Welcome to our Adventure...

We packed up the kids, dog and the trailer and headed out for adventure, learning and helping others. During our adventure we will try to update this site as often as possible to keep everyone interested involved in our travels and to keep a journal for ourselves. The plan is to be working, schooling, helping and sharing on the road for a year.
Please feel free to post comments and questions! Thanks for following!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Eat Crawfish

Today was a gorgeous, sparkling day. The sun was glorious. The lake in the middle of the RV park was soo smooth. Heidi and I went for a little walk which felt really good.

When I got back I made sausage gravy and biscuits (canned). Brock and Heidi went for a little run while breakfast was cooking. Heidi was a happy girl.

Once we had eaten, it was haircut time for Brighton, Spencer and Skylar. There was a small amount of weeping and gnashing, but soon it was all over and they were looking better. ;o)

Not pictured: The Brownlow-Dindy's eldest child, a teenage girl
who had a sports practice, and Spencer, who was off playing
basketball, which I didn't catch until I'd already taken the pic.
Around noon, our new friends, the Brownlow-Dindy family, came and picked us up, so we could follow them to their house for lunch where we would try our first crawfish. The meat was already all peeled and cooked in a yummy soup which was served over rice. I think maybe this was crawfish etouffee, but I'm not positive. The spice was just right, but I'm pretty sure they held back from what they normally would've done. We also had a really yummy corn casserole that was kind of sweet. The flavors were really good together. Both Brynna and Skylar weren't feeling too daring and so had peanut butter and honey sandwiches that I brought, but I think Brynna probably should've tried the dish because the meat tasted kind of like a cross between crab and shrimp and I actually think she would've liked it. She's just still so turned off from our Maine lobster that I'm not sure she'll recover any time soon. Skylar, well, I'm not sure he'll ever be a seafood eater of any kind. He was just very glad that we didn't have to take any heads off. He really didn't want to be seeing that and he mentioned it a few times every day since we first talked about trying crawfish.

We visited for a few hours just getting to know each other, talking a lot about homeschooling and about traveling. The kids had a great time together running around outside quite a bit. In the end, emails were exchanged and we all hoped to see each other again. We were really grateful to them for taking the time to prepare a meal for us and opening up their home.

Late this afternoon, we finished up a tiny bit of school work and then the kids went to the playground while I made dinner.  Brock delved into HIS work and is still at it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Unexpected Friendliness

Not much to report today. Kids worked on school this morning and Brock worked. We had lunch together and then Bri, Bryn, Spence and I headed to "town" to the Kinder Branch of the Allen Parish Public Library. (Skylar wanted to stay home and play with Legos while Brock worked.) It was a small library and the wifi didn't seem to be operational much to Brighton's consternation. It was a nice space to finish up our school work and hang out for a little bit. When we finished up we decided to walk the town for a few minutes. Turned out that there was really nothing to see. We passed by an auto shop and a hardware store and a baby store. We then saw the sheriff's station which had a little sign about when the town of Kinder was first settled. (Shamefully, I can't remember, guessing late 1800s???) The current population is about 2500, I think.

We decided to hit McDonalds for kiddie cones and then head back to the trailer.

Since the sun was still out, Spencer, Skylar, Heidi and I headed over to the playground for a little active play. The sun was actually very low in the sky and I was pretty cold and ready to go back fairly quick, but I stuck it out for a little longer.

The coolest thing that happened today was a knock on our trailer door right after we got home from the playground just before 6 pm. When I opened it, I saw a lady standing there holding a plate. She introduced herself and she was the mother of one of the kids that our kids had so enjoyed playing with on Sunday afternoon. She and her husband and the 9-yr-old boy came to say hello and to bring us some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and other gifts. It was so nice! Through our conversation it came about that we were invited over to their house tomorrow for some real cajun food for lunch. We are all looking forward to getting to know them a little more.

