7-Fun-Tips-Family-RV

Camping season is upon us! How many of you are out there enjoying the great outdoors in your RV? We’re gearing up to spend July in dear Ally B, so I compiled a list of some handy ideas for making RV life perhaps a bit easier and less expensive!

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1. Most campgrounds unfortunately come with bugs. Bring along hotel shower caps to cover your dishes for your outdoor meals! Don’t forget your cute, water-stain resistant table cloth too!

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2. Use old comforter bags to store kids shoes while driving to keep dirt out of your motorhome!

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3. Buy (or make your own) shower lanyards for kids to take to the campground showers! We ordered ours off of Amazon!

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4. Keep your RV bathroom clean and toughen up the kids by sending them to the nice campground showers! Get plastic baskets for each child to take with them containing their own shower lanyard, pajamas and towel. Be sure to get a different colored towel for each kid too!

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5. Long day on the road? Put dinner in the crockpot to cook in the sink while you’re driving, so it’s all ready for when you arrive.

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6. Forget buying the expensive RV hangers! Cut a pool noodle in half and wedge on top of your hangers so that clothes don’t fall off in your closet while you’re driving.

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7. Make a clothesline out of rubber bands to dry clothes outdoors or inside your RV. This clothesline is amazing because it’s flexible and takes up no room to store!

Want to make one? Here’s how:

If using regular rubber bands, buy the thicker ones. Don’t get cheap dollar store type.
Use appx. 20-25 bands and make into a chain by looping end to end.

Make 3 chains of equal length. Holding one end of each chain together in your hand loop the end together in a large knot, leaving a grouping of 3 bands at the end for hanging.

Take the loops formed at the end of knot and hang over something such as a knob and begin to form a braid with the 3 strands, stretching braid gently as you go.

When you get down to about the last 6 inches hold the end loops together again and loop into another large knot.

Happy Summer! Happy Camping! What are some of your favorite tips when traveling by RV?

Top-of-the-Rock-Ozarks-Branson-Missouri

Our two favorite places we found when visiting Branson, Missouri were the College of the Ozarks and our adventure at Top of the Rock. Ok- neither of them are exactly in Branson, but just on the southern edge.

At Top of the Rock, we took a self-driven tour by golf cart along beautiful paved paths and through Lost Canyon Cave. Not only is there an amazing waterfall inside the four-story cave, but there is a bar where you can toast to your once in a lifetime journey. The last tour does leave an hour or so before sunset and the bar was closed when we got to the cave, so you may want to head out a little earlier if you want to experience that.

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We enjoyed seeing some deer and other little critters along the way. Be sure to bring a sweater or jacket if you head out in the evening as I was freezing, even in the humidity! It didn’t help that we got caught in some rain along our journey.

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You will experience the beauty of waterfalls, natural rock formations and covered bridges along the trail ride.

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The views of Table Rock Lake are incredible from the top! You will have to pay a $10 fee just to drive into Big Cedar Lodge (if you are not staying there) where Top of the Rock is located. You do receive a $10 credit toward anything you spend up top though. We put it toward our tickets for our cart excursion, which run $25 each. Kids under 12 are half price.

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After our tour, we took a shuttle up to Arnie’s Barn for dinner and to enjoy the scenery from up there. The Chapel of the Ozarks is stunning as well as the golf course that it sits on! So happy we found this place and highly recommend you checking it out if you find yourself in the area!

College-of-the-Ozarks

After dropping our kids off at summer camp in Branson, Missouri it was time to explore the Ozark region and check out what the area had to offer. At a time when there is much talk about what is wrong with the nation, College of the Ozarks, exemplifies what is right with America.

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Founded in 1906, the College of the Ozarks is home to 1,500 students who work, rather than pay, for a quality liberal arts-based education. All students who are admitted to C of O must demonstrate financial need, academic ability, sound character, and a willingness to work. 65% of these students come from the Ozarks region. One of the places for students to work is at The Keeter Center.

Located at the entrance to the campus, Dobyn’s Dining Room is in the Keeter Center’s Mabee Lodge. Not only can you enjoy lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch here, but you can stay in one of 15 suites in the Lodge as well. If you don’t have time for a full meal stop in and enjoy a treat from the bakery or ice cream parlor just outside Dobyn’s.

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We were fortunate enough to have made reservations in advance for the Sunday brunch! As soon as you walk into the dining room you are greeted with this scrumptious assortment of desserts. Behind this table was the student musician playing piano throughout the meal and then just beyond him is a homemade root beer float stand. The room is full of various food options!

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This is by far the best brunch we’ve had and for only $25 is a deal. Plus, you get to chat with your student server about the College and learn about his or her experience there. Our server, Graham, told us about how he is working the summer program to pay for his room and board for the school year. On top of his full accounting course load in the fall, he will have to work 15 hours a week on campus to pay for his tuition.

