Home, Sweet Home … For Now

We bought our RV and SUV a few days before little-dude joined our family. We decided to take a small break from moving to adjust to being a family of four and allow me time to heal from child birth. 

Two weeks ago, we talked with our Realtor and are getting the house ready to sell. Which means we need a place to put the RV. After some research we found a cute place close to the house so we could be nearby while we sell the house and move into the RV. 

The actual trip to the RV resort was nerve racking for me – this made it real. Everything’s been abstract for months but actually seeing the resort made it real. And I have to admit, I’m still nervous. This is such a drastic change from what I’m used to. 

However, I’m also kinda excited – the resort is walking distance to parks, restaurants, and much more. Now we will have the opportunity to get out more as a family. 

It took some time to get the RV here as the place we bought it from kept “losing” our moving information. Thankfully, we managed to get the RV to it’s new home a few days ago.

We now have about half our stuff in the RV and spent our first official night. So far, so good. We still have some work to do, but it’s getting there.

Beep Beep, Beep Beep

download_20170806_091127

Once we got our camper, we needed a way to transport it. This was much harder than I anticipated. I assumed that the trailer would be harder, since there were so many options, layouts, sizes, and colors – but I was wrong. First, Damon and I needed to agree on what type of car:

  • Easy to drive: I didn’t want a car so big that I couldn’t drive it. I am used to full-sized vans and didn’t want to go bigger than that.
  • Comfort: We love our current mini-van. It has leather seats, lots of room and LOTS of cup holders (Damon loves his beverages. Our current mini-van has six cup holders in the front and five of them are usually taken up by Damon’s beverages).
  • Towing Capacity: I wanted something powerful. I didn’t want a car that would barely pull the trailer and could possibly leave us stranded somewhere because it broke down
  • Space: In addition to our human family, we are bringing with us our two cats and we need a space to put them while we are on the road.

Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, not. The towing capacity became our biggest issue. This instantly eliminated the standard car, mini-van, and SUV – which are the cars I am used to driving. This pretty much left us with full-sized trucks and some suburbans:

  • Trucks
    • Pro
      • Availability: Being in Florida, trucks of all shapes, sizes, and power are easy to find.
      • Towing Capacity: Trucks are made to haul stuff, so most trucks can handle pulling campers.
    • Con
      • Size: We are a family of four, with two young kids. Many cabins support this, but don’t have much leg room or capacity to store extra toys or snacks.
      • Storage: They have large truck beds but your stuff can’t be accessed while your driving. Plus, we would need to get a cover if we wanted to protect our stuff from the elements.
      • Unfamiliar: I haven’t been in a truck since I was eight (despite living in Florida for twenty years). This just isn’t a vehicle we are familiar with.
      • Budget: Trucks don’t lose a lot of value overtime, so to get one powerful enough in our budget required something with high mileage. This made me nervous since most trucks start to have major issues as they get more mileage on them
  • Suburbans
    • Pro
      • Familiar: Suburbans are very similar to vans and mini-van’s, which we are used to driving.
      • Size: Tons of internal room. Plenty of space for the kids, toys, snacks, and whatever else we need. Plus we can fit the cats inside of the car.
      • Storage: The storage is large and flexible – we can move seats around to accommodate whatever we need.
    • Con
      • Availability: There are only a few suburbans on the market that meet our criteria. In our short time researching, we have only found two that we like. People like these cars so much, that they rarely come on the used car market.
      • Towing Capacity: While there are just a few suburbans on the market, there are even fewer that have the towing capacity we need (and we soon learned that most car dealers don’t know that there is a difference).

So as you can see, the suburban makes more sense for our needs but trucks are much easier to find. I assumed that we would end up with a truck, since it would work and we could find one. Luckily, Damon kept his eyes open for a suburban and we hit the jackpot!

Damon was searching Craigslist and found a suburban that was 45 minutes away. This car had everything we wanted – good mileage, well cared for (the interiors looks brand new), powerful towing capacity (that was specially made for the original owner), easy to drive, a great size, and a great price. Needless to say, we jumped at this car.