Brighton downloaded some "game maker software" that he has been obsessively glued to working on building his own game. It is really his first shot at doing any "scripting" as he calls it. I think he really is learning. Not sure it's as productive as he claims it is, but I'm willing to allow it for now. ;o)

Brock was in phone meetings most of evening and for the last one he used his personal office, aka the Yukon, to ensure that he would have quiet. It works, I guess.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Crazy Weather Day

Today was pretty much a regular day except for pretty strong thunderstorms off and on all day. It was very warm and muggy and we kept watching out the windows to make sure that we didn't see any tornado like clouds. The weird thing was that it was pretty still...not much wind at all. There were several periods of heavy rain. The ground here has a very musty smell when it gets wet. While I enjoy watching weather sometimes, it felt rather gloomy and dark today.

After finishing up school, we got our meal plans figured out and the older kids and I headed a few miles down the highway to the Market Basket grocery store. Small town grocery store with the type of small carts that make it hard to fit our 4 days worth of groceries into. I tried to not worry about price too much since there weren't really any other options. It always feels good to have the plans done and the food bought.

Spencer and Skylar did a great job of quiet movie viewing while Brock had a phone meeting while we were gone. Always nice to get a good report.

Tonight the wind is whipping out there, but it is awesome to see the big, bright, clear full moon. Guess the clouds have cleared out. Tomorrow calls for mostly sunny skies. Yay!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunny Sunday

This morning we were finally able to attend a local church. It felt so good to be a part of the body and participate in a worship service. It was not exactly what we are used to, but it was enthusiastic and genuine. The people were friendly and welcoming and most of them told us we HAVE to try crawfish. I think most of us are ready to give it a shot so that may be on our agenda for this week.

When we exited the church service, the sun was blaring and it was feeling very summery. We came back to our campsite and opened up the windows and ate lunch. Then Brock took the kids and dog to the playground to enjoy some fresh air and I did the dishes and drove around to the lodge to get the laundry started and then I joined them outside. We could see the clouds moving in and knew that a change in the weather was coming.

The kids had a great time playing with another group of kids that were visiting the park today. They played hide and seek tag and a little H-O-R-S-E on the basketball court. Mostly they just ran their little legs off.

Once they were played out, all the boys came back to the trailer and Bryn and I went to babysit the laundry and sit in the lodge while we waited for it to finish up. We had to run the dryers for a second cycle so it seemed to take an awful long time, but we enjoyed a little girl time and looked at Facebook pics on my phone together. :O)

Tonight, Brock played a little Road Trip game with the boys and Brynna read on a book she's been trying to finish up. The rain moved in, but we didn't get any of the severe weather forecasted. We finished up the evening watching some Oscars together. I think most of us feel sad that the weekends go so fast!

The 2-acre lake is part of the rv resort. This shot is looking towards our trailer.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Casino Camping

Leisurely Saturday morning spent at our middle-of-nowhere campspot...Brock and Heidi went for a quick run. Pancakes and bacon have been our regular Saturday morning fare and while that was still on the menu today, for some reason, it was really disappointing in execution. I couldn't get the grill to get hot. It was a little windy, but no more than other times. It was a new propane canister. I don't know if maybe they can have slow flow??? Oh well. It was edible, but not up to par.

Brock had a little work this morning and we all had cleanup chores to do before we got hooked up to leave. I think we had our latest checkout ever...after 1:30 pm. I don't think that affected anyone or anything though in our little four-spot park.

We made a last minute decision to head to this casino campground in Kinder, Louisiana that has a ton of amenities for a very cheap price and gets us slightly closer to Texas. We pulled in between 3 and 4 pm and got an even better deal than we were expecting on our camping fees. :O) We got into our spot and immediately commenced something that Brock had wanted to do for quite some time, washing the trailer and the Yukon. Then Brock had a call he had to make so Spence, Sky and I headed to the park's playground to check it out. We're actually going to stay here for a full week so that Brock can have some solid work time and while he does that, we can have some outside things to do. Besides the playground, there are tennis courts, basketball hoops, fields of grass, and nicely paved roads for scootering. There is cable TV and the all-important good WIFI. There is a library in this small town we think, so we'll probably check that out at least once too.

It felt good to sit together and veg after dinner and watch a family movie on TV. Nice and relaxing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

McIlhenny Factory Tour

We keep hearing rumbling thunder, but it just seems to stay in the distance. Tonight, we see some lightning, but it is sheet lightning and also seems pretty far away. I know that's good, but I do enjoy watching a good storm every now and then so I feel slightly disappointed.

