What If “One Day” Never Comes

Mama and Papa aren’t what-if people and never have been. We don’t want to get to an advanced age only to look back and wish we could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve done something differently.

We also see no benefit in putting off for tomorrow what can be done today.

Or putting off for next month.

Or putting off for next year.

Or putting off until retirement.

We believe planning has its place and we do so when and where appropriate.

There are things we’ve said we’ll do “when we retire” or “when the boys have grown.”

Then in January we had a rude wakeup call when Mama went to the ER and almost didn’t come home.

Now we see no point in waiting, namely for one thing in particular.

And we have decided to finally make the announcement public, after talking about this for years and putting our plan into action for months.

Folks, we’re in the process of purging and downsizing…in preparation for selling our house.

Until now only Mama and Papa’s parents and very few friends and family knew of our plans and that we’d been working on making it happen.

But today — May 1st — we’re ready to let everybody know that we will soon be listing our house on the market after we get some work done on the front and back yards. We’ve already started on the inside.

Oh, and we’re not buying another house for one to two years.

Yup, we’ve decided to go for it and get a little crazy. We’re going to live in our beloved fifth wheel June and our address will be that of whatever campground we’re parked at.

When we went on that three-month road trip last year, no one in our family wanted to come home. We can honestly say we only missed our friends and family, but we didn’t really miss our home.

Yes, there’s stability, familiarity, and monotony in living in a house. Yes, living out of our RV is risky, unusual, and unexpected.

That’s exactly why we all want to do this, and that includes our boys.

They loved not knowing what our new yard and their new playground would be like every time we parked at another campground.

They loved the small quarters of our RV and how close we all became, after we didn’t before know we could grow any closer than we already were.

They loved that they were outside more frequently and that we all went on more adventures.

They loved making new friends in each state and that age and education barriers pretty much vanished.

And since they’re already being homeschooled, the transition will be that much easier and smoother.

Yes, Papa will continue working and for the very company he’s been with and loved for more than 10 years now. We have no intentions to leave the area anytime soon, and we have plenty of camping options throughout this county and those counties nearby. Besides, as much as we travel on weekends anyway, why not simply bring our house along every time?

Our sticks-and-bricks (or S&B) home holds countless memories, and ours was the first family to live in it. This is the first house our boys ever knew, and it was also the location of the only school they’ve ever been to. It will be emotional when we do drive out of our driveway for the last time, and it’s been somewhat emotional as we box up stuff and sell and donate things that helped make our house a home.

But it is just “stuff.” They’re material things, most of which can be replaced down the road. Things that hold sentimental value and that we feel are irreplaceable will be in storage until we decide to settle down once again.

Then there are our amazing neighbors, which are also our friends. We love them dearly and we know we could never again find neighbors as wonderful as they are. Fortunately, we also know that we’ll remain in touch and friends, regardless of where we live.

And whoever moves into our house next will be extremely blessed to have them.

In addition to this being another adventure for us, this is also an opportunity to pay off everything and free ourself from debts. We will be able to save money and could potentially pay cash when we do buy or build a house down the road.

Mama loves poetry and one of her favorites is by Robert Frost, in which he concluded:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

And then there’s a quote by Mark Twain, popular especially among RVers:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Those by Frost and Twain are excellent advice and have guided Mama and Papa well for more than 15 years.

All four of us want to do this, and Mama and Papa used to say we would do this one day, perhaps in about 15 years or so.

Then we realized “one day” may never come.

Certainly Beats the Classroom

This just never gets old.

Yesterday there was a teaser on TV regarding the NHL team St. Louis Blues, which is one of the teams in the 2017 NHL playoffs. (If you didn’t already know, we’re die-hard hockey fans.)

During the teaser, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch. They got so excited and started yelling: “That’s the St. Louis Arch! We saw that! We drove right by it!” Indeed, this past September we did drive right by it on the way to Mississippi from Illinois.

