Are you all ready? It’s the big question that everybody has for me these days and I honestly don’t know how to answer that. Can you truly ever feel “ready” to embark on a trip around the United States in a motorhome with four kids for seven months? I’m coming to the realization that the answer is no.

We pull out of our Arizona driveway in one week. We’ll head the six hours up to Lake Powell for our first stop. Our RV spots are all booked for two months and we have some basic ideas of what we might do in each area, so that’s “ready” I guess.

Our motorhome has been making its rounds to various mechanics and handymen ever since Keith drove it back from Florida. She needed a new windshield, the suspension fixed, a propane tank installed in the “basement,” towing contraptions put on, Direct TV satellite installed and today it is still with the handyman doing small touch ups on the inside.

So not one thing has actually made it’s way inside the motorhome yet. She hasn’t actually stayed put long enough for me to get in there and do anything. Piles are stacked up all over the house and garage awaiting delivery into their new home on wheels. There’s the plasticware pile in the kitchen. The kids clothes in the guest room. The road school pile of books, history movies, audio books and even Rosetta Stone’s spanish DVDs in the laundry room. I’m starting to feel prepared, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually be ready.

I keep telling myself, whatever gets packed will be sufficient and what we find we’re missing we can just pick up along the way. Normally, I pride myself on my packing skills and my ability to usually remember everything we might possibly need. But, this trip is quite different. I don’t really know exactly what we’re going to need and my Type A self doesn’t like that feeling. We’ve never camped per say and I really have to be mindful of what I’m bringing as to not weigh down the coach.

I’m a little overwhelmed with the feeding people portion of this adventure too. I assume I will fall into some great routine between my crockpot and the grill. In the meantime, I’ve loaded up on Herbalife shakes and bars for now to get us through until I can navigate my way around that little strip of a kitchen.

The road schooling part can take me to a place of anxiety quickly too. I want to have some solid plan for the kids, but yet I want to free us all from the burden of too much schooling. I will do some math program online, but honestly school just let out and I’m not there yet. Although, when these kids want to sit and watch tv and play on electronics during every drive, it’s going to make us nuts, so I know I need an educational plan. I’ll work on it.

I’m a little baffled by what to bring clothing-wise as well. We really have to be minimal in this area which is exciting, yet tough at the same time. We do have a little washer and dryer in our motorhome, so I should be able to wash whenever we are parked.

I’m letting go. What will be will be. What I forget to pack, Walmart will most likely carry. So, I guess the answer is yes, I’m almost ready!

I am so excited to be partnering with Kampgrounds of America (KOA) for our RV adventure around the USA. We will be staying at several of their campgrounds along our journey starting with Salt Lake City June 9-12. KOA provides a more upscale experience than what you would normally think of in a camping environment. You’re not exactly roughing it at their locations, which is ideal for our family.

KOA is the world’s largest system of open-to-the-public family campgrounds with close to 500 locations throughout the US and Canada. Even if you aren’t a seasoned camper, I’m sure you are familiar with their popular logoed yellow signage. KOA is known for its family-friendly atmosphere while adhering to excellent standards at all of their sites.

koa-app-device-grouping

The ease of booking with KOA has truly been fantastic. Their beautiful, easy to navigate website has been a dream to find locations and special offers as well as fun tips. They also offer a Value Kard Reward program that you can join for just $27. As a VKR member, you get a 10% discount on all daily registration fees and earn points with each stay, which can later be redeemed for rewards and additional savings. Members also receive valuable exclusive offers, so I highly recommend joining this program!

I also have KOA’s free App on all of my devices, which will be very beneficial while continuing to book future locations from the road. The new App features a campground finder; an integrated online navigation system and driving directions as well as up to date special offers and an alert system to inform campers about road closures, storms or other emergencies.

KOA is an obvious choice for our family as their individually owned campgrounds feature a variety of amenities. Most locations offer free Wi-Fi, a KOA store and various activities to keep us all happy and entertained. I equate it with camping’s version of a cruise ship! Scavenger hunts, crafts and inflatables keep kids busy, while there are wine tastings or other events scheduled for some adult fun.

