Padre Freaking Island, ya’ll!

Words will not convey the absolute awesomeness of our almost 3 day boondocking adventure on the beach at Padre…but lemme try. Watch me verbally whip and nae nae all over this page about it.

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We have the teeniest bit of solar on our Airstream…just enough for some lights, but that was enough for us (for now…more solar to come). We were goin’ boondocking gulf-front with Airstream friends who are seasoned boondockers and whose son my kids adore. So many wins.

Met up with @big_big_trip and @big_big_trip_anna at Texas’s Padre Island National Seashore visitor center and the dad’s reconnoitered the beach front looking for THE spot while the moms and kids fetched the Junior Ranger supplies. Then is was four wheeling time…towed out onto the beach…swung a couple impressive U-ees and settled in.

Now, cue a Peter Pan’s Lost Boys/Neverland song. The three boys immediately shed all sense of couth and devolved into the wildlings they are at heart. It was brilliant watching imaginations and creativity come alive for them with sand and sticks and freedom just 20 feet from the water. The grownups had wine, beer, conversation and relative peace while the boys kept each other busy. We even got to celebrate O’s birthday beachside with cake and ice cream and candles (that we had to pretend were lit–wind).

 

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Discussing the organization and bylaws of the #over40beardedhunkclub. That’s their flag.

OK, so there were a couple minor downfalls of this spectacular two/three day stay. Washing my hair in a bucket outside was not one of them. The sand was. “Well, duh” you say. But it’s unreal how the sand creeps into every crack and crevice…and not only the cracks and crevices on bodies. Resting your weary head on a pillow covered in sand is less than cozy. Also…the wind. One day was SO windy we had to sit behind the campers to be able to talk and not get sand in our mouths/eyes. And lastly…there was a wee little bit of a tide issue. Fickle Mother Nature had ideas other than what the weather channels and the rangers had. Once the tide came up and started washing our patio mat away, there was a MAD dash to batten the hatches and tow the hell off the beach one night early.

It was sad to say goodbye to friends as we were headed in opposite directions and weren’t sure when we’d meet again. After doing this for almost 7 months, if someone asks me what the hardest part of RV living and full-time travel is, I can honestly say it’s leaving new found friends. Luckily our homes have wheels and we’re already plotting our next path crossing.

Big fat cheers to camping beach-front on Padre Freaking Island. If you get a chance to do it…do it.

 

The Big Easy…NOLA (2/12-19)

We hightailed it through Alabama and Mississippi with promises to come back and soak up the history of those two states in the future. We stayed at Bayou Segnette State Park across the mighty Mississippi from the French Quarter and it was just perfect for our needs. First, let me emphasize…there is FREE LAUNDRY at Bayou Segnette. FREE. LAUNDRY. The sites are well spaced with plenty of green in between and behind sites. The bathhouses are adequate, but can be a bit of a hike depending on your site number. If you’re using the bathhouses (or if you’re doing some FREE LAUNDRY and washing every scrap of fabric in your camper), try to snag a site near the bathhouses. We didn’t get one and hiked a wooden path through the bayou (um, swamp…?) to get there. Also…a full week in this park and this is the only picture we got of the park itself. :/

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Other than the campground, there isn’t much to do AT the state park if you don’t have a boat or aren’t there when the pool and wave pool are open. But really, who goes to NOLA to hang at their state park!? The Algiers ferry terminal is about 20 minutes from Bayou Segnette and has free street parking (or $5 all day lot parking) and it’s only $2 per person to cross the river. The hulking, clanging, squealing, circa 1940s (feeling) battleship ferry drops you at the tip of the French Quarter and you can walk to all the madness that is this fascinating city. If you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of a real, live Mississippi river rat. It’s part of the experience guys.

We started our first day in the French Quarter with a walk down Bourbon Street (which smells like warm beer and hot, overflowing dumpsters), street performers and toe-curling beignets at Cafe du Monde…obviously. After strolling the city a bit more and being led by the more pleasant aromas of the many incredible restaurants, we ducked into the Gumbo Shop (highly, highly recommend!) for lunch. I couldn’t decide what local delicacy to order so our fabulous server said she’d surprise me. Shrimp creole, red beans and rice with andouille sausage and jambalaya all on one plate. Yes please. The boys enjoyed a roast beef po boy and Shan devoured his jambalaya. Please go here for a meal if you’re in NOLA.

