Thursday, September 29, 2016

Stressing Out

We had a fantastic visit with my college buddy, Cindy, yesterday.  We got to see four of her six kids after they got out of high school.  We haven't seen these guys in a very long time.  As her two oldest start their senior year, they're looking at colleges.  Cindy was going through what colleges run these days.  Holy stink.  Oh, and her kids are taking some college classes right now, plus they're doing some truly amazing stuff in their final year of high school.

I have to get my stuff together for high school homeschooling.  I have some worksheets to help me plan, but I really need to get some experiences and curriculum.  I feel like I'm going to have to come out of my comfort zone, which may mean I don't play to my strengths.  Then I read this article, which did nothing to soothe the freak out factor.

My kids are smart, but that's only part of the equation.  College is part of the equation, but the cost is skyrocketing, so I wonder about the future of traditional colleges.  There is no justification for a $200k college degree.  I hate the stress of living up to expectations.  Fitting the mold.  How do we proceed from here?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Visiting Uncle Josh

We haven't seen my brother in several years.  The last time we saw him was the last time he joined everyone for the yearly ski trip.  So we packed everyone in the van and headed out to MD.  We fit our gigantic beastie of a mobile on his teeny tiny road.  And parked it!  
We squished in next to Josh for this pic.  Bill had my iPad for this picture, since I had left my camera in the car.  We had a good time visiting with Josh, and I think we'll be able to get him to move into a ranchette next to us in CO once this travelling adventure is done.  He wants all the animals Bill doesn't want us to have, so I can live vicariously through him.  It'll be great good fun!

Math Revisited, Again

My parents lent us the Great Courses Algebra video and workbook.  I have no answer book for the workbook, and so it was becoming a challenge to grade.  I really don't have the time to go through the videos and do the work myself in order to have an answer for all of his work.  I feel horrible about this.  With that in mind, however, we did go ahead and make the switch to Teaching Textbooks.  G said that the problems in there were easy peasy compared to what he had been doing, so I'm tempted to have him do the Great Courses while we're staying at houses, just to give him that extra exposure to more complex ideas, by without me grading them.  I need to have a way to keep track of his progress in math, I need to know he's getting the concepts the book is trying to get across to him, and I simply can't do that if I have to do all the work alongside him just to make sure he's got the correct answer.  I've got so much going on, that's just not working for me.  I feel a bit of a failure on this one...

Preventing the Rain

Turns out interior raining whilst camping is somewhat preventable.  Yes, we're in a humid area.  Yes, it's been raining.  But it need not rain INSIDE our tent.  Bill did a little research, and if you simply vent your tent, no interior raining.  Lovely!!!!  So now we unzip the windows a bit, and all our breathing humidity joins the other humidity outside the tent, and we're just left with the regular humidity level surrounding us (about 60%).

Now, if only we could prevent the regular rain that occurs naturally in weather.  It rained pretty hard Monday night, and for whatever reason, we got a river that led right to my feet.  And soaked the sleeping bags I was using.  So terribly sad.  And it's supposed to rain more Wednesday night.  Not looking forward to it all....

Sunday, September 25, 2016

NOVA Camping

The inside of my tent is raining.  I've got puddles being created as we speak.  The humidity here sucks.  Massively.  Living in this area, I was quite aware that the humidity was horrible.  I hated it when we here, but I never slept outside in it.  Now that we're in it all the time, I appreciate how horrible it truly is.  I sleep damp, I wake up damper, and I walk through damp air all day.  The day we arrived it was close to 100, but the temps have gone down.  And the weather channel says the humidity should go down soon, too.

And so now I leave you with the video that Bill's sister-in-law showed us.  Good times.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Lunch with Aunt Carol

On our way from CO to VA, we stopped in for a day at Bill's parents' house in WV.  From there, we stopped in, briefly, for lunch with Aunt Carol at Fredrick, MD.  We haven't seen her since Bill's brother got married, many years ago.  Something like six years ago.  So while she hasn't changed, and Bill and I haven't changed, our brood has changed enormously.  It was good seeing her again, even if it meant leaving Parkersburg before 8am.  
Out in the parking lot right before we headed out.  I had forgotten my camera, so we made her come to the car so we could get a picture.  I need to get working on another big family tree kinda project.  I've tried to gather pictures of everyone as we go, but I'm sure I've missed a few.        

 And now we're in Northern Virginia!!!!  We've got plans with friends, trips to take, adventures to have.  We've already canceled our trip into DC for the book festival.  The idea of lugging the beast into the city is unappealing, plus we have camp chores to get done.  But we ARE seeing friends for dinner tonight, and that makes me happy!

Confirmation and Such

Our timeframe for returning to CO had been set way before we even began our journey across the US.  NS got confirmed on the 15th of September!  

