October 31, 2016

Birthdays and Holidays

When we embarked on this adventure we knew things would be different. We knew that we'd need to make our best attempt to make birthdays and holidays as normal as possible. Our plan was to do the things we consider traditions. If the traditions weren't possible because we are on the road then we would alter it and try to make it fun, exciting and different in a good way. We know we will have to 'sell' the idea of altering our traditions big time to these kids. 

October 26, 2016

The Giving Tour

While in Austin we decided we needed something more. I'm sure it sounds silly to most. We felt like our children weren't being grateful and neither were we. We'd been too wrapped up in the hardships of homeschool and getting acclimated. We needed to spend time being grateful, really consciously thinking about it.

We both know that we are truly lucky to be able to make this big adventure happen. We've explained it countless times to the kids, too. It just isn't sinking in: for us or them. We are still way too focused on the hardships. Edson and I both agreed that we needed to do something about it. We want to be sure we all get the most out of this adventure. We started talking about volunteering. It might just be what we all need to get a new sense of life and appreciation. We also know that everywhere we go we will be learning and taking so much from that place. But what about the local community? How can we give back? We will be getting a lot out of each place we go so it's only fair that we do something for the community in return. 

Here's the idea: The Giving Tour. Every place we spend more than a week we do at least one thing to help the community. Our first stay for more than a week was our visit to Austin. We were able to get this idea started there and it was a great experience for all of us. We found an organization that I absolutely adore. It's called Little Helping Hands, based in Austin, TX. The premise behind it is promoting family volunteerism, allowing little ones to get involved and start their love of helping others from a very young age. Their vision is to develop children into community-minded leaders and citizens. We signed up to help at Caritas, a homeless shelter in downtown Austin. There were 4 families there and each family made a large tray of macaroni and cheese, cut up a ton of fruit for a big salad and cookies for dessert. The organizer made sure to let us know that each tray would feed about 25 people. She also let us know that hundreds of people come through those doors Monday-Friday for meals, That meant that what we made would only be a portion of one of the meals they serve to those in need. WOW! - they need a lot of help. Big bonus: we got to rock some kick ass hair nets. 

We are on a road towards a greater appreciation for the things we've been fortunate enough to do in this life. The Giving Tour means so much to me and I really hope it turns into something. I have always wanted to instill compassion and a strong desire to help and care for others in my children. I'm pretty sure we all want that. We all want to teach our children to be grateful for what they have. I mean who wants a spoiled brat? Ummm... No one I know. 

Little Helping Hands was an incredible organization and I would love to replicate it everywhere across the country. I've always looked for ways for our family to get involved. Believe it or not it's not always easy with a family with young kids. Organizations, in my experience at least, prefer to have older kids and adults to help and not deal with the little ones running rampant. I can't say I blame them. Even when looking for a place to volunteer in Austin I emailed and called at least 10 places. Little Helping Hands was the only place to even get back to me and honestly gave us a ton of things we could do with our young family. They've really got things down to a science. 

I have big dreams for what we lovingly call The Giving Tour. Honestly, I always have big dreams and ideas for everything-- its whether or not I figure out how to make it work is another thing. The goal is for my family to really make a difference in the communities we spend a significant amount of time in. Considering we are slowing down that will hopefully happen more often now (although I'm having a hard time grasping the idea of 'slowing down'). It's a mutually beneficial relationship. The community takes us in for some time, we learn new things, see new places and then we help by giving back-- it's simple really. 

The larger idea comes when I think this could turn into something incredible for high school kids. I think 10th-12th graders would be ideal. We could start The Giving Tour with those kids and we would travel around the country, they give back, and see new places (all in an RV). And no, I'm not talking about our family of 5 travelling with the these high school kids but an educator or someone in a leadership role. Obviously, a year trip would be a bit out of the question, but a few weeks to a month would be do-able doing a region at a time. We could work with local organizations and really get something amazing things to happen. This country has so much for kids to experience and so many ways to get involved. I am confident it would be life changing. I remember going to South Africa when I was in high school and the experiences I had helped shaped who I am today. That is, a travelling blogger with hopes to create something big for my family and others; instilling a sense of appreciation, adventure and compassion. Big goals. Must. Take. One. Step. At A Time. 

