it all happen.  But I'm so proud of the boys for looking for the good in their fellow scouts.  I happen to have a scout who doesn't go with the flow easily and is very tempermental.  When we started this program, the other boys were having a hard time finding something positive about him, how he lived the law.  By the end, things were coming far more easily to the boys.

The picture shows the neckerchief slides I made and am going to give to them at our picnic.  I'm so excited by how they turned out.  I love to see my Scouts wearing the neckerchief slides I make for them!  

Packing It Up

Moving boxes are expensive.  Truly, expensive.  Back in September Bill and I talked about it and agreed we would have to sell the house.  It was at that point that I began the task of downsizing and packing things away.  My favorite store (at this point in my life) is Costco.  Before we moved from VA, I searched online for Costcos and did my house search around that.  And now, all these many years later, it has been so beneficial.  While I've been using their boxes for years as a way to distribute popcorn at Boy Scout selling time, this time around I needed boxes that had lids.  Most of the boxes there have their lids cut off or never had any lids to begin with.  BUT, the food court and the bakery keep their lids.  Ice cream boxes, churro boxes, pizza ingredient boxes...all are awesome.  They work so well for books and other heavy stuff, because they're kinda small.  For bigger boxes, you have to head to the bakery.  They break theirs down, so you have to tape them back up, but they're also fantastic.
We have so many of these lining shelves in my parents' basement.  I have 25 boxes of homeschooling materials alone.  Now, not all of those are in these boxes, but a great many are.
I am so grateful that our friends at Costco told us to check with the bakery.  They don't bring their boxes up front like all the other boxes, so we had never seen then.  As we were clearly gathering boxes for a move, one of the ladies at the exit gave us that tip.  Bill promptly checked with them.  We had to coordinate a time to pick them up, because they break them down and then put them out to recycle, so we had to come back when they were breaking down so we didn't interrupt their flow.   I am so very thankful that Costco allows us to take boxes.  We have a large liquor store across the street from us that has posted signs saying they no longer hand out boxes for moving.  What a shame.  On the spectrum of reduce/reuse/recycle, reuse is better than recycling.  I can use what's already made, I don't need more energy to convert it to something else, there's no waste...  So thank you, Costco, for being such a wonderful company!!!  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Time Flies By

We're now down to less than a month in the house.  At times it feels like so much still needs to be done, at other times I feel like we've got this made in the shade.  Local schools let out May 26th for the summer.  We've been finished since mid-February, except for their charter school they go to once a week, that ended on May 9th.

With the end of public school comes the start of our homeschool time.  Back in February, it felt like I had forever to plan and come up with a structure.  Now June is almost upon me. Fortunately, I have the tables of what they need to learn by subject.  But as I've mentioned before, I'm not so sure that's the schedule we're going to maintain on our year of travel.  Personal finance is a big one this year, we'll make sure we continue math, and we'll definitely learn about our country.  We'll work on our scout achievements, so we'll get a lot of life skills in on this trip.  Philosophy, big ideas....I want to get my kids thinking about bigger ideas than the surface level ideas they toss about.  Hand in hand with that, I'd love to have them paying attention to what's going on around them, see beyond themselves, make connections and pitch in without being asked.

I now have five days to get my act together.  Most of the month of June is going to be spent working on our research skills, but with books and on the internet.  The kids are already pretty good with this, but the purpose of this goes beyond just making sure that their research skills are up to snuff.  We actually need to get this trip planned out.  I have ideas, but I need the kids to be invested in this trip as well, so their ideas need to be heard.  This will also hit their informational oral presentations requirements.  Ah, and one on one math time with Mom.  Who doesn't love that?

Oh, and in and amongst all of this school stuff, I still have to finish packing and cleaning.  Let's hope it all goes smoothly!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lone Scout