Of course, being such a great catch, there were other people interested. Fortunately for us, we had two things going in our favor – location and cash! The first person who wanted the car lived in Georgia and was trying to figure out how to get the car. The second person lived nearby, but needed to go to the bank to arrange financing. Sometimes, the stars align and everything just goes in your favor.

So meet our new car:

PhotoGrid_1496839053041

Next step is introducing our car to our trailer. Fingers crossed that the meeting goes well :p

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!

As you saw in our Tiny House Hunters post, we narrowed our choices down to five. Each had a lot of pro’s, and some cons, so we decided to eliminate a few first

  • The Jayco Jay Flight – too expensive and missed a lot of what we wanted
  • The Palomino Puma – We really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it was snapped up before we could see it
  • The Keystone Sprinter – this needed too much work for the price.

Which leaves us with the final two – the Coachman Catalina 323 and the Coachman Catalina 333. Both had the split layout with doors on both bedrooms, lots of storage, outdoor kitchens, similar price points, and similar in size. The biggest difference, the 323 had a bathtub but small kitchen, while the 333 had a large kitchen but no tub. So which was more important – a large kitchen or having a bathtub???

And the winner is …

PhotoGrid_1496621124017

Meet our new home! We chose the camper with the larger kitchen but no tub. After actually looking at the tubs that are inside of campers, I realized that they just weren’t practical. Instead, I’m going to get a tub inset for the shower that we can store when we’re not using it.

This camper was also on the higher end of our budget. We really thought we could get something cheaper and fix it up ourselves. But we found that what made many of these campers cheaper wasn’t cosmetic, it was items missing, beat up walls, and the exterior needed some help.

If it was just the two of us, I think we could’ve handled this however, since we have kids, we don’t think we’d have the time. Damon would have to be away for hours a day while I’m at home taking care of a newborn and a toddler. Plus, once we invested time and money into fixing up the camper, it would have been the same, possibly more, than just buying the more expensive camper.

In the end, we found a camper with an awesome layout with lots of updates and amenities that we won’t have to spend anytime fixing it up. Instead, we can spend time trying to downsize while spending time with our kids.

Tiny House Hunters

I guess that’s what we are. I was watching the popular HGTV show recently and noticed that they consider going tiny as anyone who is downsizing to below 500 sq ft. Ok, I can accept that. We are going from 1,600 sq ft to about 300 – which is a big difference. I didn’t realize until today how much stuff we had accumulated in our house.

One big thing I noticed about this show (which annoyed me) is that the couples never seem to be on the same page when it comes to what they want in their tiny house (and the fact that they seem to discredit what their partners wants). But, this got me thinking – what is most important to us in our tiny house search?

  • Storage
    • This is my #1. I am a very organized person and everything needs its place – something I think will be beneficial to downsizing and not getting overwhelmed. Plus, I want to make sure that the kids get everything that they need. While I want this huge adventure, I don’t want it at the sacrifice of our kids comfort or happiness.
  • Layout
    • I really want bedrooms at opposite ends of the trailer. Not because of the kids, but so I can send Damon to the other side of the trailer when he starts snoring.
  • Mattress
    • I am a total ‘princess and the pea’ kinda girl. If I don’t have a good mattress, not only will I get a bad nights sleep but I will have a huge migraine and be pretty unusable as a person the next day – which just isn’t an option when you have two young kids.
  • Two Bedrooms
    • I want our kids to have a separate space where we can store their toys and play.
  • Kitchen/Outdoor Kitchen
    • I love to cook and teaching my kids how to cook is a big passion of mine. So getting a camper with a large kitchen so we can all cook together is very important. Additionally, we’ve seen many campers have outdoor kitchens, which we think would be great for cooking while the kids are playing outside.
  • Budget
    • We have a healthy budget, but I don’t want to spend all of it. The less we spend, the more adventures we can have. Plus, I’ve noticed that RV layouts don’t really change year-to-year, so you can get something nice for a lot less if you just go back a few years. And, it gives you more room to update and customize the RV.
  • Size
    • We want something big enough to be comfortable, but not so big that we can’t drive it or get into certain places (we want it just right :p)
  • Bath Tub
    • We have two young children, so a tub is a must. Plus – I REALLY like to have my tub time too.

