7 Dec Wednesday We were having a normal day. We were all excited because we were going out to eat steak tonight to celebrate Tj’s checkride. I was filling up the mid and getting ready to go dump and Jack was on his last paper for school. He’d gotten up to fill and drink his water bottle and was fussing a little bit, but I figured it was because of that paper. All of a sudden he threw himself on the floor, and I didn’t think it was just temper. I went to the dinette bench and sat down and pulled him to me so we were eye-to-eye. I was asking him as I did this if he was ok, and if he needed a hug. Right about then I noticed that he’d lost all color in his lips. I yelled to Max to get me a bowl, covered Jack’s mouth, but it was too late! I got a face full of vomit! I was so surprised that it’d splashed on my face and in my hair. A second or two later I yelled again for a bowl and Max was in the background freaking out cause we were blocking all the bowls, but then he found a big cup in the bathroom and got it to me, but it was too late again. I caught some of the 3rd or 4th round, but most of it went all over my favorite shirt and on the floor. Poor Jack! He said a couple of times that he wanted to sleep. I sat him down right there and laid him over and he shut his eyes and seemed to go to sleep right away.

Ugh. Now what to do? I had Max climb behind me into his bed and told him to pull his curtain (thankfully he’s rigged up a curtain recently) because I was going to take off my clothes right there. I got Jack and myself out of our outer clothes and walked J to the shower. When he got in he just sat down…he’s so pathetic when he throws up, poor baby! I washed him and dried him off, and before he was all the way dry he had to go to the bathroom. He was a little more sick there, but not much. I dressed him and put him on my bed with Milo and Otis (his favorite move for the last year) while I showered. He seemed like he would fall asleep, but by the time I finished wiping up the kitchen he seemed back to normal.

I was so bummed to tell Tj that we couldn’t go out, but he ran through Zaxby’s for us…the fried mushrooms were great as always, and he got fried cheese that was also awesome!

The next morning I let Jack have a piece of bread for breakfast. A few hours later he had a cup of milk. At lunch we went out to eat that steak and Jack had a plain cheeseburger, and then ice cream an hour or so later. I know how lucky/blessed we are that he (and Max for that matter) usually are sick all at once, not all through the night. I guess we’ll never know what caused this one.

8 Dec Thursday Jack asked Tj to sing “monkey bird”… Mockingbird. When we asked him to sing it he said, “Let’s hear it, Daddy!”

That night the pipes froze! I’ve been so paranoid about them freezing because of the extreme damage that was done to our house growing up the time Papa forgot to turn off the ice maker and it froze. We came home from church one Sunday morning and as we drove up the driveway you could see a fountain of water pouring out the bricks of the front face of our house!!! I still have the 2″ section of copper pipe that burst.

Anyway, I’ve been stressing and worrying about how to handle things in the bus this winter; reading tons of stuff on the FB forum for fulltiming families. And then this. We knew it would be in the 20’s so we set up the bus accordingly, but when Tj got up at 3am to go to the bathroom he told me there was no water running! Ugh. We turned the propane heater on and let it run 10 minutes or so and then the water started running again! Tj decided we’d run the kitchen faucet all night so he went outside and opened the mid tank so it wouldn’t overflow (again). He ran it at a pretty forceful rate. I think you only need to let it trickle, but I guess the sewer hose could slowly freeze and clog if the water was only at a trickle.

I was so extremely grateful that we haven’t seen any negatives from the freeze, and then yesterday I read that we don’t have as much trouble when they freeze cause the pipes aren’t copper! Oh yeah! What a relief! So now I have a list of what we do if the temps are going to be in the 30’s, and what to do if they’re going to be in the 20’s. The next night it got down to 18 degrees, but we were all set, thankfully! We’d only set the propane (central) heater to 60, and while that was fine for the 30’s, from now on when it’s freezing we’re setting it at 70 degrees.

10 Dec Saturday Of course now that it seems like we know how to take care of our pipes, I found condensation behind our mattress!! Ugh again! I think the great temperature difference between outside and inside combined with the lack of air circulation causes condensation…and not letting it dry out could lead to mold.