Today I made my oatmeal bars for breakfast and even though I followed my recipe which I've made dozens of times, I forgot a key ingredient...sugar! Whoops! They were still edible and we sprinkled sugar on top so they were still sweet. They just weren't what we expected and I felt a little bummed.

We got as much of our school work done as we could and Brock took a few hours off work so we could hop in the Yukon and drive about 30 minutes away to the McIlhenny Tabasco Factory on Avery Island. They call it an island, but it really doesn't feel like one. The only water surrounding it that we saw was little ditch-type canals. But the experience was a great deal! The only cost was a $1 toll at the entrance which they advertise goes towards their conservation efforts because they do have a wildlife sanctuary on the island.

We arrived at the factory and the next tour was happening in just a few minutes. We learned about how the McIlhenny Family has lived there and operated the company for 5 generations. In the early 1860's, Edmund McIlhenny came up with the recipe after planting and growing pepper seeds from Mexico or Central America that he had received as a gift. He ended up giving the sauce he'd created to family and friends as gifts. Around 1870, he got the patent and started selling. Today, they churn out 700,000 bottles a day at the factory and they are shipped all over the world, labeled in 22 different languages. This factory is the only Tabasco factory in the world. They have about 30 acres on site, here in Louisiana, where they grow the now specially bred "Tabasco" peppers, but many more are grown in South America. It was interesting to learn how the peppers are salted and ground into a mash the same day they are picked and then sealed into white oak barrels and aged for up to 3 years. Each person on the tour received four tiny sample bottles of different flavors of Tabasco sauce.

Before we left, we checked out the Company Store and Gift Shop where there was ALL kinds of Tabasco promoting products (hats, tees, sweatshirts, aprons, ties, mugs, etc.), but we enjoyed sampling Tabasco Soft Serve Ice Cream, Raspberry Chipotle and Jalapeno flavors. I don't think anyone was a fan of the Jalapeno, but I actually liked the Raspberry Chipotle. We also sampled Tabasco Soda Pop, but it just tasted like flat coke with an afterburn. That might've just been because it had been sitting out though.

All in all, it was a fun and educational experience.

Tonight, we are still trying to figure out where we are going tomorrow...guess we are still learning to go with the flow. :O)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Luxuriously Use Hot Water for Dishes

Today's forecast called for severe thunderstorms and possibly a tornado in our area. We kept a close eye on things going on around us, but really all that materialized were some strong winds and a couple of short rain showers. Maybe there was a bit of thunder, but it wasn't anything impressive...thankfully. We just enjoyed our full hook ups and stayed around the trailer today doing work and school. I don't even mind washing dishes when we don't have to
so carefully conserve water for fear of filling up the tanks. ;o)

There was one weird moment when a gazillion black birds flew in and were all chattering up a storm and flitting around in the grassy area. Brynna joked that they were fleeing from the impending tornado. In reality, they must've just found something good to snack on because in a little while they were all gone and it was eerily quiet outside.

Found this picture in a google search, posted on smugmug by someone named Jeneanne
One interesting fact that I learned today...we keep seeing these mounds of dirt all over that look like miniature volcanoes made out of mud balls. They have about a one-two inch hole at the top. I was wondering what kind of animal made them and I think I have deduced from my internet research that they are from burrowing crayfish!! Isn't that weird? They are in lots of yards here like moles or ant hills. I read that the height of the mound demonstrates how far the crayfish had to dig to reach the water table. They only come out of their holes at night supposedly so that is a little creepy too. Now I'll imagine the yard crawling with crawdads in the dark.

Arriving at our Campsite (February 20th, cont'd)

(Stacey writing)

After we left the plantation, we continued our route to our campsite which was almost three hours instead of the two that I had originally thought based on my google map route. That meant arriving after dark. Bummer. It seemed that google maps didn't actually know where the campground was, but Tom was accurate. The highways we drove on were concrete sections and so were really bumpy and the back roads we started onto were even worse, lots of potholes.