And yes, this is a list that we BOTH agree on. It’s also equally important that our kids feel comfortable in the RV. I don’t want to force them into something they don’t like just because we like it.

So far, we have seen a few RV’s that fit this criteria:

  • A 2017 Jayco Jay Flight SLX at an RV show that had the split layout but didn’t have the large kitchen, outdoor kitchen, and was missing quite a few of our must-haves for the price. We left the show disappointed as this was the only camper that remotely fit our criteria.
  • The 2010 Palomino Puma caught our eye first with it’s two bedroom split layout, a bath tub and great price, but it had a small kitchen space and no outdoor kitchen. However, this one got snapped up before we could see it (We are learning the good ones always go fast!)
  • The Keystone Sprinter is newer, had a bathtub AND an outdoor kitchen, but this camper was in really bad shape. The price made doing any repairs difficult and we wondered if it was worth the time and effort to fix it up.
  • The Coachman Catalina 323BHDS had a bathtub and an outdoor kitchen, but the interior kitchen was small.
  • The Coachman Catalina 333BHDS had a large kitchen, good sized second bedroom, and an outdoor kitchen but didn’t have a bathtub.

So which one did we choose? We will let you know which one we land on or if we go with something completely different.

Now just to figure out what vehicle to get to tow the RV …

Downsizing

wp-image-1720699747

How do you fit a 1600 sq ft house into a 300 sq ft trailer??? The simple to say, but hard to do, answer is – DOWNSIZE. I’ve tried to put myself in a practical mindset – the more we sell, the more money we have to travel and less stuff to lug around. It also helps to remember that if we get rid of something, and want it later, we can always re-buy it.

PhotoGrid_1502110058459

Now some of our stuff is a no brainer to get rid of, such as the furniture (since it’s included in the trailer), TV’s (we won’t need four in the trailer), my car (my Honda Fit can’t pull an 8,000 lb trailer), and kitchen stuff (I won’t need my fancy dishes any more).

Then it gets a little more difficult for me. We have cultivated quite the toy collection and play area in our house. I know, realistically, that our kids don’t NEED all these toys, but I do have a joy seeing them play with these toys. I didn’t have a lot growing up, so being able to provide these “things” for my children gives my great satisfaction.

PhotoGrid_1502110732331

But then I’m reminded that what we remember most isn’t the actual toy we played with as children. We remember spending time with our loved ones and experiencing the world with them. And that’s what I want for my children – to experience value and love from those around them; not the things around them.

So while I know that downsizing my kids toys will be emotional for me, I also know that we are giving them an awesome experience.

20170321_090916

Now on the flip size, I am used to cooking in a 300 sq ft kitchen (which is the same size as our trailer). How am I supposed to cook in such a small space? Where am I supposed to store everything? I am used to having a lot of cabinet space, not to mention fridge space, to store food. I currently have three different solutions for my dilemma:

  1. Shop every few days, instead of once a week
  2. Stop buying in bulk and only buy what you need for a the meal (portion control)
  3. Grow fresh herbs and lettuce in a window

I have no idea if any of these will works, but I guess this is only part of what I’ll have to get used to going forward. On the plus side, it’s much easier to keep 300 sq ft clean than 1600 – especially with two kids!

Life Happens While You Are Busy Making Plans

Well since getting home, our life has changed dramatically. Here I was assuming (I know, silly me), that we would come home and our crazy life would calm down for just a little bit.

I. Was. Wrong. (I really should stop thinking our lives will calm down each year. All it does is speed up and get crazier!) So what happened? Let me tell you:

Surprise!:

  • Just before we left Glendale, I realized I was feeling a bit off. Yup, you guessed it – pregnant! Now, this was not a complete shock – Damon and I had been discussing adding to our family and felt the timing was right. I just didn’t expect that to happen while we were moving (that certainly made things more interesting). Unfortunately, this pregnancy was harder on my body this time around – I’ve been sick most of the time, which made chasing mini-man around so much harder. 

A New Opportunity:

  • Meanwhile, Damon was in a job that he liked but wasn’t passionate about. This lack of enthusiasm started to take a toll on our family. He hated being torn between our family and going to work when a new opportunity arose. A dream job that combined a lot of his passions. After his interview I saw my old, passionate Damon come back.

