Friday, July 20, 2012

The 4 of us for 8 days in a 20-year-old RV: My Life, In Lists

We spent 8 days traveling from nearly one tip of Florida to the other. Just the four of us. In one charming and slightly battered mobile home. Here are some of my lessons learned...

1. Going on vacation in an RV with two small children is not really a vacation at all. A vacation, in my mind, entails cocktails and reading by the pool and relaxing. This was more of an adventure. A really fun but really, really exhausting adventure.

2. Any time I open my mouth while anywhere north of the Disney World area will result in people commenting on my "accent" and asking me where I am from.

3. Revealing you are from Miami to anyone who lives north of the Disney World area in Florida will result in one of two very specific responses...either they shudder (in fear? anxiety? traffic phobias?) or they gasp in awe: "Why are you here, then?"

4. A squeaky dinette table hinge that was barely noticeable when you first purchased the used RV of your dreams will become Chinese water torture after a few hours (let alone 8 days).

5. Oil does not work on squeaky dinette table hinges.

6. Neither do paper towels or rubber tape stuffed into said hinges.

7.  When one goes swimming in South Florida, you tend to see cocktails by the pool area. In a swimming hole in the middle of nowhere, you see cans of dip.

8. A whining 3-year-old is not as annoying as a defiant 6-year-old.

9. A normal size bikini in Miami will be the smallest one on the campground beaches.

10. I am still waaaaay more afraid of lizards than of enclosed spaces: I was just fine checking out the stalagmites in the dark tight quarters of the Florida Caverns State Park (even when they mentioned bats), but the minute I heard "black salamanders that live down here" I nearly had a full-blown panic attack.

11. When traveling for more than 5 days in an RV, you  must pack a mani/pedi kit--even if you're "just camping."

12. Jack Johnson is the perfect soundtrack for a summer Florida road/camping trip.

13. Eating burgers and hot dogs around a campfire at the end of the day is awesome.

14. So is walking a mile down the beach to have shrimp and scallops at the nearest restaurant.

15. Watching your kids climb their first tree (in flip-flops, no less!) is exhilarating in the good way and the bad way.

16. I am still a little afraid of the dark, dark woods.

17. When your sweet, animal-loving 3-year-old asks to see "the dolphin with no tail" over and over again, you are willing to wake up at 2:00 a.m. to drive through the night in order to make it on time to the marine aquarium. (Thanks, Hubby.)

17. "Young" couples can only afford the banged-up mobile homes.

18. I sleep better in our RV than in a fancy hotel room.

19. Even children who love the outdoors and have been looking forward to a camping trip for months are seduced by the lure of the portable DVD player.

20. Even parents who don't really like the idea of a portable DVD player being packed for a camping trip are seduced by the lure of the possibility of "grown-up time" thanks to said DVD player.

21. Laundry is, apparently, quite exciting while on vacation.

22. Much like hotels, there are campgrounds, and then there are Campgrounds:

Adequate but small, dusty, and swarms of mosquitoes

Way bigger and only gnats, but still dusty

Just as big, no dust, no bugs and practically beachside

23. At some campgrounds, a 20-year-old RV will be the envy of all the tent campers. At some campgrounds, a 20-year-old RV will blend in just fine. At other campgrounds, you will hope that every one else is too busy watching their flat screen TVs or adjusting their satellite dishes to notice your 20-year-old RV chugging into its reserved spot.

24. Mold is not always green. Sometimes, it's white, and it can proliferate in a matter of hours given the right conditions.

25. The right conditions, apparently, exist in my RV kitchen cabinet.

26. White mold reeks.

27. I am way tougher than I thought I was, since I was the one who took care of reeking, white, proliferating mold without hesitation and with only minor (mostly) verbal complaints.

28. There is nothing like seeing your kid's dimply face light up when he catches his first wave on a boogie board.

29. My sense of adventure can override my sense of least when it comes to jumping into a 68 degree spring where I could see a foreboding-looking cave and slimy-looking grass from the diving board.
That's me and Ben holding hands...he had no issues jumping in (over and over again).

30. When you are the proud owner of a 20-year-old RV, expect things to go wrong. 
A $700-pit-stop for an ailing generator

31. I really love the outdoors.

 32. I really, really love the beach.

3 bike racers + 1 beach babe = 4 very happy people!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Can I wash that vitamin down with some beer?