We kept getting closer to the four-site park and the roads kept getting narrower and the spanish moss was really thick on the trees. On the phone, the park's owner had mentioned you turn at a cemetery and keep going about a quarter mile. Didn't think anything of that at the time, but as the route was feeling more and more remote, Brock was cracking jokes about the guy probably being a psycho. We got to the cemetery, which is an above-ground kind because of the water content of the soil here. (Much creepiness at night, remote back roads, spanish moss swaying in the breeze.) We drove along and finally saw the campground sign. There were two trailer houses on either side of the property so we didn't know in which one the owner lived. I called him to let him know that we were here, much later than I'd expected. He said, "I was wonderin' about y'all." He also said he'd be here in a minute. There were two of the four sites available and we weren't sure which one to take.

We got back into the Yukon to wait for the owner to arrive and realized just how soggy the ground was that we'd pulled onto. The Yukon was actually sitting in a grassy field area and Brock was a little worried that we might be stuck. The owner, Jim, pulled up in his truck, so he didn't live in either of the two houses bordering the property. Glad I didn't knock on a door. The first thing Jim said was, "I was hoping you weren't going to do that." Meaning pull into the grass and get stuck. LOL Thankfully, four-wheel drive and Brock was able to gently back us out of the mud and all the way out to the street and then we backed into our spot. There were two other campers parked here. This place has full hookups and is part of the Passport America program and came to about $17 a night.

It's funny to see the Yukon's tires this morning in the light. They are very thick with mud as if we'd been mudbogging.

We are expecting some interesting weather Thursday (thunderstorms) so we will see about that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Visiting a Real Plantation

Twilight Zone moment this morning on the playground. Even more than when Brighton, through softball, met another boy named Brighton and who had a brother named Weston. This morning Spencer and Skylar non-chalantly told us that the boys they'd been playing with, two brothers close to their ages, were named Spencer and Skylar! So weird. The boys' motorhome pulled up and they moved out before I had a chance to confirm it with reliable sources, but I do know for sure that the littlest boy WAS named Skylar too.

The kids were sad to see the playground go, but we left Bayou Segnette right around noon. We decided to visit Oak Alley Plantation on our way to our new campground since they had ample parking for our big rv to park in while we explored. After just about an hour's drive, we pulled right in to their parking lot and I got out our bbq and grilled some hot dogs and some brats for our lunch and we ate it right there in their large grassy area. Is that too Griswold-ish? Brock and the little boys played a quick game of tag to get some of their fidgets out and we cleaned everything up, paid our admittance fee and walked on to the magnificent grounds.

We explored the restrooms first. ;o) Then, we were just in time for the next tour of the big house. Our historical interpreter, Reagan, was just about as cute as she could be. She WAS the definitive southern belle. She had grown up and always lived within a 45 minute radius of the plantation. We loved listening to her accent. She obviously had her spiel memorized, but delivered it in a very fun, interesting and authentic way. We learned a lot about the house, the families, and the time period.

The house was constructed almost entirely from slave labor and from things found right on the property over the course of about 2 years beginning in 1837. They made all the bricks etc. right there. At that time, the lines of oaks were already more than a hundred years old. It was surreal to see the trees leafing out and flowers blooming. We know it shouldn't be spring yet, but it feels like it.
In the parlor, where our tour started

A fan over the dining table which would be manned by a slave for all the time family and guests were at the table. It would be placed over a very large block of ice. Probably about as good as modern air conditioning.
The rolling pin bed. Mattresses were stuffed  with spanish moss and a slave would be responsible for rolling out the lumps each day.

Baby cradle is the only piece of the original furniture in the house.

On the veranda, taking in the gorgeous views

We also really enjoyed the Confederate Army tent display with historical interpreter who talked to us for a long time too. The events of the period seem so much more real to have someone talk to you about them right there in that setting. Hearing about some little known facts can really bring perspective. I knew that life didn't really change much for the slaves after the Civil War for many years, but I never would have guessed exactly how many. Our guide told us he'd heard of plantation script (money) being used in that area even up until the 1970s.

Some of us tried our first mint juleps today, (Brighton and Spencer had virgin versions of it, while Brock and I had full strength) while Bryn and Sky had fresh lemonade. Yummy.

I need to write about getting to our campsite, but my eyelids are just too heavy. I'll finish in the morning.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blue Skies

Wow. Did we have an unrestful night last night! There was booming thunder and flashes of lightning, followed by heavy rain for what seemed like most of the night. At one point, I could swear I heard something scurrying around in the pass through under our bed, but I didn't hear any evidence today so it must've just been rain water dripping or something. The cool thing was that when we awoke from our broken sleep this morning, the birds were chirping and the sun was shining.