One of the difficulties of this travel year is continuing the scouting program.  We're progressing as Lone Scouts.  We headed down to the Denver Area Council today.  Bill spoke with staff, I hit the store.  My boys have grown, so several shirts were needed, along with all NB's Webelos stuff and J's Wolf stuff.  G and NS have both earned their one rank since the new program was instated, so they both needed new books, and then NB and J just need their new year's books.  Oh, and all the belt loops and Webelos pins.  It was not a cheap visit! While I was off collecting all the stuff, Bill was off collecting paperwork and trying to get all angles taken care of with the staff.  Bill's been Cubmaster of our pack for 5.5 of the past 7 years, so part of his work today was making sure pack stuff got settled.  The other part was getting our Lone Scout applications and talking about what it's going to take for us to actually do this.  We came home with Lone Scout applications, Merit Badge Counselor applications, and a ton of info. I've also got Leader's books for Wolves and Webelos that I borrowed from last year's leaders.  I'll have to return them to the pack, but I get to get a feel for the adventures before handing them back.  We've actually started working on things, going over information and practicing skills.  I told my den that I would send them videos of our progress for this year, so they can see what we're doing and try some of that stuff themselves.  I actually picked up six elective pins for NB, so we'll get to show the den some cool things we're working on this year that they may not actually have thought about working on.  
Along with getting the new is finishing up the old.  Since NB earned his Bear, I went ahead and attached it to his uniform, but at the same time stripped it of everything that can go on his Webelos uniform.  I'll clean this bad boy and then promptly pack it away, another memory to store.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Prepping the Van

Before we bought the van, we spent lots of time looking at DIY mods of the van, nice little upfits.  Oh, the amazing things people have done with their Sprinters.  We have dreams of what we could do to the Sprinter, but I think we're keeping it pretty small on this round.  Instead of custom chairs and pull out or up desk tops, we'll stick with modding the back to hold all our dressers and keep us organized.
We're going with the Sterilite three drawer dressers.  I have had one for years and years, purchased when I was teaching Sunday school and needed transportable storage.  The wheels came in handy back then, but for now, I want everything to NOT move, so we removed all my wheels and then never put the wheels on any of the other ones.  Fitting seven of these bad boys means stacking some, so Bill's building shelves for the back.  The awesome part of that is that we'll have room for the coolers under the dressers on the side.  Yeah!  Our old coolers had served us well, but required additional weight on top to keep closed, so we bought new ones since we'll be relying on them for many months.  We went with Coleman marine coolers.  Five days of ice.  We'll be testing that out.
We also invested in a Thule bike rack.  REI was having their anniversary sale, so we hit them up for shoes and a bike rack.  We've been looking at them for a couple months now, so it's a relief to have it checked off our list.  In my searching for places to go and things to do, I found Hiawatha Trail up in ID.  It looks really awesome, and the boys have some longer bike trips for their bicycling merit badge, so it's a perfect match.  We had only planned on taking three bikes, but Bill will need to go with the boys on Hiawatha, so we'll also end up taking a bike for  Bill.  Good thing we bought the four bike rack!  Talking to my parents about needing another bike, it turns out my dad is done with his bike, so we'll be taking his! The other mod we'll be taking on in the next week or so is installing a DVD player.  We won't be putting in screens, though--the van doesn't have a CD player.  It's got bluetooth, USB, auxillary, but no CD.  We could have gone with a portable disc player, but I worried about skipping and such.  I wanted something installed and stable, so this is the solution Bill found.  I'm very excited to get it installed finally.  So many people advocated us transferring our CDs to a USB drive, but I have a ton.  And I don't want to spend my time transferring formats.  Not to mention my technology woes, which would cause me much more frustration than I have room for in my life right now.  Now we'll be able to get back to listening to Story of the World. That's what we have planned for right now.  One of our goals at this point is to sell the tiny trailer before the big trip.  We'd like to fit everything into the van, safely and securely.  We should have the room, if we're smart about it all.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Organizing the Trip