I was really discouraged when I saw it and had to deal with it alone (Tj was at the crash pad). Pulling out the mattress to air that area blocks the back bathroom, besides the fact that it’s so heavy and awkward to move that mattress by myself. After a while, though, I figured out I could just rotate the whole thing head to foot and air both places out at once. The head of the mattress would hang over the foot of the bed, not take up too much room, and have enough air circulation to dry out. Pulling it out a few inches would also allow the bed frame at the head to dry out as well.

I’m tired of all the things we have to learn about living in a camper in the winter. I really believe, though, that when we see the Grand Canyon, or Mt. Rushmore, or the mighty redwoods, or the San Andreas Fault it will be all worth it!

Later that day Tj texted me that Jim wanted to go out with the other guys from their class for lunch, and since they carpooled could I pick him up? The boys and I went to get him and bring him to his pad. He changed clothes and brought the boys home while I ran to Kroger for cheese and cokes. We all ate lunch together then at about 2:30.

This definitely had been a season of flexibility for all of us. Tj has been living this life for the last year and a half, but with us all in this tiny place now we’ve really adapted to his lifestyle a good bit. We have weekends when he has off from work…two weeks ago our weekend was Friday and Saturday, and last week it was Thursday and Friday. I really don’t have any concept of what day of the week it is anymore! Without having a church to go to (we have a couple more Sunday’s of worship from our old church left to watch online), and without having friends near to plan and do things with, every day has the potential to be the same! Along with that not having a designated grocery shopping day and not having a large (or even midsize) fridge/freezer/pantry means that I sometimes need to go shopping the same day I actually go, which is kinda a pain. And since the washer is kaput I don’t have a set day to do laundry, so we’re haphazard all around! I miss my planned life of the last several years.

Not only is every week subject to change, every day is as well. I haven’t been sleeping as well since I was worried about the bus, so I’d sometimes start school later, and if it was supposed to rain around lunchtime I make sure the boys got to go outside for as much time as they can in the morning. I’m learning to be flexible, and it’s coming easier now than when we started. But again, when we (hopefully) get to see all those sights it will be all worth it. And really, these are all first world problems.

These last two or three years we’ve taken off the whole month of December, and what a luxury that’s been! This year I know we’ll want to take days off here and there to see the sights, so we’ve been continuing with school every day Tj has work. I’m thinking now that we’ll probably take off about two weeks when we get to Texas…and I guess that’s when we’ll make our chocolate bread house (and/or bus).

11 Dec Sunday Jack drew tables today, and I think he may have drawn them yesterday. I asked him to draw some shapes, so he drew a triangle, a square, and a circle, and then he said “Draw table.” He then drew vertical lines down from each corner. They really looked like tables!

He’s also starting to handle setting his shower water himself. I walk him through it, and sometimes I have to tell him more than once that if it’s too hot to get out of the water. You’d think that would be intuitive, but apparently with Jack it’s not.

He just wants to be a big boy so bad. He always wants to help, which is so sweet and awesome. He rolls his bed up and can put it up. He folds his pj’s and puts them where they go. He can put the mayo on his bread, but it gets everywhere else too. Ah, well, can’t have everything!

12 Dec Jack had his 4th spelling test, and he got all 8 words right!! That’s the first time that’s happened. I just wonder what’s in that little head sometimes. One of his words was ‘are’. When I looked up he’d written ‘er’ and was erasing the ‘e’. Then he wrote an ‘e’ after the ‘r’. He paused, and then he wrote an ‘a’ before the ‘r’. It was laborious but he got it!

The night I wrote that last post Max fell out of his bed!! I had my new light-blocking curtains up (well, they’re still not up permanently, but they were temporarily up then), and he was heading to the bathroom, but he was half-asleep, and he fell out of his bed! Poor punk! Fortunately he seems fine.

Also, that day his friend he plays with often asked if he wanted to be her boyfriend! A day or so later she left a note folded up on the wooden play boat asking if he liked her and if he wanted to be her boyfriend. This really irks me. Guess I have to get over it, though. Tj asked him what he thought about it and he said he made that commitment last year, and he would tell her that. I just hate that he’s being pushed that way. Just play and have fun and leave the grown-up things for later. Old lady rant over.