We can’t even tell you how often they’ve made comments like this, positively thrilled that they saw, experienced, and learned about things in person, not merely from books. We’re not saying they haven’t learned about things from books or the Internet, but what they remember, what they talk about, what gets them super excited, are the things they have actually seen, been to, and done.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of a lighthouse because they’ve climbed the 203 steps to the top of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida.

Our boys can say they’ve seen hundreds of huge windmills because we drove by and between them in states like Indiana, Ohio, Nebraska, and more.

Our boys can say they’ve played in the snow while a young moose walked by only feet away and watched two bull moose fight in Alaska.

Our boys can say they’ve been to the top of the Space Needle and looked out over Seattle, with Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains as the backdrop, in Washington.

And yes, the boys saw the St. Louis Arch glistening in the setting sun in Missouri.

Already they’ve stayed at least a week in each Alaska, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico, and D ‘Skiy has been to New Mexico, although he was only one year old at the time and doesn’t remember it except for the pictures.

(And then there’s our home state of Florida, of course.)

The boys have camped in the sweltering heat of the Florida Keys and the snow-covered hills of Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

They have been on steam engine and diesel engine trains, climbed many rock walls, rode on wave runners, took on several ropes courses, snorkeled crystal-clear waters, canoed and kayaked, fished in both salt and fresh water, walked dozens upon dozens of trails, and splashed in freezing mountain streams.

They’ve been to many gardens, zoos, museums, science centers, historical landmarks, and amusement parks throughout the country and the Caribbean.

The beauty of it is that they’re still so young, and they still get so excited whenever we go someplace new, enter a state we’ve never been to before, and pack for any adventure, whether we’ve done it ten times or this is the first.

That’s part of the beauty of homeschooling. The world is their classroom and everything is an open book.

And it never gets old when they can point to something on TV or in a book and say, “I’ve been there.”

Disney Magic

When someone thinks “Florida,” they will simultaneously also think about beaches and Disney.

Well, this year we decided to get annual passes for the Disney theme parks again. Our boys are nearly two years older than when we had passes previously, which meant they could ride more rides…especially M ‘Skiy.

This particular birthday held extra significance for Mama though: she had received a pacemaker just two months ago.

Suddenly birthdays — even as an adult — seemed more important to celebrate.

Papa decided to surprise Mama with a weekend stay at the Disney All-Star Resort hotel, which we’ve been to before with family, and it worked out because Mama’s birthday fell on a Friday (March 10). This was also the most-affordable of the Disney hotels. We’re not fans of hotels at all, and we usually stay at the Fort Wilderness campground, but Disney’s hotels have been nicer and better than typical hotels.

So after Papa finished working for the day, we decided to head to Orlando. We were able to select some FastPasses at Magic Kingdom, though, so instead of heading straight to the hotel we decided to go to the park first.

On the way to Magic Kingdom, Mama did online checkin for the hotel, seeing how we would arrive late.

At the park, we started hitting the rides we had passes for. On the way to the third and final ride — Space Mountain — the fireworks show at the castle was about to begin, so we grabbed some food and decided to watch the show before heading to Tommorowland.

Halfway through the show, Papa’s cell phone rang. One look at the number on the caller ID and we knew it was the reservations center for Disney. We were worried we’d somehow messed up the online checkin, the reservation itself, or something else that was sure to put a damper on the weekend.

When Papa finally got off the phone, he didn’t look at all upset. Mama had tried to listen to his side of the conversation, but with the fireworks and music going on in the background all she ever heard was, “What’s the catch?”

She inquired about the call, but he said he’d explain after the show and not to worry.

The show ended and we started weaving our way through the crowd towards Space Mountain. Mama asked again about the phone call. Papa said it was Disney and they were calling because they “had extra magic to share” and wanted to upgrade our hotel reservation.

No, not to a bigger room or suite at the All-Star Resort.