The house is under contract!!!!  We now have a start date of sorts.  We'll be in town until the older boys return from South Dakota on their scout camp.  Knowing we won't be leaving the area until early July gives a sense of security, but also a bit of panic since I put all trip organization and planning on hold while the house was being prepped and on the market.  With the house on the market I was able to start planning again, since that involves little chaos.  Organizing for me, though, involves a TON of chaos.  
This is all our stuff, weighed and recorded.  Ok, it's really only our tent stuff, minus any personal items.  Nine sleeping bags (the older boys each have two), five pads, seven pillows, and a whole bunch of goodies.  I feel like we're missing some stuff from this, but I can't figure out what it would be.  I'll figure it out at some point, I'm sure.   It's amazing how little this looks like.  All but the coolers will fit in our small, 4x4, trailer that we'll sell once we've got our travel trailer.  But this stuff has seen us through quite a few trips.  The coolers are new, because our locks on our old coolers had broken, and we had to stack things on top of them just to keep them closed.  Not so handy.  We've been really happy with our setup to date, so we'll see how we feel after months, not weeks, of camping!      
This here's our baby trailer.  She's served us well, though she gets a lot of laughs.  Amazingly, we keep very organized and can fit an absolute ton of camp gear in there.  We did need to add the car top carrier, but the two of them combined are a traveling wonder.    
This is our school gear, unfiltered.  I put something like 25 boxes in storage at my parents' house, and whittled our keep pile down to this.  200+ pounds of stuff. can't all go. I invested in Life of Fred Pre-Algebra because NS said he loved LoF; that's so five minutes ago.  *grinding teeth* Ok, well, that's fine, I also picked up Prentice Hall's stuff.  On the cheap, thank you used books.  Now I get to spend another couple of days (or weeks, who's to say?) sorting through this stuff and figuring out what we need between now and September.  If I don't need it until after mid-September, I'm good with storing it in plastic tubs at my parents' house, since we'll be back in the area.  There are other things that probably should have been packed away, but I couldn't bring myself to do that.  As I was breaking my back pulling all the heaviest boxes off the top shelf in the garage (?!?!), I realized how stupid putting books into bigger tubs was/is.  That's ok, I'm sure I need the two kids' dictionaries and the two kids' thesauri, and the dictionary of idioms and such.  Holy cow, this is a trip, not a new home we're filling up!  Man, I need to prioritize.  I can't believe (yeah, I actually can) I was thinking packing so many reference materials was a good idea.  Clearly I am an English major and can't let go of my texts, but that ain't gonna work on this trip!  Oh, do I have my work cut out for me!


In the Denver area, it's been raining.  A long time now, it seems.  My garden is totally digging it, but it makes me wonder about this trip.  Our first five or so months of this journey are in a tent.  We've had a lot of adventures in our tent, seen some grand sites, enjoyed our fair share of awesome weather.  But we've also camped out in bad weather.  We've had wind storms that threaten to take our tent, wind storms that took our tent when we weren't holding it down from inside, hail storms, rain storms, below freezing, and boiling hot.  I have to admit to hating being outside in rain.

I love our tent.  It's done such an amazing job over the last four years and 16 or so campgrounds.  The older boys' troop loves it because it's huge and fast to set up (compared to their gigantic troop tent).  I know it will all be fine once we're out doing it, but I'm sitting at home watching the dreary drizzle come down, and it concerns me for what lies ahead.  I need to read more of those stories of the women who crossed the country, gave birth, tore up their wagons and rode the rapids with a boat built from the wood.  Those women would scorn me.  Time to toughen up!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Junior Ranger

We have loved the Junior Ranger program from the NPS (and some states, too!) since we took our big trip four years ago.  I was actually introduced to it five years ago when G and I helped my parents move to CO.  We stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park, picked up the booklet, and set to work.  The kids have gotten badges or patches at a variety of parks/monuments/recreation areas.  Now the NPS is celebrating their 100th anniversary.  Yeah!!!  And to commemorate this, our National Parks have a special booklet to earn a 100 year patch.  This activity booklet can be downloaded and worked on at home or at a park.  It's all color, very intense in its color usage, so I'm thinking we're going to head to Rocky Mountain National Park and hit up a visitor's center.

If you've never done the Junior Ranger program, it's such a great way to get the kids (and adults) to pay more attention to the park they visit.  When we did our one at RMNP, we actually did it with my Cub Scout den after our campout.  The booklet had the boys paying attention to the wildlife, the vegetation, and the geology.  Typically the parks want you to attend a ranger talk, but not always.  At the end, before they can get their badge or patch, the kids have to take an oath to help protect the park.  It's just such a great way to get the kids more connected to the park and the outside.

And speaking of connecting...this year we get to connect free because K was in 4th grade this school year that just finished up.  I love the idea of getting every kid in a park.  I'm hoping the program continues, because NB is heading into 4th this year.  It's not a huge expense, compared to many others on our journey this year, but I'll take advantage if the opportunity is there!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Early Stages of Planning

It's time!!!  I finally get to start planning...ish....  Since we need to wait for the house to sell, I don't really have dates, though I do have a date in September where we need to be back in this area.  So I have an end date for the first leg of our trip, and an area of the country to visit.  Since that's all I have for now, let's just start daydreaming.