We’ve been watching our old church online since we left, but we found out recently that our pastor is leaving for Boston. I’m so sad, but I understand. When God calls you somewhere you have to go! We’ll probably start going back to a sticks-and-bricks church in another couple of weeks.

Also, in another couple of weeks Tj will be finished with his training and we’ll be out of here! I know he’ll be glad to have that behind him. It’s been much harder than he expected. He already knows how to fly, but I guess going from such a small airline to such a large one brought so much change; so many things for him to learn.

Tj got out of work around lunchtime every day this week, so he would eat lunch here and take supper to the crash pad. His weekend was Friday and Saturday so we went to see Fantastic Beasts Thursday night. Jack was great through to 10 minutes of opening stuff, but then the movie started with a bang and he started saying “I have to go bafroom”… he’s figured out that if he he says that I’ll take him seriously. But I have figured out that he says that to get out of doing something he doesn’t want to do! I pulled him over to me and sat him on my lap and he was fine for the rest of the movie, thankfully. I was bummed about the movie; although it was fun to watch, the graphics were good and I liked the period memorbilia, the storyline was so thin. There were so many times when there was an obvious way out of the trouble and the main character didn’t take it. Max liked it, so I guess that is all that really matters.

I tried to talk Tj into going to Graceland, but he thought that was too much money. I wouldn’t have gone myself except our friends from Spain wanted to go a few years ago. I pestered him a little bit, but we’re on our big bus trip and we have to go do some things…not just sit in our comfy bus all the time! So we went to the Memphis Railroad and Trolley Museum. There was a large model train the boys sat on and had their picture taken, and a Thomas room with a couple of tables with trains for the boys to play with. Tj and I enjoyed reading a lot of the history plaques and seeing all the memorabilia. We bought Jack a train for Christmas there.

After that was lunch at Belly Acres. Tj mixed up my burger order, I wanted one that was half beef half chorizo, but got one with tons of grilled onions and tomatoes on it. It was fine, but the fries were really good and the chocolate shake was exceptional!

From there we went to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum, but we ended up not going in because it was crazy expensive for what was there. It was a tiny house and would have cost us $40 to go in. We had remarked on the new parking lot and sod, and I guess that’s where it came from.

We went back to the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid then so we could take a picture of our feet to post on the FB Full-time Families board. I was talking up the elevator ride to Jack and Tj said we should just walk right on the elevator and not give him any choice. It went much better than we expected! Jack sat down in the elevator all the way up, but he didn’t cry or throw a fit. He walked off and then out onto the balcony. He was definitely scared to be out there, but I covered his eyes (a la Mama when she took me on the Space Mountain ride!) and walked him out to the edge. We sat with our feet at the edge of the balcony and took our photo. Jack didn’t try to go back inside, he even played by the building, but he never walked willingly onto the glass floor.

I was hoping we could stay there long enough to go right to the Peabody to see the ducks…just to say we’ve done it, but there was still an hour or so left when we were ready to go. After tooling around inside Bass Pro a bit we went to Aldi…Tj’s been wanting to peruse their aisles a while. We headed to Kroger then for a couple of things, and then went home. I got out at the office to pay for our second month here and get my new Star Wars shirt.

We watched a couple of episodes of Lost and then Tj and I bought some more Christmas presents and more stuff for the bus off of Amazon. Every time I think we’ve about settled in and gotten all we need to live like we want to here we end up buying several more things for the bus. Money pit! But worth it! I’m still so excited that we get to live this adventure. We’re very blessed.

I thought I’d try to list all the places we’ve eaten here in Memphis in case I’ve forgotten to blog about them, these are all I can remember now:
The Lunch Box (awesome BLT with fried bacon!!!!)
Memphis BBQ Co (pretty good ribs and sausage, awesome cheese fritters!!)
Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (great chicken)
Brother Juniper’s (awesome open faced omelet with feta)
Huey’s (decent burger)
Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous (good ribs)
Belly Acres (milkshake heaven!!)