I have gone through many stages in my life when I realize that something's gotta change.

Sometimes, it's just my attitude, as in: I am being overly dramatic or overly pessimistic or overly pissy.

Sometimes, it's been my weight, like after I had the boys and I felt so trapped inside that swollen, slow, puffy body that I knew I had to make it my focus.

Sometimes, it's even been the people I associate with: a spouse who made me miserable, a friend who made me crazy.

It's simpler when the problem is easy to identify and the solution within your control. When you are attacked by falling hangers every time you try to pull a shirt out of your closet (true story), you know what you gotta do. A couple of hours and some minor effort later, the problem has been solved. But usually, life isn't that easy. You don't always know what the problem is, or whether it's within your control at all. Sometimes, the problem isn't even a problem; sometimes it could just be a string of bad luck. I'm not sure which of these applies to me right now, but I know I function better when I at least think I'm trying to do something about it. So I am.

The problem these days is my body. For a change, it's not about fitting into that perfect size 4 in the back of my closet. It's not about losing the stubborn pooch that came along with my two boys and likes to masquerade as a Shar-Pei when I bend over. It's not even about my thighs.

It's about my health.

I'm not sure what's going on lately, but my body's been complaining. And they say that if you listen really carefully, your body will let you know what it needs. Well, my body definitely needs something.

Over the last year, I've had several colds/bugs/viruses/under-the-weather-spells. I've been diagnosed with GERD, exercise-induced asthma, acute bronchitis, and a rib head disarticulation. (Yeah, I didn't know what it was either, but it hurts like hell.) I've had liquid drained from my good knee. I've had three sinus infections and three corneal abrasions. Throw into the mix my chronic migraines, and it's been a stellar year, health-wise.

And this week? Recovering from hand, foot, and mouth disease. (Remember my post about how I was absolutely, definitely not getting strep? Well, I didn't. Instead, I got this.) "Adults don't usually get hand, foot, and mouth." "It's a children's virus." "If you get it as an adult, it's super mild." That's what I was told. But you know me. I got it BIG TIME. And if you don't know anything about this virus, let's just say it's super fun. As in, your closest friends literally cringe when you touch them. (It's okay, M, I would have cringed too.)

I realize that I have two small kids who bring everything home from pre-k and kindergarten. I realize that both Hubby and I are elementary school teachers who bring everything else home. I realize that we lead very hectic lives and run around a lot. And I also know that in the grand scheme of things, none of this stuff is a big deal and I really am lucky and blessed and healthy. But I've gotta try to make things a little my body do its thing somehow. So the question is how? What's gotta change?

Well, for starters, Hubby pointed out that, lately, we've been spending a whole more money on beer than on vitamins. And my four-day-per-week-minimums at the gym have turned into twice if I'm lucky. Fish and salads for dinner have been swapped for dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas. We've gone from a very healthy lifestyle to "What's the quickest thing we can throw in the microwave and does it go well with my Belgium lager?"

Even Hubby, who was sick--literally--like twice in the first 11 years we've been together, has been sick four times in the past year.

So what to do? I need a plan of action. I am an anal, Type A, list-making kinda girl.

Well, for one thing: cut back on the booze.
Go back to the runs, the bike rides, the gym visits. Make that a priority.
Pull out the yoga gift certificate I've had in my purse for 6 months.
Stop being so cheap and buy some good supplements again.
Buy more fish.
Become obsessive-compulsive about all things Dr. Oz.

Maybe none of this will make a damn difference. Maybe next week, I'll develop some other random, annoying, cringe-worthy virus. But at least I'll get a false sense of control over my circumstances. Even that's gotta be healthier than how I've been feeling lately. Then maybe I can start obsessing unhealthily about my thighs again.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Taking a risk

Sometimes in life you have to take chances to be happy. You have to work at creating the life you envision. And most of the time, the decisions that get you there and the steps you have to take--big or little--can be scary.

We had been behaving responsibly for a while now: no lavish trips, no more high-end martini bars, cheap take-out had become an occasional treat, and random no-reason shopping trips were a thing of the past. We'd willingly and solemnly swapped our kick-up-our-heels, paint-the-town-red, live-for-today, spontaneous life of the Olden Days for the cliche we shockingly and embarrasingly realized we (gasp!) wanted: corner lot life with the big mortgage and two shaggy-haired boys.