But Not Everything That Glitters is Gold:

  • Just a few weeks into this new opportunity, we both realized this was not what we thought it was going to be. Damon was more stressed than ever – working more hours and having a longer commute was taking a toll on us as a couple, as a family, and on him as a professional.

    But There’s Always a Silver Lining:

    • After a few months, Damon and the new opportunity decided to part ways. I think everyone involved realized this just wasn’t a good fit. Now while this might seem scary, for us, it was truly a blessing in disguise. With me ready to pop at any time, we decided it was best for Damon to stay home with mini-man, me and our new arrival (when they came). And it has been amazing! I wasn’t sure it would work at first – Damon is a person who loves to keep busy and have projects. I was worried that he would get figety or bored, but he’s actually taken to staying home pretty well.

    But Wait, There’s More!

    • Of course the decision for both of us to stay home brings some financial concerns. If neither of us is working, then how will we live? How can we afford this? Well thanks to past Damon and Sharon, we are ok financially. As luck would have it, just as Damon was taking a break, our investment in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, started to rise. In a matter of weeks, our investment nearly tripled! That definitely takes the financial concerns down a notch.

    A Perfect Storm of Events

    • Now you have to admit, that is a lot for us to go through in just six months. However, it has culminated in our biggest decision to date. We love adventure and we love to travel – two passions that we want to pass on to our kids. This was a topic Damon and I were discussing a few weeks ago while we were out thrift shopping (one of our favorite activities). I casually mentioned an article I read about the ultimate road trip that takes about six months to do and covers all 48 contiguous United States. He was intrigued and I said I’d save the map and we’d go some day when the kids were older.
    • But why wait? If not now, when? When is the right time to do anything? We always think that its at some point in the not too distant future. But before we know it, time has passed and opportunities have been missed. Why wait for adventure? Why not go now!

    It’s Time to Hit the Road

    • So, we’ve decided to hit the road – literally. We are searching for a trailer to fix up and start a new adventure.

     

    As soon as the idea was in Damon’s head, he was off and running. He just seemed to know this was the right decision. Me? I have to admit, this was not an easy decision for me.

    First off – traveling with two kids under three, are we nuts? I guess not:

    1. Many families do this
    2. We will have our house with us
    3. Since the kids are younger, they adapt very quickly to new surroundings.

      Secondly – we can’t just leave our house (this is a big one for me). I consider this house the house I grew up in. I never had a childhood home. Here, I fell in love, got engaged, renovated, and gave birth to both my children. This is where I truly grew up and became the person I am. But after some discussions, Damon and I agreed:

      1. It’s time for something new
      2. It’s the perfect time to sell and use the money to travel
      3. We’ve done everything we can to this house
      4. When we’re done, we can get a different house

        Lastly – what do I really want? This is conflicting for me. I was raised to believe that I wanted a life in the perfect house, in the perfect neighborhood, to raise the perfect family. I have this fear of being a bad mother for taking my kids away from this house. But then I realized, this house and this life was holding us all back from something truly great – adventure. Why work so hard to only experience our world, one week a year? Why not enjoy it now!?!

        And if we fail, that’s ok. We can always come back and try something new. People never regret taking chances and going on adventures; they regret not taking those chances. I do not want to be one of those people who are retire and looking back regretting. I want to take this chance to see the world.

        I hope you all will continue to follow our adventures and discover this beautiful country with us.

        The Great Movie Ride

        A few weeks ago, the Walt Disney Company announced the closure of a beloved attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – The Great Movie Ride. While I understand the need to retire the attraction, I am saddened as it holds a special place in my heart.

        In October of 2004, I’d been working at ‘The Great Movie Ride’ for a few weeks when I met a new person in the break room – Damon. He’d just transfer from ‘The Tower of Tower’ and was finishing his training for the ride. I remember this meeting because of how we clicked. I’d never felt an instant connection with anyone before. From then on, I constantly looked for him in the break room. Unfortunately, he kept getting assigned to ‘The Tower of Tower’, so I never saw him. 

        Then in June 2005, we were both selected for be character trained for the ride (which means doing the gangster/bandit scenes). At this point, we were seeing more of each other each weekend and definitely had a crush on each other.