In my ideal world, we leave this area mid-June, so let's start there.  From here we probably head to my parents' house for a day or two to collect ourselves, and then head on over to South Dakota.  That's non-negotiable for the end of June since the older two have scout camp there.  But I want to visit the Pacific Northwest.  In order to get there, we have to go through Wyoming.  Devils Tower.  LOVE IT.  We've been twice already.  Once a couple years ago just for about three hours, and the other time was four years ago for a few days.  This year may be camping there, may be a short stop on our way to another campground, who knows?  I don't want to spend a lot of time in this area, cuz I want to get to Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.  Possibly a jaunt to Canada in there.  G wants to hit Alaska.  Gosh, I don't know how we do this.

Idaho...I just started researching it.  I don't know what's near each other, what's far away.  But there's a ton of stuff to do there.  Beautiful stuff.  I'm having a hard time narrowing it down.  I'm thinking a week in this state might not be enough, so I have to start carefully allocating our time.  I've had Craters of the Moon on my list for years.  We had to cut it from our big trip four years ago, which made me sad, but maybe this time we'll put that in.  The campground closes for renovations right around the time we'll be there, but a visit would still be nice.  I've been pinning things like mad on Pinterest, plus I have a stack of books with just snippets of best to do and see in areas.  Narrowing down is going to be hard.  Plus I have to figure out where exactly my uncle is so we can meet up with him.

Washington.  My sister and her family live here, so we'll work in time to visit them along with camping.  There's a lot to do in this state, too, and combined with spending time with my sister and her family, I think we're going to end up with two to three weeks there.  The 10 Best of Everything:  Families has a list of farmers markets and such in the northwest.  Oh, I'm so looking forward to getting fresh, regional food.  I want to hit National Parks, state parks, Mount St. Helens, and just spend some down time chasing my niece and trying to get my one nephew to acknowledge me and the other nephew to stop hugging so tightly.

Oregon...We have a family friend who gave us a HUGE list of things to do.  They sound amazing.  I haven't started researching this state myself, so I'm very grateful for the list she gave me!  The kids are so excited to see the ocean, though, they may never want to leave.  Bill's also got some family in this part of the world, so we'll try and meet up with them.  We haven't seen his aunt and uncle since 2010, so that'll be cool.  I guess we should tell them we're coming!

Northern California....Redwoods, sequoias, lava beds.  So much to see, so much to do, how do we fit it all in?  Since we have no one we want to meet up with in this state, I think we're good with just a week or so here.  I don't really know if we can get all the way there, but I'd love to stop in at the Lawrence Hall of Science, too.  I've been getting their emails for years, so actually seeing the museum would kick butt.

Now that this part of the trip is planned...ish, how to get back to CO?  And how much time do I need to allow for that?  A hotel room for all of us is about $100/night, so I think we have to rule that out and try to give ourselves a bit more time.  Or maybe we suck it up and pay for one night and just try to make it with one overnight.  More research is needed....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Educational Waste

Our kids go to a once a week charter school.  They finished up this past week, so I get the joy of going through their backpacks to fish out broken plastic spoons (ugh--when did he even use that????), unopened fruit snacks, multiple office supplies that may possibly not belong to us....  My touchpoint, every year, are those darn composition notebooks.  They're never used.  Not to such a degree that they're necessary.  Out of six composition notebooks this year, only one got used more than halfway.  The other five?  Two weren't used at all, one had two lines used, and the other two had no more than four pages used.  Combine that waste with the pencils, and we've got a serious tree destruction habit.

I want so bad to quit this habit.  I'm a paper and pencil kinda gal.  I'll look up directions from Google maps and then take out an index card to write the directions down.  I'm fine with that.  I use a paper grocery list.  But the amount of compostion notebook waste is mind boggling.  Teachers request these things.  I put my children's names on these things.  And these things don't get used in the classroom.  Isn't it about time we asked more of ourselves?  Why do class supply lists come out before class even begins?  Teachers have some notion in the summer of what they want, and then change their minds when they're actually in the nitty gritty of it all.  Totally understandable, I don't have a year's worth of stuff figured out at a time.