During the week we also visited Oak Alley Plantation. Always a struggle to see such a gracious home and property but know on whose backs that property was built and operated. The tour was very informative, but there’s so much emphasis on genteel southern plantation life and so little emphasis on the absolute horrors of slavery. The home and the 300 year old oaks were lovely though. The mint julep was knock-you-on-your-tush-strong. Oak Alley has an extensive exhibit of slave quarters with some very honest and awful examples of slave life. Awful. Friends had just toured Oak Alley and the Whitney Plantation. They told me about how the planation truly looks at the entire “plantation experience” from the slaves’ perspective as opposed to the more common plantation owner’s side. The Whitney Plantation was the one we meant to tour.

On our next foray into the French Quarter there were more beignets. Beignets. Beignets. Beignets. Oh, sorry. We also walked through the open air market and stumbled on the LEGO mini figure booth where the heavens opened and the angels sung (sang?) and the boys’ looked like shaken sodas, ready to explode with joy.  Next we toured the Jean Lafitte National Historic Site/French Quarter Visitor Center, where the boys completed the Junior Ranger program and scored another badge for their collection. Jean Lafitte (1780-1823-ish) was a French pirate and smuggler who paused his illicit adventures to fight on the side of the United States in defense of New Orleans in the War of 1812.

Continuing the French Quarter trend, on Thursday we headed right to the Jazz National Historic Park. You guys, there’s a National Park location dedicated to jazz music!! The boys burned through this Junior Ranger program fast and earned yet another badge. This National Park is temporarily being house at the Old US Mint building which also hosts Music At The Mint. We got to enjoy an amazing jazz concert performed by actual National Park Rangers along with special guest Charlie Gabriel (unbelievable musician and historian). What a special treat! There was more Gumbo Shop food on this day. 🙂

We rounded out our week in New Orleans with an afternoon at the Audubon Insectarium (super cool!) where I got to see the things nightmares are made of come to life…creeping, crawling, buzzing life. Wrapped it up with a dinner of po boys and crawfish etouffe at Mother’s Restaurant.

When asked what they thought about New Orleans, the boys were split. Callum says it was his favorite place so far because it was so wild. Quinn says it was interesting but strange. I think Shan and I are a mix of both. I do know that the food will keep me coming back. OK, the weird too. I do so enjoy some weird.

Maryland Science Center

Friday, September 23rd, 2016.

Since we had a couple more weeks in the Bmore ‘burbs, we decided to hit the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore for our last local “Friday Field Trip”. My boys could live in a science museum. They must do All. The. Things. And so we did…spent 7 hours doing experiments, learning about space, weather, circuits, gravity, aerodynamics, dinosaurs, bodily functions and much more. The MDSCI has an amazing IMAX theater too and the movie about hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes was amazing. Normally this is a pricey museum, plus Bmore parking is painful too. However, the MDSCI has homeschool days! What would have been a $100 museum visit was only $21.

   

A little post-museum ice cream.

Good news for many travelers is that the MDSCI is part of the ASTC museum passport program (the IMAX movies are extra)! If you’re in/near the Inner Harbor of downtown Bmore for a couple days, a couple other worthwhile stops are the National Aquarium, touring the Historic Ships, of course Fort McHenry (get those Jr. Ranger badges!) and an O’s game at Camden Yards.

We’ve not been great about playing hometown tourists while living here but did get a handful of cool sites in.

Disney Baby!!

Ready to go to the airport!

So, we went.