        During training, Damon tried to help the trainer by grabbing a box of pens for our class. The next thing we know, Damon tripped and pens went flying across the room. He turned beet red and I thought he was the cutest thing ever!

        After work, Damon invited me to his house to watch a movie. I don’t remember much about the movie. What I do remember is how comfortable I felt with him. While we were talking, he asked if I’d like to go out with him sometime. I said that sounded like fun (girl code for yes). Unfortunately, Damon didn’t speak girl code and asked me again. I explained that my answer ment yes and thus began our journey of being honest with each other.

        So, as you can imagine, ‘The Great Movie Ride’ means a great deal to us. Which is why I was thrilled to get to go back one more time. Last night, the Disney Parks Blog hosted a meet-up at the ride and allowed us to walk the track! Not only did I get to relive some very fond memories but I got to take all the pictures I’d neglected to take while I worked there (lesson learnes + always take pictures).

        What a wonderful way to close such a meaningful chapter of my life. I only hope it’s replacement will live up to ‘The Great Movie Ride’

        Meet the Newest Member of our Family

        He’s finally here and he made an entrance to remember.

        I’d been having irregular, but intense Braxton Hicks contractions for about two days. This was annoying as they’d come and disappear with no rhyme or reason. As we were getting ready for bed last night, I got a few more but dismissed them like the others. 

        Then my water broke. This was new for me as my water didn’t break with mini-man. Luckily, Damon had just put mini-man to bed and was able to call my midwife. 

        However, it seems our little one had other plans. My contractions went from five minutes to on top of each other instantly. I managed to get on the bed and on my side when a huge contraction hit and I felt the need to push. 

        Damon was instantly on the phone with our midwife, telling her he could see a head. Thankfully, Damon had EMS training and managed to stay calm while our midwife instructed him on what to do. Three pushes later​ and little one was here. I only labored for 27 minutes! 

        I was relieved it was over and amazed at what had just happened. Damon and I brought our little one into the world together and very quickly. Now here’s the biggest shock – little one was 10.1 lbs and 23″ long. 

        You read that right – I pushed out a 10lb baby in 27 minutes with no drugs. Isn’t it amazing what the body can do!?!

        Today is our first day as a family of four. Colby slept through the whole thing and knows little one is here but really isn’t interested in him at the moment. I’m recovering and bonding with little one. As you can imagine I’m just a little sore. 

        This is great kick-off for our upcoming adventure, which we’ll tell you about soon.

        Taking our Furbabies on the Road

        DSC_0079

        These poor cats. We adopted Kizzy and Cloud in 2008 while we were living at our townhouse in Orlando. And over the past ten years, these cats have lived in a lot of different places:

        • 2009 (October): We drove them cross country for three days to move to California.
        • 2010 (April): About six months later, in early we drove them back to Orlando, and into my in-laws house in Celebration, Florida.
        • 2010 (October): After many months of house hunting, we then moved them to our new house in Orlando.
        • 2013 (February): After a few years of downtime, we moved them to an apartment near SeaWorld
        • 2014 (January): We moved them back to our townhouse in Orlando.
        Tired Cloud

        I think this pretty much sums up how he feels about car rides

        Is that it? unfortunately not.

        • 2015 (September): We flew them out to California!
        • 2016 (September): We fly them back to the townhouse in Orlando

        And now we are asking them to live with us on an RV and travel the country to who knows how long. I think I better stock-up on kitty treats.

        Why Aren’t You Sailing????

        wpid-fb_img_1430417847199.jpg

        This is a great question. Before we had kids, Damon and I loved to go sailing. There is nothing quite like getting out on the water with the breeze flowing and the tranquility of the water.

        20150510_090334

        However, things start to change when you have kids. While we love the adventure aspect of sailing, there is an impracticality to sailing with such young children. Part of what appeals to us most with sailing is the travel; the ability to see the world as a family. But as we experienced on our first sailing trip with mini-man, one person is sailing and managing the boat, while the other is taking care of the baby. This results is more time apart than together. This is something we’ve seen from other families who sail with small children.

        road trip map

        So what do we do? A family with two kids under three who want to travel and see the world together? We take the show on the road!