Whats-Behind-The-KOA-Sign

Not only are KOA’s perfect for RVers, but over half of their locations also have deluxe cabins which sleep four to eight people and feature bathrooms, comfortable beds and sometimes kitchens. This is a perfect choice for those families who don’t own an RV but still want a comfortable camping experience. Nearly all KOA’s offer a wide selection of spacious tent sites with picnic tables, water hookups and fire pits, as well as clean restrooms and showers nearby.

If camping is on your summer radar, be sure to check out KOA and all that they have to offer. Get to booking though, because their locations fill up fast!

 

 

 

I love this time of year. Our Arizona weather is just perfect; the kids competitive sports are over (or should be, ahem… soccer…. that’s for another post) and my husband’s hockey job is coming to an end after yet another season. Our evenings and weekends tend to be more relaxed making time for bike rides around the neighborhood, board games and the occasional little league baseball game and practice. We all welcome this simpler pace.

Simplifying is one of the main reasons we are pushing pause on our normal existence. People either think we’re out of our minds for wanting to do this cross country RV trip as a family or others say they are envious and would love to do it. Many tell me stories of how they traveled around the US every summer hitting different spots with their families growing up. Family travel builds connections. It says to each member you are important and worth investing in.

I’m aware that what we’re about to do is not feasible for most people financially or time wise. I am fully aware of the blessings we have been bestowed in order to pull this off. I don’t take any of that for granted. I thank the Lord every single day.

But, if we’re being honest… how many people would really do this trip if they could? One friend called it very courageous and that’s stuck with me. I think she’s right. What we’re about to do definitely takes courage on many levels.

Right now, I relish my Mondays because after hectic weekends alone with the kids, my house and time is quiet once everyone is off to school. I can actually think straight. I know a lot of us, whether we stay home with the kids or not, relish that time when the kids go off to school and we’re alone with ourselves. There’s not going to be a lot of quiet time in 43 feet of living space with 6 people up in it for close to a year. Whoa. There will be a lot of prayers going up for patience I’m sure.

Let’s look at it this way. What if you found out you only had a week left to live, or a month or even a year? Would you be so worried about sending the kids off to school every day? Would you still race around to all the sports practices, games and lessons? Or would you drop it all and do what you’ve always wanted to do with them, whatever that may be for you?

See this is how I look at this trip. Do I really want to be home (road) schooling per say? Not exactly. Like I said, selfishly I enjoy those quiet hours of each day that are mine and that the kids are actually being taught by licensed individuals. But, I will have many quiet hours ahead of me. With four kids born within 18 months, our home is going to get quiet fast.

Parenting in the day to day can feel monotonous. Take time to think about the heart of your family and what you want your kids to take away when they grow up and move to the next phase of life. Think about simplifying your family routine. I say stop the madness even just for a little while. Push pause. I don’t think you will regret it.

 

Recycling picIt’s tradition. Recycling bottles and cans in California for cash. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve done ever since the kids have been old enough to understand about making money and helping the environment at the same time. Kids of this generation need ways to make a little hard earned cash themselves. It’s important to find opportunities like this for them to earn their own vacation money. It’s not easy at their ages to find ways to do this.

It pays to recycle

Whenever we know we have an upcoming trip over to our Dana Point house, we start saving our bottles in Arizona. We load up the car top carrier and whatever we can fit around our luggage in the back of the Suburban and off we go to Cali. Life lessons take a little crazy effort people…

 

car top carrierunloading bottles

Yes, the kids get a little dirty doing this and the older they get, the less they are into it. They used to go down Laguna Beach picking up bottles all day long because every nickel counted to them. Now they take what we’ve saved in Arizona and are happy with that! This RePlanet is really close to us behind our Ralphs Grocery Store, so it’s nice and convenient.