Disney upgraded us to a Savannah-view room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge!!

Mama’s knees buckled as she let out a scream and her eyes filled with happy tears!

We’ve always wanted to go to that resort! But it’s one of the — if not, the — most-expensive resorts Disney has, ranging from $400-$600 per night! So we knew we’d never stay there…unless, by some chance, we managed to win the lottery.

Just like that! Out of the blue, Disney upgraded us!! And at no additional charge whatsoever! This wasn’t an effort for us to attend a talk about their vacation club or some timeshare. It was a simple upgrade, with no strings attached!

Was it because it was Mama’s birthday? Did they somehow find out her family had nearly lost her just two months prior and wanted to put a smile on their faces?! Was it entirely random and we did, in some way, just win a lottery?!

We’ll never know.

However, that was the most-incredible resort or hotel experience we’d ever had. Our room had a view of the Savannah, where we saw storks, zebras, and giraffes from our balcony. The boys even got to see their favorite animal from only feet away: the okapi. There are two amazing swimming pools and a great playground for the kids. And an added bonus was the kid’s club, where Mama and Papa were able to take the boys for a couple of hours while they went on their first date in more than 2 years, all while the boys played with other kids and had a pizza dinner under the watch and care of Disney staff.

The weekend was perfect. We were all together, enjoying amazing weather, at a hotel we’d only dreamed of going to, and for the entire weekend it cost us less than it would have otherwise for only a single night.

Thank you, Disney, for sharing the magic and making our dreams come true!

More To Do, Less To Hold

Two Christmases ago we were gifted a Disney annual pass by Papa ‘Skiy’s parents. The year 2015 was full of visits to the Orlando theme parks, and we had a blast.

When our passes expired, we chose not to renew them because it was too expensive and there were still things M ‘Skiy was still too small to do. Also, there were several things under construction that wouldn’t be completed until 2017 anyway. So we bought a Sea World annual pass for 2016 that included the waterpark Aquatica.

Sea World is nice, but the waterpark is amazing!

This year we decided to surprise the boys with Disney annual passes again. On Christmas morning, after they saw what Santa had brought and opened the few gifts we had gotten for them — mostly stuff for camping — they ventured out on a scavenger hunt that finally took them to an envelope with a paper inside informing them we would again be going to Disney in 2017.

This pass was different, though. Not only did it include the four main theme parks, but it also included the two Disney waterparks…and none of us had been to those yet!

So, yeah, many will think: “Whoopie! Disney! *Yawn*”

And honestly, we weren’t fans of theme parks ourselves.

But in 2015 our opinion of Disney changed. Expensive, yes. Crowded, quite often. But it’s additional family time spent together, and the service and treatment visitors receive are outstanding. You feel like a guest, not a customer.

In a period when the generation has become entitled and downright lazy, pacified with electronics, jam-packed extracurricular schedules, and “stuff,” we don’t mind theme park visits anymore. It’s another place to go and something else to do.

And we’ve always been more about experiences, not material things.

We do a lot and go many places together, and we’re not rushed or overwhelmed. We can’t slow down how quickly our boys are growing, but we can fill our days with memories and activities with them. Our shelves don’t hold trophies and our calendar isn’t jam-packed with this commitment and that event, and we’re okay with that because it doesn’t matter to them either.

We’re not rushing through life. After all, we’re not going to get out alive anyway, so what’s the point?

On those lazy mornings when they want to crawl into bed with us and just cuddle, we can do that.

On a random evening or weekend that we suddenly feel the urge to ride Expedition Everest, watch a fireworks show, or explore the tunnels on Tom Sawyer Island, we seldom need to worry about something on our calendar stopping us.

Expensive? Perhaps, but when you consider what we’re not spending in dues, fees, uniforms, and school supplies, there’s a good chance we’re still spending less than most.