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After brunch, we decided to walk off the calories with a stroll around the patriotic campus. Be sure to walk all the way behind the Williams Memorial Chapel to the Point Lookout for a fabulous view of the Ozarks!

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I just love the college’s slogan of Hard Work U. All of the signage throughout campus is inspiring!

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Since we were here on a summer Sunday, the campus was very quiet as everything is closed and very few students are around. There is a College Dairy, Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen, Edwards Mill and various other attractions to tour if you come on a weekday. The students also run a farmers market every Friday!

Have you ever been to this special place? We can’t wait to bring the kids here after we pick them up from camp!

5-Reasons-We-Send-Kids-to-Sleepaway-Summer-Camp

What are you planning for your children this summer to meet your parenting goals?

If you want your kids to grow into capable, responsible, independent, caring, resilient and confident adults, then sleepaway summer camp is something you may want to consider. Camp North Star in Maine could be a strong consideration if your child loves outdoors activities, watersports and making new friends.

The word CAMP has been a part of our family plan the past several years. Our epic RV camping trip was a part of our family game plan in 2014.

Now what?

Next on the family agenda is to send the kids off to a month-long sleep-away summer camp.

“You spent so much time together that you’re sick of them and want to ship them off and take a break? Um, not exactly. Who doesn’t want a couple nights away from taking care of the kids to rest and regroup? Everybody needs that. Sending our kids away to camp has actually been a part of our family plan for years and is not something that we just decided spur of the moment to do because we are tired of them.

Plus, anyone who sends their kids to camp knows it’s quite expensive and a lot of work. Have you ever labeled 64 pairs of underwear with a sharpie? Yep- it would be a lot easier to send them to the Grandparents, who requested to have them this summer than send them to this camp.

But, we’re not looking for easy. We’re not looking for convenience. We’re looking for impact.

I never knew kids that went away to camp growing up. I went overnight once to Little Hoosier Camp and my husband didn’t last long at his hockey camp a few miles from his home in Providence as a child. As parents with minimal experience in this realm, we would’ve never even thought about sending the kids off to a sleep-away camp for a month, if it weren’t for observing some dear friends who believe in summer camp as part of their family plan.

Trust me, sending my kids off to summer camp feels way tougher to me than spending six months living in an RV with my family.

As parents, we don’t even really allow our kids to go to sleepovers and keep them close to home most days. We’re not completely comfortable with the idea of being apart for four weeks but feel it’s important, for all of us, so we’re making it happen and here’s why..…

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5 REASONS WHY WE ARE SENDING OUR KIDS OFF TO SUMMER CAMP

1. Test their intrinsic motivation

Camp provides time for the kids to figure out how they want to spend their time, without Mom or Dad hovering over them. We spend so much of our family time shuttling our kids to their programmed sports and activities that there literally is no time for them to think of what they really want to be doing.

Their youth sports seasons are so long now that unfortunately most days it’s like going to a job for them. The camp will let them be free to choose whatever feels fun to them at the moment. You gotta love the freedom of that.

2. Gain Self-Confidence

Our kids are nervous about this new experience and I have to say the same goes for us. My husband and I want our foursome out of their comfort zone though. We want them to learn resilience and independence away from us in a safe setting. What better time to do that than now?

We are separating the triplets in separate cabins which they aren’t happy about. At home, they share a bedroom and enjoy being together. At least they will meet up at activities, where daughter dear is truly on her own at a different camp 45 minutes around the lake from her brothers.

3. A Month with No Technology

This alone is a major reason to send the kids off to camp. Even though ours are still living without cell phones, they do have IPADS and boy do they love starting every summer day with them. Games and Instagram fill every quiet minute they have.

How wonderful it will be to have a group of kids together playing outdoors without any gadgets in hand. Perhaps they will learn skills to conversate in person. We have to mindfully provide our children with opportunities to live without technology in order to gain these important lifelong skills.

4. Spend Time in the Great Outdoors

Let’s be honest Arizona is nowhere you want to spend your summer. Our July through September is equivalent to winter in Chicago. You just bear it, but you definitely don’t want to spend much time outside. The only outdoor playtime for kids here is in the swimming pool. Camp will give them the ability to enjoy activities on the lake as well as sports and other outdoor fun that they wouldn’t get to do here.

5. Exposure to New Friends and Mentorship

Living without any family nearby, we have to seek out positive mentorship for our kids. Meeting people from a totally different region than where they are growing up is a benefit. They will also get to live under the mentorship of Christian college students who have chosen to spend their summer with them.

Is sending your kids off to summer camp a part of your family plan?