Starting the day tired isn't the best feeling and made at least Brock and I maybe a little less patient than we might otherwise be. For the most part though, it was a nice day. The kids and I were able to complete our school tasks. I was able to squeeze into the busy laundry room to get a few loads done though I was pushed a little bit by the next person in line twice, even though I had my alarm set on my phone and checked very frequently on our loads. Once, someone wanted to use the washing machine so threw our clothes into the dryer and left the door open so that I'd see them and I could start it. Ok, no biggie. The next time, a lady was standing at the window when I went and checked our last load in the dryer. It still wasn't dry, so I put it on Time Dry for 20 minutes and set my phone timer for 15 minutes. When I went back to check it, the lady was standing at the dryer and fiddling around with the buttons. Since I assumed our clothes were still in the machine, I asked if I could check my clothes and she motioned that she'd put my clothes into her plastic bag that she'd carried her laundry in. She seemed not to speak much English so I just took our jeans and towels back to the trailer, still damp, and dumped them out of her bag and returned the bag to her, slightly irritated. I had to hang most of the load up in the shower for some more drying time. Oh well, free laundry is quite a gift for us. It is quite popular though and I didn't even get to do our sheets during our stay here.;o)

The kids enjoyed still many more hours on the playground running, jumping, climbing and using their imaginations.

We finally had to cut their time off and round them up to head to the store for some supplies. We've chosen our next camping area and it is outside of a small town south of Lafayette and only has 4 camping sites. It kind of looks like maybe someone just added some RV parking to their field on their property. We'll see. The owner seemed very nice on the phone and his rates are VERY reasonable. I thought it might be wise to stock up on our groceries though before we get to that area since I can't really tell what shopping will be available. Good to have that done, though our fridge and freezer are now bursting at the seams. I tried to shop for 4-5 days worth of meals when really, we only have room for 3-4. Oh well, like I said, it feels good to have it done and we were able to get everything in where it needed to be.

We don't have to leave early tomorrow from our campsite so we should be able to get a fair amount of school and work in before we head out. We will be stopping at a fancy antebellum plantation for a tour on the way, as long as it isn't pouring rain, and we have a few hours to drive so it will be a full day. We are also looking forward to touring the Tabasco factory in the next couple of days.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Again

Not much to report today. We are still at Bayou Segnette. We didn't really go anywhere outside of our trailer. We worked most of the day on our schoolwork and work. The older kids and I had some extra chapters to read in our read-aloud book, Call of the Wild, which fits into our time period that we are studying in history.

Spencer and Skylar spent hours playing on the playground mostly cheerfully. When that changed, they had to come inside for a cooling period. The weather really changed quickly today. Between 7 and 8 am, it was beautiful and sunny, when Heidi and I went for a walk. By 10 am, nearly all the blue was gone and gray clouds had taken its place. The winds picked up and there was off and on sprinkles, but no serious rain all day.

Seems like we've spent hours trying to figure out our next step on our route. Still not finalized, but getting there...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Big Easy

We awoke to sunshine again which has been a really great thing. The temperature dropped into the 30s last night but the new electric heater did a pretty good job of keeping us warm. We got up just after 7AM since today we wanted to get to explore the city. The McFarlane boys and myself ended up splitting two shower stalls to help save room for others in the campground as we pretty much take over the full shower facilities when we arrive. We were able to get ready and get out the the campground almost on time. We drove to the  ferry landing and ended up needing to pay $10 to park but the ferry was free so it was a good trade off. We ended up being about 5 minutes too late to catch the ferry which of course was a big deal for me but really should not be. I am trying to change from being so strict to the schedule but do have relapses!

The ferry terminal is directly across the Mississippi river from the downtown area of New Orleans. We caught the next ferry which was just half an hour later and took the short ride across the river. On the ferry we met a nice local man who came across the river earlier this morning for a good meal at a family owned restaurant. I had talked to my brother Brett last night who said we will probably run into people we cannot understand what they are saying and today came pretty close to that. Funny how the accent and unfamiliar terms can really throw you off but we managed through. 