And again, we’ve included our boys in these decisions, not made those choices for them. D ‘Skiy wanted to take Taek Won Do, so we signed him up. After he advanced to the next level, he asked if he could quit. He didn’t like being required to be someplace on certain days, at a certain time, and he didn’t like hitting. We didn’t push him and we didn’t sign him up for another month. M ‘Skiy enjoys playing tennis, and we’ve asked him if he’d like to take lessons or get on a league, but he said no, that he preferred just playing tennis with us, and that’s what we do.

As homeschoolers — well, unschoolers — our schedule is pretty relaxed. There are certain things Mama requires they do during the week because it’s required by the state, but we also take them to activities like a four-week-long Ninja Warrior obstacle training gym class and the annual Maker Faire Orlando, and we travel and camp a lot. These are things they enjoy and more we can do together as a family.

Many believe our sons should be on a more regular or tighter schedule. We disagree. They’re kids! Let them enjoy this care-free time of their lives. Halfway through their teen years their lives will become busier and more hectic. Fifteen years of actually being a child isn’t going to ruin them for life.

Kids are not little adults. They’re little people. What’s the point in over-scheduling? Why give them more stuff, just to toss it aside after a couple of weeks and forget about it?

Now, our kids have toys and their fair share of stuff. But these are things they love and play with almost daily: K’Nex, Hex, a Yamaha keyboard, popsicle sticks (yes, popsicle sticks), board games, rollerblades, archery supplies, tablets… And once we notice they stop playing with or they forget about something, we phase it out and donate it.

However, we much prefer going places and doing things, namely together.

The Emerald City

No, Toto, we’re not talking about the land of Oz. We’re talking about Seattle, Washington.

Although this was a pretty magical experience and visit.

Never before had any of us been so far west. Never before had we flown with our cat…or any pet for that matter. Never before had we seen such majestic mountains and views. Never before had any of us stood atop and looked out from a structure as tall as the Space Needle or seen a peak as high as that of Mount Rainier.

And then there was the childhood dream of Mama Skiy’s that came true, to meet a man she idolized in her youth, a man whose movie had such an incredible impact on her and her younger brother’s lives, a man who our sons have now grown very fond of and because of the same movie: Tim Noah, the writer, singer, and actor behind the multiple-award winning production In Search of the Wow Wow Wibble Woggle Wazzie Woodle Woo. (To say he was just as nice, fun, and energetic as he was in his movie is an understatement.)

Never had we been anyplace like Seattle.

There’s something for everyone in Washington: nature, hiking, shopping, history, casinos, big cities, small villages, museums, parks, resorts, campgrounds, arts, dining… Everything.

We’re also not convinced that it rains all of the time in Seattle. Okay, so we got lucky. In the 8 days we were in Seattle, it rained twice: the second day we were there and the day we were flying out. The first full day we were there it was clear and beautiful, so we went to the city and went top of the Space Needle. Although it rained the second day that was when we had made plans to see Tim Noah at his Thumbnail Theater in Snohomish, and even then it was just a light rain and still cleared up enough for us to take an afternoon hike in one of the evergreen forests. Then it was a partly-cloudy day when we took the long drive to one of the lookouts at Mount Rainier, clearing up enough to see the peak, a glacier with water coming out of it, and a waterfall piercing one of the mountain’s sides.

And to top it all off, on the way back down the mountain, we passed a village that had families of elk grazing and making their way through the yards!

The remainder of the stay was a mix of fifty hours of work for Papa, four days of schoolwork for the boys, and family outings to playgrounds, a popular trailhead with a series of trails, and general errands.

We packed a lot into those 8 days. It was fun and productive.

More than anything, we all discovered how beautiful and diverse Washington is. This was our first visit, and it won’t be our last.

The next time, though, we plan to go in our RV.

Family Ties

Mama and Papa ‘Skiy are both from St. Petersburg.

Well, Mama is from St. Petersburg, Florida, and Papa is from St. Petersburg, Russia.