I thought, “I’m sure it’ll be cool and all, but Disney Schmisney”.  I didn’t grow up on Disney movies or characters (I grew up on Meuslix and other tree-hugger stuff).  I knew we would take the boys…seems like a little kid rite of passage these days. So, when my boss said, “we’re going on a teambuilding retreat, you pick the spot” how could I resist!!??  Luckily our board of directors was good with it!
We woke the boys up at some ungodly hour and surprised them with matching Disney t-shirts and Mickey backbacks full of “quiet on the plane” goodies.  We picked up my in-laws (who are total Disney-philes) and headed to the airport.  A teeny bit of nerves from Quinny on take-off, but otherwise flying was a BREEZE and very fun for them (and ME–whereas I’m usually toss-my-cookies-anxious).
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Ready to roll!
We checked in to the Port Orleans French Quarter and loved it there.  I HIGHLY recommend as it’s the smallest resort that’s sort-of affordable, so everything you want to do is close, close, close!  And it was just a great place.  We did pool time, a day at Magic Kingdom, a day at Animal Kingdom, a half day at Typhoon Lagoon water park and some time in Downtown Disney too.  I spent a half day doing the Keys to the Kingdom Tour with my work peeps…VERY cool tour!!!
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After kind of poo-pooing the money-marketing-monster that is Disney, I was SOLD.  Seriously, hook, line and sinker.  It is TRULY magical.  I should clarify…it is TRULY magical to experience Disney with 3 and 5 year olds.  Shan and I went with my job 10 years ago and we were both very “eh” about it.  But with kids??  Fuggedaboudit!!

The week we got back we started planning our next trip down.  Soon kids, soon!

5 year old miracle…

Five years ago at 11:15am I was taking my sweet time getting ready to go the hospital.  I had been in early labor for about 24+ hours by that time but since I had braxton-hicks since week 12 (no lie), I didn’t really know the difference.  I thought my water might have broken a little that morning so I called the hospital and they wanted me to come in to get checked since it was only one day before my due date.  Called my doula and she said, “wait…slow down…eat, take a long, hot shower, rest, eat again, watch some TV, read, eat and get to the hospital when you’re ready…and I’ll meet you there.”  Called Shan and he said, “Go! Now! Hurry! Meet ya there!”  I listened to my doula and left poor Shan pacing the grounds of GBMC.

By 3pm I was admitted and set up in my fancy room sans IV…just a hep lock.  How freeing not to be tied to stuff!  Shan and my doula, Holly, were with me.  Soft music, dim lights, snacks, massages, walking the halls, bouncing on the birthing ball.  By about 9:30pm I was fully dilated and ready to rock.  What I find funny is when the nurses tell someone who’s having an unmedicated birth to not push.  Like, “Not yet, let us get set up!”  That argument doesn’t hold up when nature takes over…which it did.  Fairly certain I said, “I hope someone’s going to catch this baby!!!!” as I gave in and let my body take over.  It was incredible, insane, amazing.  My OB said to me at one point, “you know, you’re allowed to make noise.”  I suppose I was just concentrating so hard, I never made noise.  45-ish minutes of pushing and I hear the OB say, “his heart rate’s dropping, he needs to come out now”.  One push and one minute later, out he came.  Blue.  He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice.  I never saw it (thank goodness) but Shan did and paled.  But after some rubbing and some oxygen, he was squealing.

Our perfect, hard-fought-for miracle boy.  3 rounds of clomid (useless stuff), 4 IUIs and 3 IVFs and my little ICSI pixie was here.

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Quinn Patrick.

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Our introspective, thoughtful, perfectionist, wildly imaginative, analytical, structured, reflective and innovative little engineer-to-be.

My sweet, 5 year old INTJ…giving his ENFP Mama a run for her money.

We love you Quinny…more than you will ever know.

For my birthday, I went to a Ball…

Yep.  Since I’m a princess (hehe) and all…

OK, so the whole fam went to The Storybook Ball at the Please Touch Museum in Philly with a big group of dear friends.  Quinn dressed up as the Cat in the Hat and Callum was the Tin Man (he is OBSESSED with the 1935 Wizard f Oz).  We had a BLAST, but the part I loved the best was seeing all our kids play together.  See, I have this amazing group of friends scattered all over the country.  I met them through a parenting board online and we’ve become so close.  We saw each other through the cruel world of infertility and we all emerged on the other side with our kiddos…whether through IVF or adoption.  And many of us remain friends.

So, several of us descended on a friend’s house in Philly for a BIG sleepover after the Storybook Ball.  Had a blast…

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Baby’s First Halloween

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Yeah! Baby’s first Halloween! Unfortunately, Shan and I are missing most/all of it. Shan will pick him up just in time to drop him in a bath and put him to bed and I’m working late. But I dropped off his hysterical peacock costume at my in-laws and they’ll do show and tell with him today. Next year we’ll head back to the old neighborhood for Halloween…they REALLY do it right!