That is our ferry heading towards us from downtown
We decided instead of following a Frommer's walking tour from the start we would start at the end which was at Cafe du Monde to have some Cafe au lait and Beignets. We got close to the restaurant and the line was a block long. Luckily it moved pretty quickly and we met a peanut farmer from Georgia in line. He said boiled peanuts were much better in early summer when they are first harvested. Hopefully I did not offend him saying they were not my favorite thing. 

The breakfast was a good one and we have another thing to add to our "we tried these" list. We started to take the walking tour backwards but quickly figured out we did not really care about the spots listed but just wanted to get a feel for the area. We looped back down into the French Market area and then decided it was early enough in the day we would go and visit the World War II National Museum which we had heard about from a gentleman we met aboard the USS Alabama earlier in the week. 

The walk was over a mile and the kids did pretty good but were happy to arrive. We were not sure how appropriate the museum would be for the kids but we took a chance and paid the dues. The first thing we did was a film/documentary that Tom Hanks put together. It is shown on basically an IMAX screen but also has motion and visual effects to enhance the story. For example, when they talk about the tank warfare in Northern Africa, they show the tanks coming right at you and rumble your seat to make you feel like you are more part of the story. This was not Skylar's favorite thing with all of the loud noises but he did pretty good through it. 

Afterwards we explored the museum. There was alot of great history in there and there were parts that were not appropriate for the youngest kids. I went ahead as scout and figured out which parts we should rush through with eyes covered. Brighton helped me out and he experience some of the horror of the pictures of war. He commented at one point that it was making him feel sick and I responded that I was glad he felt that way. If he did not and war images did not affect him then I would be worried. The museum has alot of text to read in the displays so we did not spend the time that we could have exploring but we got to see enough to make the visit worthwhile. 

We walked back to the ferries stopping along the way in the RiverWalk mall and getting to see two big cruise ships that were docked and then left during our time on the downtown side of the city. We hopped the ferry back to the other side of the river and I had researched a spot to pick up some local type food. We stopped and Stacey got a Shrimp Po Boy and Brighton and I got Muffulettas. The rest of the family was not so adventuresome. We took the food back to the trailer so we could let Heidi out and feed her and then we ate dinner. I think the verdict was the Muffulettas were better than the Po Boy.

It was a good but tiring day. Hard to believe the weekend is already over!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

On to New Orleans

We were able to have a nice leisurely Saturday morning for the most part. Brock took Heidi for a little run. He hasn't been able to get out this past week and was really feeling it this morning. Hopefully he's not coming down with something.

I made pancakes and bacon outside on our griddle on the bbq. It was absolutely sunny and blue skies, but the wind was really picking up. I had to kind of use the tree right outside our trailer door as a wind block. We'd found some cherry chips in the baking section on our last shopping trip so some of us had cherry chip pancakes. Quite fun.

We pulled out of Buccaneer State Park right around noon. The winds were pushing us around quite a bit so it wasn't a relaxing drive at all. The distance wasn't long and the estimated drive time was only about 90 minutes, but it felt like much more. We had one rest stop just inside the Louisiana border. Brock had to keep a tight grip on the steering wheel as we were coming in to the Big Easy. Other drivers didn't help. As the highway started to become more congested, we really slowed down as all the lanes had to merge into one from an accident that was getting cleaned up.
Superdome from a moving car
More images from a moving vehicle

After maneuvering our way through the traffic, we finally came to our campground, Bayou Segnette State Park. We were so pleasantly surprised. It is a very large park especially considering it is right in the middle of such a metropolitan area. The campground has fairly nice grassy separation between sites. Our site is right next to the playground and bathrooms which is also right next to the laundry. And the laundry is FREE!! There is no sewer hookup so it is great to be so close to the facilities. We were able to get about 3 loads of clothes washed and dried. The kids had a lot of fun playing on the playground with a large group of other camping kids. They played tag games like Lava Monster and Infection and ran and ran until their legs were sore and it started to be too dark to see.

Tomorrow we will head into the city and explore the Big Easy. Looking forward to trying some new culinary delights.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another library day

We awoke to another sunny day with beautiful blue skies. We had a hearty breakfast of grits topped with scrambled eggs, bacon crumbles and grated cheese. Would you believe that first container of instant grits is still NOT gone? I think we have one more meal before we finish it off. That makes four breakfasts. BOY, did we get our money's worth. Hee hee hee.