It's what we wanted.

But despite what we used to think when we were in our early twenties, you can't have it All. So something had to go. Hence, we became responsible.


And bored out of our minds.

Enter: The A-Team (R)Van.

Yep, we got an RV.
And yep, we gave it a name.
And yep, we named it after a bad 80's TV show.
And yep, it worked: we aren't bored anymore.

Hubby had grown up taking RV trips, and it was his dream to have one of his own. Although I loved camping and the outdoors in general, I never took him very seriously. I knew nothing about RVs. It seemed overwhelming and impractical and unnecessary. And certainly, financially irresponsible. How much did those things cost, anyways?

But Hubby kept at it. He scoured the internet for used RV deals, sure that "one day" he'd find the perfect, can't-beat-it deal. He shared blogs about families with young boys who were traveling the country each summer. He pointed out that with both of us not working every summer, we had the perfect set up to use an RV; with that much vacation time, we could take a few days to drive here or there and save tons on airfare. And with all of his biking races (especially now that the boys were racing in the kids' division too), we wouldn't have to drive hours before sunrise to get to a state race and then drive hours back when it was over. We could finally be one of those families we saw at these events: making it a weekend, camping out, turning it into an easy, fun activity instead of a chore to get there and back.

The more I started looking into it with him, the more it became my dream, too.

And this past December, two days after Christmas, we gave each other a special gift: a 20-year-old, Class C, 28 foot mobile home that sleeps at least 6 comfortably. (And the very next day, we went to the mall and returned all of the other "real" gifts we had opened on the 25th--more a symbolic gesture than one that actually made a financial difference.) It was an RV we had seen at a dealer, and we had liked it so much that it had become "The Measuring Stick" we used to compare all the other ones we went to see. After a few months of serious looking (and Hubby's aforementioned 2 years worth of casual scouring), I made the suggestion to go back and see it again and put in a low-ball offer. After some semi-serious haggling and a check-up by our mechanic, the dealer agreed to our offer and we brought home the latest addition to our family (affectionately called The A-Team around these parts).

Although it was in great working condition, it did, admittedly, look like the set of a bad 70's porn movie (or so I've been told, of course). After gutting and completely remodeling two houses with our sweat and muscle (really just Hubby's muscle and both of our sweat), we weren't afraid of tackling such a little space. So we gave it a major scrub-down, painted, tore out, replaced, and added our own special touches...

A few bumper stickers to give it some personality...

And, finally, never underestimate the power of a vintage hula girl...

We've gone out in it already 4 times: one time locally to try everything out (I will spare you the details of the first time poor Hubby tried to work the sewer system or, as I like to call it, the Poop Tube), once for a biking event, once just the four of us in the middle of nowhere, biking and hiking and barbecuing, and once with ALL of the grandparents AND the kids. Each time, I've been sad when it's time to pack it up and go home (yes, even the time with the grandparents). This coming Saturday we leave for our first "real" trip: 8 days all over Florida, exploring the old town of St. Augustine, 2 Florida beach campgrounds, Florida Caverns State Park, and possibly an elephant sanctuary and/or the famous little dolphin from the movie "Dolphin Tale." I have never felt as disconnected from the real world, stress, and the relentless noise in my own head as when I've been camping with the RV. Hubby says I'm a different person; he suggested making a tiny model of it and making me carry it around in my pocket. (I know, he's super funny, right?)

And yet, we almost didn't do this.

The night before we went to pay for it and bring it home, we almost chickened out. We had capped our adventurous tendencies so tightly, we almost forgot how to take a risk. It was like if we had been the responsible parents in the corner lot house for so long, we had forgotten how to be ourselves. It was when we realized that, that we knew we had to do this. Even if it didn't work out. Even if, in 6 months, we had to sell the thing. We needed this. We needed to remember what it felt like: to take a leap of faith, to look for adventure again, to be who we used to be, who we wanted to be again, now that things had "settled."

And so, we're not bored anymore. For now, anyways. I'm sure that in a few years, we'll find another adventure to jump that we've remembered what it feels like to be excited again.