Blue-Dot-Donuts-New-Orleans

Some people take a road trip around the country visiting all the baseball parks or seeking out infamous burger stands everywhere they go. Our family sought out the top doughnut spots across the country during our motorhome travels. It’s a good thing that my scale was broken when we returned home because it’s best I didn’t know how many pounds this little adventure brought on.

In honor of National Doughnut Day, here are our top doughnut spots around the USA! 

1. Fractured Prune Doughnuts-  Phoenix, Arizona

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Gotta start with our hometown hero, Fractured Prune. This Maryland based franchise offers a fun variety of toppings for your cake doughnuts. You mark your selections beforehand, hand them in and wait on your freshly baked goods. These hot, fresh, made to order treats taste a lot like your typical mini donuts with whatever gourmet toppings you have chosen such as French Toast or Key Lime Pie.

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2. Glazed Gourmet – Charleston, South Carolina

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In this post about my trip to Charleston, I mentioned how luscious the doughnuts are here at Glazed Gourmet. Hands down Glazed Gourmet is my winner of the tastiest donuts from our US travels. I’m still thinking about this place on upper King Street!

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3. Top Pot Doughnuts – Seattle, Washington

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There are several locations of Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle! The glazed old fashioned may look familiar as this company originally made the donuts for Starbucks.

4. Astro Doughnuts- Washington, D.C.

No pictures of this one even though we made our way here twice! I wasn’t a huge fan, but my family loved the donuts served with fried chicken. I would say that it’s an interesting concept and for sure to check it out. You’ll have walked enough in this city to earn yourself a sweet treat and it can quality for lunch when you add the infamous protein too!

5. Blue Dot Donuts- New Orleans, Louisiana

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Yes, New Orleans is known for its own special doughnut, the beignet. Of course, our family had our share of those in the French Quarter before heading off to seek out Blue Dot Donuts! It’s a small place offering not very unique flavors, but definitely delicious nonetheless.

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Take-Six-Months-Off

It’s hard to believe that today-June 2- marks the one year anniversary of when we headed off in our newly purchased motorhome on our family sabbatical around the USA. It’s been one year since we left and six months since we returned. Time sure does fly!

This past year has no doubt been one of the best of our lives. Traveling for 6 months and then reflecting on that experience for the next 6 has made for an amazing year. Our sabbatical introduced us to so many like-minded people- in person and virtually- that we would’ve never met in our routine daily life at home.

Tomer Lanis and his family are an inspiration as they also pulled out of life and spent 6 months sailing the Caribbean. Lanis sent me his book You Can Take Six Months Off I thoroughly enjoyed reading and relating to so much of their adventure. Although our means of travel were drastically different, our passion, dedication and determination were the same.

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The Lanis Family enjoying Maho Beach, St. John, USVI along their 6 month sabbatical sailing around the Caribbean.

If you would love to take six months off and travel with your family or if you have done it before, you will enjoy this read. It is interesting and inspiring at the same time. One chapter is dedicated to a Mind Map that breaks down the multitude of interconnected tasks that may intimidate anyone thinking of taking their own time out. I really liked the way Lanis spelled out 16 tasks that their family worked through to prepare for their sabbatical.

Excerpts from the book that inspired me and that I totally related to in why we took six months off as well:

“The purpose of the trip is neither the destination nor the activity. It is my family- dedicating time for each other, intensifying our bonds, and expanding our horizons. Staying at home is incomparable because the experience is too familiar and static. Endless distractions steal your attention from your family.”

Love your life? So do we. It’s ok to just take a break from it! It can all still be there when you return.

“I have read about and met others who had taken longer breaks. They sold their house and quit their jobs. For me, that would be too much to lose. I love my life at home and truly enjoy my work I appreciate my social network and am lucky to own a home in a beautiful location. I don’t want to give all that up. I would like to pursue my dreams without sacrificing my current life. Six months, for that purpose, is the ideal duration for me to be away.”

“I am neither the first nor the only one to realize that taking my spouse and kids for a time out of the rat race is the best use of my resources- my money, my energy and my time. Allowing my job, the kids’ school, our mortgage or my comfort zone to take control of my life would certainly lead to regret.”

No Date- No Commitment

“Setting the date means making a commitment. In principle, no date is convenient for interrupting our routine life, leaving our home and putting our jobs on hold. While you’re immersed in daily tasks and the career race, any date seems to be the worst possible timing. There is no wrong timing for dedicating time to each other. Any date will do.”

Put your job on hold

“Taking time off- or not- is my decision. Letting me return to my job when I’m back- or not- is my manager’s decision. My employer is not the master of my life, I am. They are not responsible for my dreams, I am. If I’m not wanted back at work after my absence, then I am probably in the wrong place anyway.”

Connect with Tomer Lanis on his website. His book You Can Take Six Months Off would make a great Fathers Day gift. Purchase it here on Amazon.