He took the name Robert Alphonsus.  Personally, I hate that they have to pick a Saint's name before confirmation studies even begin.  K and NB have to pick their names now for their confirmation next year.  K has already done that, NB has not.  At any rate, check out how sharp my little man is next to his uncle.  He insisted on the bow tie.  He looks good!            
All of us assembled.  We don't get a lot of family pictures, so it's nice to get one while we're all gussied up.  G's slouching, he's even taller than Bill these days.  All those monkeys look good dressed up.  Very few occasions to dress up whilst camping.          

 We also got the opportunity to hang out with friends while in town.  The boys got to go to scouts a couple times, we went bowling three times (twice with friends from the charter, once with family), we hit the rec center, and we went to mass at our own church thrice (twice on Sundays, once for confirmation).  It was nice to be in a familiar place, though I missed the camping.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Two Months In...

Time to hit some numbers.  In my pipe dreams, we were living on less than 3k a month.  We missed that by a HUGE amount.  We've spent over 9k in a little over two months.  Sigh.  So not how I wanted things to go.  BUT, we've spent some time internationally, we've had to repair some tires, we've had some amazing experiences, and we've had a great time.  Now it's time to buckle down.

We can't be doing everything we want every time it comes along.  We also need to tone down our eating expenses.  Here's a breakdown of how we spent our money:

Fuel:  $1342.28
Stuff:  $2042.08
Snacks:  $299.07
Meals:  $4216.28
Lodging:  $1519.96

Clearly our food is out of control.  Stuff?  Who even knows how we spent that money?  Our categories are too vague, so I've decided to track a bit more detail in our next leg of the journey.  I want to know how much we're spending on ice.  I'm gonna say it's an obscene number.  How often are we buying DEF?  So much that would help me to plan much better.  I'm going to differentiate between groceries and eating out.  I want to see how much we're spending on laundromat.  How much firewood do we buy?  How are we doing with propane?

And just to keep track, we've gone 9,974 miles in nine states and one foreign country (two provinces).  We spent 65 days on the road, nine of which were in Canada, seven days spent at family's house.  The boys have earned one merit badge, seven Webelos adventures, six Wolf adventures, and the Wolf Outdoor Activity award.  And the youngest three have earned a TON of Jr. Ranger badges.

And then again, is our journey really in the details?  We can learn so much from the details, but can we enjoy our trip any more or less based on them?  I need some philosophy class to work out my issues....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On Our Way to CO

From Flagstaff, we only needed one more stopover before heading to CO.  We made our way to Lake Cochiti campground in NM.  On our way there, we stopped off at Petrified Forest National Park.  G and I had been there five years ago, so we knew what we wanted to see.  
I told Bill, I want a countertop or tabletop of petrified wood in our next house.  They have gorgeous examples of polished petrified trees at the visitor center.  I'm sure it's totally affordable.  HA!  But it's so gorgeous, just absolutely amazing.              
The trunks are impressive, but I love to see the sections lying about where you can check out their colorations.  This is on the crystal trail.  The trees get filled up with water and then covered with dirt/sediment.  The wood decays, but all the minerals deposited take on the shape of the wood and harden back up into a petrified tree.            
We also got to check out the painted desert on our trip through Petrified Forest.  I love this picture of my two guys in their bandanas.              
From our campsite, Los Alamos was a little over an hour away, so we went to check that town out.  Bradbury Science Museum is a free museum about the Manhattan Project and some truly great science.  We spent a couple hours there, and I think the kids may have learned a thing or two.  NB even commented, as we listened to The Story of the World's part on the ending of WWII, that we had learned about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (link for convenience and clarity, I receive nothing from your click).  I visited Hiroshima when I was 16, and that has stayed with me.  Perhaps more passionately than my children would care to hear.  But learn from our past, they will!!!!!    
NS learning about ye olde timey phone.  They got to learn a lot about how those involved in the project communicated secretly, and some of the security protocols involved.  J especially loved the locked door that they got to practice opening with a card reader and palm scanner.          
We also hit Bandelier National Monument.  We went after 3pm so that we could drive ourselves around the park.  During certain times of the year (April to October?), you HAVE to take a shuttle from 8am to 3pm around the park.  Shuttles make me car sick, so we waited until after 3.  Plus, the hiking wasn't at the hottest part of the day that way!  The kids loved climbing the ladders and going into the pueblos.  I don't like climbing the ladders, so I observed from the bottom.      
The rock walls are impressive.  It's such gorgeous scenery, and yet, I have no desire to move to such a landscape.  I want more green in my life!              
NS and J also got to help fold the flag at the end of the day.  We happened to be in the right place at just the right time to help out the ranger with the flag for the night!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Doing Things Around Flagstaff