We planned to all go to Mom’s for Thanksgiving. I keep thinking of it as the last holiday we’ll have together for a very long time. Working for FedEx means Tj’ll be working probably every Thanksgiving and Christmas for many years to come…and he surprisingly had this Thanksgiving off! But not long before the day we were having freezes at night, and we realized just how different it is wintering in a camper vs summering in it. Tj came home and said we needed to talk, and I asked if he was staying behind for Thanksgiving. We both knew it was the best thing for the camper. The bus is now our second special need! I thought we could put antifreeze in and leave it behind, but Tj didn’t think that was best.

The boys and I headed for Mom’s last Tuesday morning. I stopped to get doughnuts, and while there remembered I hadn’t taken Jack to the bathroom! No way I’m starting a 6-hr trip with all bladders not emptied! We ran in after paying at the drive thru, and then we were down the road.

About 5 minutes later I realized that I should have packed the boys’ bikes to keep them occupied at Grand’s. About 10 minutes down the road I realized that though I’d made the boys take their medicines, Max had put the medicine bag back into the bathroom! For Max this isn’t the biggest deal…his nose will itch and he’ll sneeze more, but no biggie. For Jack: his nose will run clear until he gets his meds again. And the last time this happened it took 3 days on the meds for him to dry up. Ugh. 3 days of me constantly wiping and blowing his nose and telling him not to rub it on my bedspread/the couch/my shirt/etc. I pulled over and called Tj and he said I should go on. I threatened to have Max wipe Jack’s nose the whole time and then geared up and got back on the road. Then I remembered that I just hadn’t checked my checklist this morning before I left. I’d also meant to bring some cokes. Fortunately that’s all I forgot.

The trip was uneventful…the boys are great travelers, thankfully. Kel, Eric and Avery came that night, and Jo joined us too. We laughed and talked a ton; it was fun. Jo and her boys came again the next morn after Kel and I had been to the store for my salad (with walnuts, apples, feta and cranberries) and for the fixings for Kel to make 3 large batches of hot fudge sauce for her clients. We had a real spread! Turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, bbq beans, corn, dressing, broccoli casserole, marinated veg salad, Mom’s homemade rolls, and Arkansas green beans! It was all so good! We ate and relaxed a bit, then cleaned up so we could make Kel’s fudge sauce. We finished that up and she left around 4:30 (Eric can’t handle traffic). Ted came around 3pm, and after Kel and her gang left Papa felt up to sitting out with us and we had a good time talking some more.

The next day we went to Jo’s so I could get our marriage license from the safe, and then we headed to storage for a few things. I was so excited to find everything on my list…and of course a few extras! Aprons, another comforter, the hammock and hammock chair, whiteboard, legos, my tiny Christmas tree and the countdown calendar Grandmom made us for Christmas. After that we went back to Mom’s and she sewed my blackout curtains. Jo came over with more sewing…Mom took men’s dress shirts and made them into tunics for Jo to wear over leggings.

The next morning Mom and I went to Goodwill while Papa kept the boys; we bought 2 shirts for me and now I have my own tunics! They’re so cute! As soon as she was done the boys and I were out the door heading for home. We made it in time for supper: Tj ordered us a Marco’s pizza and I picked it up since they don’t deliver to us. I made sure Jack took his medicine that night…and surprisingly, I think his nose stopped running the next day!

The next morning we were being lazy. I got up to do something and saw that water was all over the floor! I ran to dump…water overflowed the toilet and wicked all along that side of the bus, then under the rug and under the kitchen table slide-out!!! When I dumped there was just water dripping all under the bus…from several places. I’m so thankful it was all clean water, but still!! I’m also so thankful that it hadn’t been dripping long…an hour or two at most, and that we already had a dehumidifier going. Tj went to the store and got a heat strip for our water hose so we shouldn’t need to run the water anymore.

The Jones were in Memphis that day so we met them for an early supper at the Memphis BBQ Co. The ribs were really good, but the brisket was just ok. We went out for ice cream after, and then they came back to our place for visiting. We put the kids in the bedroom with Max’s game and a movie on for Jack.