Have ideas on how we can get The Giving Tour started with high school kids in your area? Know of a few great organizations we could work with? We are staying in Santa Fe for a month and it's our first lengthy stay so we are busy looking for volunteer opportunities. We will be sure to post more and we will be adding a new menu option in the coming weeks so we can feature some of the organizations we work with while on this journey. 

Cheers to living a grateful life!

(Update: Be sure to visit HERE to find more pictures, information and links to all the organizations we've been helping. There are A LOT of hair nets involved. Thought that might entice you. :)) 

October 21, 2016

San Antonio, Texas

We are realizing if we want to see as much as possible we need to stay at a central locale and be willing to drive up to a few hours. That was the case with San Antonio. It took about an hour and a half to get there which in our car is one movie and TA-DA we arrived. It also means we can't stay too long because Cola (our diggity dog) is back at the RV.

We did all the tourist-y stuff. We hit up the Alamo and even bought the severely overpriced photo package at a whopping $26. It was worth it though as it was the first time I'd seen a picture of everyone looking and smiling all at the same time. Now if I can just find them in this RV. I have no idea how we seem to lose things in this little space. Don't be surprised if that image is what you all get in holiday card form this year.

Anyway, it was a great day. The Alamo was first: full of history and lots to learn. We then walked the entirety of the Riverwalk (seemed like it anyway) and stopped in La Villita, a little historic shopping village and the River Theatre. We ate lunch at a Mexican place, I ate my weight in chips and salsa, heard some mariachi and called it a day. I'll let the pictures do the talking on this one. I figure I need to give you a break from the lengthy term paper posts every once in a while and well, it was a day trip. 

Love this face. Cayenne and I had some time to kill while the boys read everything so we did some photos and exploring of our own.

Niko's hair. It will have it's own zip code soon. Cool guy.
River Theatre

E just wanted to eat. Zero interest in that mariachi band. 
On to Jellystone in Fredericksburg, TX for some fun with Yogi Bear! We've got some celebrating to do.

October 17, 2016

Austin, Texas

To be fair, I've only heard ya'll once. We spent the last two weeks near Austin, Texas and being as though it's the 'WEIRD' part of Texas I'm not surprised we didn't hear it more. That being said, those of you that know me would also know that I can appreciate some good ole' down home weirdness.

We stayed at Bastrop State Park about 50 minutes outside Austin. That meant it wasn't the easiest of drives to get into the city. We did attempt to stay closer but parks close to the city were jam packed because of ACL (Austin City Limits) which is a huge music festival. Nevertheless, we still made the trek in 4 or so times and sucked every ounce of Austin out of the city each day we did. You know I don't want to miss a single thing. Of course the drive in meant gas and a lot of it so we did try to steer towards the el' cheapo route of things to do/see if you know what I mean.

Below are my favorites:

Hope Outdoor Gallery: We came here the first day we got to the city. We started driving without a plan and this was before we realized just how far it was. It was already late in the day so we just decided to do a driving tour. We hit up Hope Outdoor Gallery for some graffiti. I mean what else do tourists do in Austin, TX but go see some reallllllly cool graffiti?! Just kidding, I didn't necessarily think that was normal when sightseeing but that's why I thought it was so incredible about it.

Austin, TX

Austin, TX

Austin, TX

Austin, TX

SoCo Area:  One walkable street. Cool funky shops. Friendly people. Browsing Acceptable. Right. Up. My. Alley. Nuff said.
Austin, TX
Our first cactus. Had to snap a pic with it!

What's a trip to TX without a boot shop?!

Zilker Park: Every area of this place just made me want more of it. From Barton Springs Pool to Zilker Botanical Gardens to the awesome playground. I could've gone back every day and been satisfied. I would totally want to live near it.