We were busy little beavers in the Flagstaff area.  After Grand Canyon, we hit Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Walnut Canyon National Monument, over several days.  Wupatki and Walnut Canyon both have pueblos, which the kids decided they very much liked.    
  The pueblos at Wupatki are ground level.  There are a lot of areas that you can walk into, they have a trail guide to give you more information about everything, and the pueblos behind the visitor center make for a nice walk.  It did rain while we were touring these, but then we got a beautiful rainbow as our reward for continuing the walk.            
There's a blowhole towards the end of the trail.  Despite the rain in the air, it was still strong enough to blow K's hair up.  The boys then turned it into a spitting contest.  Yes, it does throw spit right back at you.  Now I've saved you the need to experiment on that one yourself.              
  The pueblo on the Wukoki trail.  We got to climb all the way to the top of this one and check out every room.  The kids really enjoyed this one.  And I'm sure that the people who were lying down and resting at the top have by now recovered from my children enjoying this pueblo.            
The pueblos at Walnut Canyon are cliff dwellings.  The stone was weathered away, leaving a shelf for a roof and plenty of space for living and storing.  Most of these dwellings (on the island, anyway) are open to go into, which the kids adore.  These were so impressive because the dwellings are literally in the side of the canyon.  We pondered for a while HOW the Native Americans got into these holes in the cliffs to make a home there.        
G fit in very nicely.  He recently surpassed Bill in height, so if G can fit in, any of us can.  There are more than 250 stairs to navigate on the Island Trail, so it was quite the workout for  those of us with back/hip/achilles difficulties.  But it was definitely worth the climb.  We even met a lady on our way down and her way up who had just had a knee replacement within the  last couple of months who made the entire climb and hike.        
The trees at Walnut Canyon are fascinating as well.  I laid on the ground to take this picture, and then mistakenly asked NB to help me get the dust off my back.  He beat me pretty hard to get all that dust off.  Should have seen that one coming!              
G at the A'A Trail at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  This trail showed a lot of the big rocks from the eruption.  The campground where we stayed was a bed of cinders.  It made for an interesting campsite, but all I could think when the kids were running around was how difficult cinders would be to pull out of knees.  The kids enjoyed the sound the rocks made when thrown at the larger rocks.            
The Lava Flow Trail was a much longer trail than the A'A, but still only about a mile.  Really extreme landscape, though.  The eruption was about a thousand years ago, and it's amazing how rocky the terrain still is.  The kids are getting an amazing education on geology from this trip!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Keeping Clean on the Go

Keeping clean while extended camping has certainly been challenging.  Our tent smells bad.  Our van smells bad.  I'm ignoring that we smell bad.  While in Seattle, I did purchase some Mr. Clean so that we could periodically clean the van.  Not just clean it out, but clean it.  It is amazing how worth it that one purchase was.  We've washed it out several times, though I have to admit that Kings Canyon did me in.  It's just so dusty there, I gave up on it.  I promised myself that when we got to our next location that I would give it a good scrubbing, but I haven't.  It has rained several times, so the outside is less yucky than it could be, but it still needs a good scrubbing.

Bill has been a strong proponent for campgrounds with showers.  That hasn't always happened, but we have a foot washing tub and a shampooing tub, so we can take care of those two things when we're not near a shower.  But in Flagstaff, we celebrated NS's birthday with a trip to the local fitness center (swimming pool), followed by a shower.  Such bliss.  Now, it had only been a few days since our hotel stay, but we were feeling the grime.  Our next campground is an Army Corps of Engineers site, and they have showers, so that will help my parents open their door to us.  I hope.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Hanging out in Flagstaff has been good fun.  We spent two nights in the hotel.  So bad for our budget and backs, but good for our spirit.  On our second night there, we stopped by and had a fun evening with friends of ours who had moved out of the Boulder area last summer.  Dinner was good, the kids were good, the bugs were biting.  So we came home with souveniers, too!  But seriously, it was a fun night, so thank you Esther and Tim!   After getting to the Bonito campground, we realized that it was, literally, within walking distance of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.  G and I have been there before, when we helped my parents move from CA to CO, but no one else in the family had been.  We spent a few minutes over there on our first night at Bonito, but we need to go back.  Hit that again along with Wupatki National Monument on Friday.  After the library.  Again.  We did the library Wednesday evening in order to get NB his Every Kid in a Park pass.  The kids were so in need of books, they begged to stay.  Only a promise of a return visit allowed us to get out of there and over to Lowell Observatory.  
NS needs just a little bit to finish up his astronomy merit badge that he started at summer camp this year, so this hit the mark for the "visit a planetarium or astronomical observatory" requirement.  Pluto was discovered here, and we got to see that telescope (an astrographic camera).  It was such a super cool visit, the kids really enjoyed it, but it wiped us out.  We got back to camp and hit pillows around 11pm.  Tooooooooo late for me!        
We made it out to the Grand Canyon!!!!!  It's only a little over an hour away from our campsite, so it made for a very nice day trip.  I've never been before, nor has Bill, so this was a neat adventure for us.              
NB does like to freak me out.  He climbed out on this ledge, and then climbed THROUGH the gap in the rocks where I could no longer see him.  Minor heart attack.  He did get a good picture from inside the rocks of the canyon, so I guess the panic and terror was worth it.          
These flowers were just amazingly bright.  The kids spotted hummingbirds, we've even got some at our campsite.               We might make it to Petrified Forest National Park while we're out here, too.  It's almost two hours away though, so I'll keep you posted.