There are a couple ways to get your money. You can feed each container through one by one and make the amounts shown or you can fill the trash cans with bottles and you get paid by weight. It usually depends on how much we have and how busy it is. Today we did a little of both. You definitely make more by feeding them through, but it also takes a lot more time.

k and a feeding bottle CRV amounts

barrels of bottlesweigh in

Once you’re done, you will get receipts like this that you can turn into the grocery for your hard earned cash. Split between the four kids, it came to about $8 a kid. Not bad for a little time and effort. I know they will be happy spending that in the Laguna Beach candy shop later and we will be happy that we don’t have to hand over any money at the same time!

receiptscash money

We are fast approaching the teen years and our triplets are without cell phones. I know, can you even believe it? What kind of parents are we?

Let’s pause and take a close look at our kids.

Our oldest is all about the social and would not be able to focus on anything else but that device, so he’s out. Not mature enough. 

The middle man probably would rarely look at the thing, but he would most likely lose it in the first week anyway. Not focused enough.

Our third born is completely responsible enough for a phone, but is the one to say, why do I need one anyway? Not interested enough. 

And baby girl just turned 11 and in our book is way too young for such a device. Not old enough.

According to these four, they are the only ones left on the face of the earth without a cell phone. Perfect. They don’t realize this, but this is exactly the point! Don’t you want your family to be different?

Here are 10 Reasons We are Not Getting Our Tweens a Smartphone

1. Smartphones are a privilege

When did our parents allow us the same privileges and material items that they had when we were growing up? Yeah, right.

I find it so interesting that this isn’t the case anymore. What do 12-year-olds need with a cell phone and why are we, as parents, so concerned with being able to be in constant communication with our kids? I think it’s very unhealthy. The boys are away at church camp this weekend and it is very strange to not be able to get ahold of each other. But, it’s okay and I think healthy for all of us to learn to do so.

2. Smartphones hinder delayed gratification

I want my kids to be able to learn to wait for something. Delayed gratification is a good thing. Just because you are turning 13 and because it’s what everyone has and is doing, isn’t a good enough reason. Every child that jumps in the car with us to go anywhere, whips out their phone and mine lean over to assist in playing their game of choice or checking out social media post updates.

It makes me sad that kids don’t even know how to just “be” in the car anymore. I know we are happy when they have these gadgets in hand because it honestly means more quiet time for us, but I also know it can be detrimental. Can you imagine a road trip without a gadget in our child’s hand? We don’t even want to think of it.

3. Smartphones can be a crutch

The other night, baby girl’s bestie was spending the night because it was simply more convenient for all involved. But, she was calling her Mom (who was out to a nice adult dinner) at 10:00 pm saying that she couldn’t sleep and she wanted to go home. Boy, do I get that. I remember feeling like that a time or two growing up on sleepovers. The difference is I had no cell phone to call my Mom, so I suffered through.

And you know what? I made it through and learned from it I’m sure. I learned that it wasn’t so bad after all or I learned that I didn’t want to do that again. Lesson learned either way. I love this girl and love her parents even more, so this isn’t a judgment, just an observation of what we are creating and I notice it on a regular basis.

4. Smartphones distract students at school

I was in one of my son’s 6th-grade classes and the teacher was having to tell students that they could use their phones to research the project but she would be walking around to make sure no one was texting or using the phone in any other way.

Do teachers today really need one more thing to worry about?

I had to sign a waiver for a different teacher saying if the students could use their phones in class. I signed it and checked the no box. They don’t even have a phone, so of course, the answer would be no, right? A few weeks ago, the teacher called to tell me that I was the only one who said no and that I may want to rethink my answer. So she sent back the form again so I could say, Yes, my sons can use someone else’s phone in class. This is crazy to me.

5. Smartphones hinder social relationships

Where we live, ‘dating’ is rampant in middle school. It is very easy to fall into a ‘relationship’ behind texts and social posts. I definitely remember having an eye for boys at this age, so I get it. But, I certainly wasn’t telling ANYONE about it besides my very best friend, who was telling me her deepest secrets at the same time.