Skylar loved using our new Valentine's Day headphones we got from Grams and Gramps. We all think they're awesome. Aunt Carly shared a free audiobook app with us that she has enjoyed using and I found a children's bible Skylar can listen to in small sections and he is enjoying it. It is a librovox recording so each section is read by a different reader and some are really good and engaging and some sound like the teacher in Ferris Bueller, but Sky loves the stories so it's working out great.

It soon became apparent that we couldn't all accomplish our goals for the day in one small space and so the kids and I cleared out and found that the Waveland Public Library was only about 3 miles away so we decided to check it out. It was a very nice library and very uncrowded so we set up in their awesome children's area and completed most of our school work there. Spence and Sky enjoyed playing some educational computer games there and watching some episodes of Peep and the Big Wide World.
The boys read in front of the pirate ship in the children's area. They were
enjoying re-reading the book series If You Give A Mouse... I think they read about
six different books together. Warmed my heart.

After the library, we found a post office so that I could get my nephew's birthday present sent off.

Next, we had to go grocery shopping again. Good news is everyone cooperated pretty well together and we were in and out fairly quickly. We headed back to the campground and got all the food put away.

Brock and Bri took our propane tank a few miles down the road to get it filled so we won't run out during the night one of these chilly nights.

Tomorrow we're heading into Louisiana. We've heard that the state park we're going to has free laundry. We've been saving up to take advantage of that so I hope it's true. Otherwise, we might soon be buried under a mountain of stinky socks and wet towels. If it is true, maybe we'll even wash our sheets this week. Ha ha. I think I've shared too much.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

This morning the sun was fully out and it was chilly,  but taking Heidi for her morning walk was very energizing. It was wonderful to see the sun again.

After a little striving to work on school and to keep everyone quiet while Brock had several phone meetings, we decided to drop everything and take advantage of an amazing opportunity that we had. We were already planning to visit the John C. Stennis Space Center while we were here, but we saw on their website that today Astronaut Fred Haise who was the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 13 would be speaking on site!! We'd already missed the first session and the next one started in 40 minutes and according to Google maps it would take 34 minutes to drive there! Would you believe we made it?!

We bought our admission and proceeded straight to the area where the talk was to be given. "Mr. Fred" as the ticket lady called him, was still signing autographs from the first session and employees were adding chairs because what they'd set up were all full for the second session. Mr. Fred went straight from signing his last autograph to beginning his talk for us. He took a sip from his bottle of Barq's Root Beer and gave a history of his getting into NASA and about the Apollo 13 mission. He talked about how they trained for lots of different disaster scenarios, but the outcomes for the training on the scenario of what happened on their mission were always that everyone died so they didn't have a backup plan. Pretty amazing teamwork by both the crew and mission control to see the positive outcome that actually played out. We were able to stand in line after the talk, visiting with some interesting people in front and behind us, and have a turn to get autographs for each McFarlane kid and one for the two biggest kids. Mr. Fred seemed a very nice man and he let us do a family picture with him and interacted with the kids, shaking each of their hands. So cool!!

Mr. Fred seems to now kind of be the face of the space center which is where rocket engines are tested. He is on the center's board and in his words does a lot of fundraising.

The big boys paid to ride the shuttle simulator. I guess it was
some kind of Star Wars-type simulation called Star Warriors.
What we actually visited was called the Infinity Science Center because the actual NASA site is not open to the public, but we did get to take a bus tour of the engine test site and past buildings of organizations located on the property like NOAA with their weather buoys and EPA, and university science campuses.
Rocket engine test platforms at John C. Stennis Space Center

Along the tour, we saw the coolest squirrel. I'd seen one like it earlier in the week in the grass alongside the roadway while we were driving. Today Brock looked it up and we think it was a fox faced squirrel. They are big and look somewhat ferretlike, but have a big full tail. They are supposedly pretty rare, so it is pretty cool that we've seen two! I forgot to mention that yesterday, in the rain, when we were almost to our campground, we saw a black figure in the ditch area next to the road and I thought it was a small black bear. As we got a little closer, I saw that it was a wild boar! Whoa. I do not hope to ever see one of those when I'm out walking Heidi.