As a result, our family extends the length of the Atlantic Ocean and we’ve been teaching our boys how to speak Russian, so much that lately our youngest prefers to attempt Russian more than English. It’s cute because our boys are nowhere near being fluent and certainly don’t understand Russian conversations. But they try and they’re learning.

This past week we had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with Papa ‘Skiy’s brother, sister-in-law, and our niece and nephew. It’s been years since Papa has seen his brother; he doesn’t get over here often anymore because he owns and runs multiple stores in Russia. Papa’s sister-in-law comes over at least once a year with their kids, and we try to get together every time they are in the States.

For whatever reason, it was more difficult to part ways this time. As though we’ve all bonded more.

The kids are a little older now and play together beautifully. And even though our niece doesn’t yet speak or understand English (she’s four) she and our sons played together as though they all understood one another. Language barrier? Pfft… Non-existent.

When you’re family — or just close friends — there are no barriers.

We have different beliefs and customs. Although Papa was born in Russia, he’s now been in America far longer than he was in Russia, so he’s more American and has certainly assimilated. Even when he speaks Russian, he has an American accent.

We have different habits. One thing that took Mama a while to get used to was the habit of removing shoes when in the house, which is a strong way of life for Russians. Papa has maintained that tradition, and it’s not a bad one. We don’t impose it upon friends or family not acquainted with our Russian side, and admittedly sometimes we’re in such a rush we forget to do it ourselves. However, Russians also wear slippers in the house and even provide extra pairs for visitors…and that’s just something we don’t do and have never done. We just kick off our shoes and walk barefoot or in socks. As a result, our Russian family members bring slippers with them when they visit.

We have different meal styles. In our home we don’t eat large meals. We have a main course, and usually our dessert consists of fruit, if anything at all. Russians have 3- or 4-course meals, complete with an appetizer, main course (or two), and dessert. If we’re cooking then our Russian guests adjust to how we eat, but if they’re cooking then we adjust to their way.

We enjoy different and similar interests. Our RVing hobby is a little odd to them and probably doesn’t make good sense. However, we all enjoy going to the water parks together — which we’ve done in the past and did again on Thursday — and the beach — which they did when they left our house Friday.

It’s family. Nothing is more important to us than family. And that’s more than just a custom, a habit, or a way of life.

It just is.

One Month To Go

Are you familiar with that clustered feeling of excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and exhaustion?

Yeah, that’s where we are right now.

Since last year we knew we had a “big trip” coming up. Papa ‘Skiy is a software engineer and periodically goes in the field for week-long installation assignments. Most of the time the whole family goes with him, and that’s taken us as far west as New Mexico, as far north as Pennsylvania and New York, and off the mainland to Puerto Rico.

The opportunity for another of these assignments was presented to him last year. The only difference was that this was a big one: it was a field assignment, and it would take months to complete.

We’d always said that, if he had the chance to do it then he should take it, especially if he felt we could accomplish it RV-style. So when it came up he didn’t hesitate accepting it.

Then the time frame for the assignment kept changing. At first it looked like it was starting in June, which would put a damper on birthday party plans for the boys and a possible summer camp at the Kennedy Space Center for our oldest son. That went back and forth for awhile, so we cancelled the camp plans altogether and decided on the easy route for the birthday party by holding it at a small local amusement park.

As summertime approached, the assignment got pushed back further and further. Finally, a schedule was established and we could start planning: at the end of August, we’d be on the road.

We made spreadsheets with lists of things to pack, things to do, things to prepare. After all, what do you do when you still have a lawn to take care of, mail that will still arrive, and bills that will still come in, even while you’re not there?

Yes, it would just be easier for Papa ‘Skiy to go on his own. It would also be more lucrative. But that doesn’t play into our family lifestyle. We’re close, we love traveling, and we homeschool. All of these sound ripe for a family roadtrip!

Now it’s a month away. One month! And although that sounds like a long time, there’s still so much to do.