And I can hear the arguments from teachers already.  If we don't ask before school, we don't get it.  It's such a battle to get those supplies from kids, we overask so we can share.  I don't buy either of these.  I understand them, I know them to be true, but I don't see them as blockades to doing things better.  We are so used to being a gluttonous society, just go out and get new.  Replace that broken thing.  Throw out that old thing.  Get more, do less.  Oh how it all hurts.....

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning on the Go

I'm full into planning our next academic year.  I'm the kind of gal who just can't seem to work past Christmas, my enthusiasm just wanes.  So I start our year early.  This year, I'm not entirely sure when our year will begin.  Normally we begin mid-June.  This year we may just start earlier.  We've got Scout camps and such, but other than that, the kids can work on their research skills.  Using the Internet, working on their organizational skills, finding places they want to visit (AND be able to explain WHY they want to visit certain places)....what great lessons!

Every year I start out with Rebecca Rupp's Home Learning Year by Year.  I go through the grade levels and just pull out the information for my kids and put it all in a spreadsheet.  I cannot even go through all my technical woes of late.  Suffice it to say, I'm burying much technology in the coming days, once I get all my stuff backed up.  In order to get all my work done, I've invested in an iPad Air, a hardcore case, I'll get a Bluetooth keyboard in the coming days, I'll be set.

I'm freaking out a little having an 8th grader.  Doesn't at all faze me that my youngest is going into 2nd grade, but having an 8th grader.  That's big time.  We have a variety of math interests in our house, or more specifically, a variety of math program interests.  Life of Fred has been a fave for years.  G enjoyed Teaching Textbooks in 7th grade, but in talking to others, I feel like perhaps I should push him a little more.  So I've ordered Algebra I from Foerster for this year.  I got the three different pre-Algebra books from Life of Fred, but I also feel like I need to get NS a more rigorous program, or at least something where I can make sure he's learning what he needs. K, NB, and J will all be sticking solely with Life of Fred and supplementing with games and such.  Math facts are somewhat lacking in our house, so we'll practice, practice, practice.

Aside from math, I really want to focus on writing.  We're HUGE readers, and I'll curate a list of what I want my older to be introduced to, but I don't need to really push the whole reading thing.  Writing? Yeah, let's get on it.  So I'm getting little pocket journals for everyone to keep in the day packs so they can keep them handy on hikes and such.  One mom told me about Bravewriter, so I need to look into that and see if that can help us.

I also want the kids to think about Big Ideas.  Read some philosophy, discuss important ideas, see how we can fit idealism into realism.

Doing all of this while keeping our book load light, oh, it's a frightening prospect.  But we'll bring along DVDs, books on CD, our stuff from Audible, and our minds.  Oh, what an adventure we'll have!

Friday, May 6, 2016


Argh.  One of our goals on this trip is to save money.  Our current mortgage is close to 2k/month, plus utilities.  We can go way under that on a camping/roadschoooling adventure, wouldn't you think?  Man, I hope so!  At this point, we want to keep all our expenses right around 2k/month.  I'm looking at $400-$500/month on camping sites, $500/month fuel, and around $1000/month for food.

I'm freaking out.  I've read sites where people plan on 4k/month.  That's about what we spend living here in the house.  I want to reduce and live more simply.  I want less stress.  A LOT LESS STRESS.  I'm feeling a bit crazy with the small budget, but I'm feeling like we can do this, with the knowledge that some months we'll just be over because there are things we don't want to miss out on.  I know there are people who make do on a lot less, so this is all about choices.  Keeping our eyes on the future, not pining for what could have been, trusting that this all works out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Right now, pencils and I have a love hate relationship.  I LOVE office supplies.  Office Max and Staples are right up there on my faves list, along with Costco and possibly a ton of other places.  But I'm tired of pencils.  If I find one more stupid pencil in my house, I may ban them altogether.

When our oldest was going into 3rd grade and was still in public schools, they sent home the class supply list.  On that list was 60 pencils.  Per student.  That's an obscene number of pencils.  1500 pencils for a 25 student classroom.  Sayeth what????  I am so entirely tired of finding so many pencils in my house, I've been throwing them away.  All I can imagine is that every year, every classroom in every school in every district across the US throws out pencils.  How many tons of pencils?  How many trees is that?  My heart hurts for the amount of waste we accept as business as usual.  I need to work hard on not being so wasteful.