A picture of a fox squirrel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Website.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Buccaneer State Park

The sun was peeking through the clouds this morning. We packed up, hooked up and pulled out of our site by about 10 am. We had a fairly uneventful drive the approximately 90 miles to Waveland, Mississippi. The skies kept getting darker though and about halfway it started to rain harder and harder. We were following Tom's instructions and when we were within a few miles of the campground we were starting to question whether he was steering us right. We were headed down a narrow street and saw a sign saying steep grade, but we couldn't see anything right away. As we progressed a little further though, we saw a very steep railroad crossing. So steep that if we tried crossing it, we might scrape something off. We had to turn onto a narrower street just this side of the traintracks and then back straight up and turn around. Tom was still trying to route us that way so we used my phone's gps instead to figure out a way around. The way we ended up going seemed much more logical and we aren't sure why Tom was trying to take us his way. We think it might be time to give Tom an update.

We got all checked in at our new campground, Buccaneer State Park. It is obvious that a lot of rebuilding and reconstruction is going on after previous storm damage and it was raining so hard when we got here that we really haven't looked around too much yet. We got set up in our site in the cold rain and cold wind and even though we're pretty good at it now, in the ten minutes or so it took, we were really soaked. We had to change and required some good hot cocoa to get defrosted.

We spent the rest of the evening getting our school and work done. Spence and Sky watched a movie and were quietly entertained together for a good couple of hours.

Even though we moved today, I think with the weather of the last few days, we are getting a little cabin fever. Tomorrow there's supposed to be some clearing of the weather, so hopefully we'll be able to get out and enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Battleship Memorial Park

Crazy that today we hoped for no warm front to move through. The weather man said if we stay cool, that will lead to more stable weather patterns. There were some tornadoes yesterday that touched down to the north of us, in Mississippi. There is a flash flood warning for our area until further notice, but again, it seems like we are in a little patch of high ground and safety. It rained A LOT today. Brock had work to do, but made a window in his schedule this afternoon for a visit to Battleship Memorial Park to see the USS Alabama. We got as much school done as we could and timed our lunch so that we'd be finished up right when Brock was available to make the most of that window. The only bummer was that the rain was really pounding right when our window opened up. ;o)

One of us was NOT happy to be going to the ship in the rain and said he just wanted to wait in the car, but we drug him out and made him look. He was really worried about his shoes getting ruined and his Superman raincoat tore when he was trying to get it on. He didn't start off his tour on the right foot, but he was finally able to pull it together and enjoy a little exploration on the huge battleship.

It is set up as a museum now with staged displays in the different departments and you are free to go on a self-guided tour of nearly the whole ship. We actually found it hard to keep our little group all together and at one point got separated into 3 even littler groups. I was alone and when I caught up to Spence and Brock, they had no idea where the other kids were. I started to backtrack and heard a loud clang then crying. Sky had slipped and fallen going down the steep steps and was two levels up from where I was. I hurried up to the sound and found Bryn comforting Sky who had had quite a scare. I think it just knocked the wind out of him, but we are blessed that he didn't get his head or break anything. He actually recovered from this quicker than he did from the getting wet idea.

From the ships decks, we could see quite a lot of displays on the grounds, but we didn't check any of them out up close.

Below deck...
The kids especially liked seeing the brig and the sleeping berths.
They also enjoyed seeing the ship's galley and selection of fruit.
I think that is one thing most of us will gorge on when we are back to a non-nomadic life.
Definitely needed to plan a better perspective for taking a picture. Couldn't
figure out how to get more of the ship in and still be able to see the family.
A replica of the Hunley. Notice the rain has stopped.
We also got to tour this sub, the USS Drum, for a few minutes before we had to get back.
Like a ghost ship, the Alabama, as we were driving away, and the fog was building.
We took Brock back to the trailer so that he could conduct his company meeting and I took three out of four kids to Walmart mostly to give the meeting the gift of quiet, but also to pick up a few items on the shopping list. When we got back to the trailer, we ate dinner and everyone involved themselves in their own quiet pastimes.

Tomorrow we head west from here to a state park in Mississippi.