We are losing all innocence giving kids too much too soon. My kids need to mature a bit and figure out who they are and become somewhat secure in that before they can handle navigating a relationship over texts and Snapchat.

6. Smartphones should be for working people

Why are we willing to fork out $40 a month or so for kids to have a phone and data plan? We’re not kidding when we ask our kids how they plan to pay for this privilege. We as parents need to make sure we are creating a desire to work toward something in our kids so that they are able to buy the things they want one day.

7. Smartphones prohibit independence

Our kids don’t need phones because everyone around them has one that they can use. This happens a lot. Although, when they try and call from a friend’s phone from the bus or school to try and plan a hangout, I have to remind them that this is why they don’t have their own phone. I don’t want to hear from them. Love them dearly, but we can talk in person when they get home. Musical son has to go into the school office once in a great while to let us know that his lesson got done early or was cancelled so we can come to get him.

Can you imagine a child having to go use the school’s landline? Wow. It is possible….Otherwise, our son has to sit outside and just wait……. old school style.

8. Just because we can afford a smartphone, doesn’t mean we need to buy it

Yes, we can absolutely afford phones and family data plans. But, I think this is another powerful message to our kids. Just because we can afford something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to spend our money on. Our kids have become very aware of people (from friends to the working poor that receives free meals at St. Vincent de Paul where we serve) that don’t have “money” yet have iPhones. They would never be able to observe and question this with their own phone in hand.

9. Smartphone ownership can cause entitlement

Kids should not feel entitled to own any material item. I guess when they are 15 we will be talking about how we’re not buying them cars either…. Before you feel too bad for my tweens, you need to know that they are still very much a part of their iGeneration as they each own an IPAD and have Instagram accounts. One friend advised we do this so the kids could dabble in reality so that they aren’t obsessed with social media and technology when they get to high school. I agree that it is good for our children to begin learning to tread these technological waters, but in moderation.

10. Why do they need a smartphone again?

I know people have absolute reasons for their kids to own phones- having an only child, older siblings who have them or kids who are going back and forth between homes due to divorce. To each, his own and only you know your family dynamic. Our family just doesn’t have good enough reason right now. Turning 13 isn’t a good enough reason for us.

What age do you think is appropriate for buying a child a smartphone?

You’re doing what??

Do you ever shake your head in bewilderment as you look at your family’s weekend calendar? How in the world am I going to get all of these kids to their sports and activities across the valley with Hubby on the road? I sometimes wonder when life made a turn and I became a weeknight and weekend Super Shuttle driver. Maybe this is why we all long for those lazy days of summer where the hours and days are our own.

Keith and I talked years ago about how cool it would be to buy an RV and travel around the United States exploring as a family. Yes, we decided back when, let’s do it. We’ll do it when the boys are headed to 7th grade and baby girl to 6th. Perfect. It’s down the road aways, so nothing to worry about, but it’s a fun dream to have.

Well, the time is here. The boys are finishing up their first year of middle school as our girl is getting close to bidding farewell to elementary school. Do we dare talk of those long ago plans we conjured up? We didn’t really mean it or did we? We’ve never even gone camping as a family. We love traveling and adventure but are we courageous enough to make this dream a reality?

I guess we are. We are going for it. Our family will be giving up life as we know it and traveling across America’s highways in a quest for family bonding and fun along the way. We’re just taking a break from it all. The sports. The homework. The busyness. It will be here I’m sure when we return.

Life is passing us by every day my friends. I know I don’t want any regrets when my kids leave home in what will be here before you know it. I’m not into the I should’ve, could’ve, would’ve but instead I didn’t. I want to live in the now and enjoy these kids while they are still enjoyable!

Plans are in full swing. Our general plan is to leave as soon as the kids get out of school and hit the road. You will be able to follow all of our crazy plans and adventures right here!

Yes, I will be homeschooling (or unschooling is more like it) the kids in some fashion and I have no idea how I’m going to get my hair highlighted along the way. To be honest, the latter makes me a little more nervous!

Tune in to get the good along with the bad, and hopefully be inspired along the way!

 Amy