Zilker Botanical Gardens has an amazing storytime! They read a story at the entrance and then they take everyone on a walk through the gardens stopping to read books along the way. It was beautiful!

She is craving "friends" and sat and spoke to everyone she saw. 
The train at Zilker Park- super cheap and a great way to see more of the park.

The random guy serenading us on the train route. Pretty cool!
Barton Springs Pool- Freezing, but awesome. The view of the city in the background pretty cool.

Beauitful Barton Springs Pool

Austin Nature and Science Center: Free, beautiful and buzzing with excitement. Literally, buzzing. They have a swarm of honeybees in house. It was super cool. My favorite was the time we spent in the dino dig. My kids could've stayed their digging up dinos all day.

The Thinkery: Amazeballs. Reno yelled to me while running off to another exhibit, "This. Is. The. Best. Place. Ever!!!!!!!" Folks, I don't take that lightly. The kid has something to complain about every time we go anywhere. All of our kids loved it. Shoot. I loved it, too. They have a giant lite brite room. What 1980s kid wouldn't think that is the coolest thing EVER? They also have a ginormous playground, a painting area, wax creation area, rocket making, battery making, water play, kitchen and much much more! The place is incredibly pricey at $10 per person with discounts for members, but they have a community night every Wednesday that is free from 4-8pm. DING DING DING! We were in! They are smart-- that community night made me want to be a member.

Round Rock Chalk Walk: So this isn't IN Austin but we found an event where artists use chalk as their medium and paint on the sidewalks in the downtown area of Round Rock (north of Austin). It was something different to do and a new place outside of Austin to explore that still has reasonably priced housing (we are always on the lookout). We could tell that most of the people there lived in the community and it was just a nice feel. A sense of community is definitely something I'm missing while on the road. There were vendors everywhere of all sorts with live music, food trucks, the artwork, of course and just a fun Friday night out. Woot woot. We don't get many of those. Little Miss C also got her face painted. She went from thinking she was a superstar and posing to full on karate. A police officer even stopped us to tell us she should be the entertainment for the night. Too funny!


McKinney Falls State Park: This is where we originally wanted to stay when coming to Austin. It too was completely booked. We decided to go for a few hours. We hiked to both falls and really got to ooh and aah over it's natural beauty. It was the first time Edson had an Ahhh moment. You know the moment, right? When you sit down on the side of a rock, look over at some natural beauty with your calm family in tow and at just the right moment you let out a sigh and a big "Ahhhhh." It was the first time I'd seen E be like 'Ok, this is why we did all this craziness." That made me happy.

Trying to save this girl from going over! She wanted to jump right in!
Cayenne's BUTT CHEEKS. So proud.
Those were my favorites in/around Austin. My favorite memory from this leg of the trip one might ask? We were roasting marshmallows one night while at Bastrop State Park. We were all done and apparently Reno had taken bites of a couple marshmallows and stuck them together like "butt cheeks". Well Cayenne wanted to do the same. I told her we'd have more tomorrow and she wasn't accepting that. She spent the next 30 minutes screaming "I WANT BUTT CHEEKS!" and crying hysterically. From that day on we now lovingly call two marshmallows stuck together "butt cheeks". Note: This mama didn't cave and give her one. She had to get over it and have one the next night.

We did do a lot more than I listed above as this was the place we've spent the most time thus far on our big adventure. I decided not to highlight those because they weren't necessarily my fav. We took the Rest in Peace Tour at the Capitol building. It was a tour only given in October around all the people that have died there, ghost stories and such that the boys enjoyed. They even recognized people in  paintings from the Texas history we've been reading about which was neat (and I gave myself a pat on the back). We went to Jacob's Well, too. I honestly wasn't super impressed with that one. I would've preferred to visit Hamilton Pool Preserve but it wasn't along the route when we were headed out so we'll save that for next time.

An old water fountain at the Capitol building.
They recognized Santa Anna from the Battle at the Alamo

We left Bastrop/Austin on October 7th so I've got some catching up to do. See you in the next post!