Remember that whole excited-anxious-nervous-exhausted feeling? Yup. We’re there.

Guess What: Our Sons Do Have Friends

We are very blessed.

We have a generally small circle of friends. We believe in quality, not quantity. And the friends we have are amazing.

By “we,” we also mean our sons. Yes, homeschoolers really do have friends, despite popular belief.

Their friends range from four to thirteen years old, and not all of them are local. So when we were planning our sons’ combined 6th- and 8th-birthday party at a small local amusement park, we were in hopes the turnout would be awesome.

Of seventeen friends invited, thirteen were able to attend, four of which came from two other counties. Everyone had an amazing time, and we got the biggest kick out of watching all of the kids scurry about, going from one ride to another.

We don’t get to spend as much time with our friends as we’d like, and many of them don’t (or up until the birthday party, didn’t) know each other, but we do everything from park outings to camping trips with them.

Half of our friends are actually the result of camping/RVing.

It doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not — or where — you go to school, or church, or work, or get your hair done. Circumstances bring people together, and personalities and interests are what bond them.

Yet Another Reason To RV: Part 2

As avid RVers, we read the blogs of other travelers. It’s fun to read their adventures, and educational to learn their mishaps and mistakes.

Our favorite types of posts are epiphanic.

We recently stumbled upon one of those. The father of this particular family is the primary blogger. He telecommutes from the family RV and often writes about what he does and where his work takes them.

In that post, however, he wore his emotions on his sleeve.

As he does every morning, he awoke before the rest of the family did so he could begin his work. He worked for a couple of hours and when the remainder of his family was up — his wife and their three young kids — they ate breakfast together, rode bikes, did some homeschool work… Essentially they just went about their day, accomplishing what they needed. It was a day like any other had become for them, and it was normal.

They were together.

He generally finishes up his work after the kids are in bed for the night, after they’ve eaten dinner together and read a story — or three — together.

That particular evening, though, something clicked with him, all because of a comment his youngest daughter made that day. She had commented that, when they were in a house, Mommy and Daddy spent more time with work and taking care of the house, and she was glad they wern’t in the house because Daddy is around more and there’s not as much housework to be done in an RV.

You can probably tell where this is going.

And it’s true.

When you have a domicile — whether it’s your dream house or a small apartment — it seems that what you live in owns you. There’s more housework, more upkeep, more yardwork… More bills, more appointments, more errands… Yet there’s also less quality time, less vacation time, less family time.

We “lived” in our 30-ft travel trailer for almost a month in late 2015. The most tedious chore was laundry. Everything else was completed in about an hour total per week. There was more time with our sons, going out and exploring, and just doing stuff together.

His little girl nailed it. The space is smaller, the “stuff” is fewer, and the responsbilies are less and take less time to complete, which means quality time is abundant.

He went on to say he noticed his kids got along better, the parental stress was far lower, and everybody just seemed happier…and he’d never stop to think about or appreciate it before then. The fact he telecommuted and they RVd so much had made them closer.

When we tell others about how much we love RVing and how we wished we could do it more, many people reply with the same or similar responses to homeschooling: “I could never be in such a small space with my family for such a long period of time — we’d kill each other/drive one another crazy”; “I could never imagine spending so much time with my kids — I need my time away from them”; “I couldn’t handle having my husband/wife around all day long — distance makes the heart grow fonder.”

That’s one thing about RVers that we’ve picked on that makes us so amazing: we value and crave family time. We just love it! We’re crazy about our spouse, we’re nuts about our kids, and we want as much time together as possible. Isn’t that what being a family is about…or at least used to be?

Our sons are growing so quickly. We love that we homeschool and they’re around all of the time. We love our time with them, and there are days we look back misty-eyed and miss their baby coos, when they were learning to walk, and the nursing days.

More is not always better. More can make you miss out on the meaningful. You get more out of life when you have less.