Sunday we stayed in bed super late! Then we had lunch at Brother Juniper’s. The open-faced omelet was wonderful! I’d never have thought of putting feta on an omelet but it really worked. We went to the Goodwill bookstore and bought a new book for Jack, a book for Tj, and a Chuck Norris DVD for Papa.

When we came home we dropped the boys off at the playground and Tj off at the bus and I went to buy us groceries. When I came home it was time to watch church because Tj had to leave early for the crash pad. He had really early days these next few days. School is going well for him, but it’s much harder than he anticipated.

Not a whole lot has happened in the two weeks it’s been since I blogged last. It’s kinda hard to want to blog when every day is the same, but I am thankful for easy-going days. We’ve been doing school and just learning to live in the bus.

Bus: we’ve had freezing nights lately, and that’s a whole new world for us! After 4 or so times I think I’ve figured out what to do to keep things running all night: run the kitchen faucet a tiny amount to keep the pipes from freezing…we’ll buy a pipe heater soon and probably won’t have to run the water during a freeze anymore; open all sink cabinets to allow their pipes access to the warmer room air; put the propane heater on 60 degrees just in case the electric heaters can’t keep up (though they haven’t had a problem so far); electric heater in the front has the dial straight up (though might make it warmer up there tonight…Max says he’s fine during the night but his hands are so cold when he gets up), the heater in the back bathroom has it’s dial about 10 o’clock (I woke up warm a couple of nights. Ugh); leave the bedroom door open and the noisy fan on blowing into our bedroom to circulate air and block sound.

We found out that our mid tank isn’t just black…it’s everything up front…kitchen sink, washer/dryer, front lav and toilet. Max went to use the bathroom 9am Saturday morning and the water level in the toilet was about 1/8″ from the toilet rim!!! God protected us from a run-over!! We were told the mid black was just the toilet, but running the sink all night filled up the tank to overflowing! We’ve had a couple of close calls with that tank…hopefully finally figuring this out will help keep this from happening.

We also got a dehumidifier…word is that winter brings a lot of humidity and that leads to mold growth. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!

Max: the last 5 or so school days he’s finished his school before lunch!! We went to the children’s museum in Memphis last Wednesday to celebrate. I’d forgotten we’d been there before, but it was familiar. Both boys loved the FedEx display where they sent packages up the conveyer belt, through a plane body and out the back. There was a slide there for Jack and Max got to fly a plane. Jack’s favorite was the pneumatic tubes with yarn balls and scarves to put through. We also played outside…basketball, seesaws for 4 people at once, and two zipline type slides, one with a full seat and one with a circle seat to sit on. It was a great day.

Yesterday Max and I put together the wooden motorcycle kit I got at Goodwill before our trip. I had to laugh…I’d started the kit while on our initial drive, but haven’t had time since. Getting back into it was kinda tough, there are so many pieces and the directions just said to match up the numbers, 1 to 1, 2 to 2, etc. I was tediously following the directions, but Max just said I can see from the (only) picture that this piece goes here…I wanted this to be a fun thing for us, not a lesson in following directions, so we did it his way. We only had to dismantle things a couple of times, and only have 3 pieces we don’t know where they go, but it looks magnificent! We had a great time.

Tj’s ear is slowly healing…he can hear out of it, but the sound is not back to normal yet.

Jack is doing well in school, but he’s so hard-headed. Right as we were leaving for this trip my biggest complaint was that reading with him was soooooo frustrating. He knew what to do, but I’m his hostage, and I can’t make him read if he doesn’t want to. That’s no longer the problem, he seems to enjoy reading now, I think he’s understanding more of what he’s reading. It’s still not a wonderful experience all around, but it no longer requires discipline every time. Math (and every other subject) is now the dreaded one. I swear he knows how to preform the ritual of the math problem. Read the problem out loud, mark the correct number of boxes for the first number, mark the correct number of boxes for the second number, count them all together, write down the answer. He knows this. He knows this. But he doesn’t do it. Or, really, he does it sometimes and not others. He isn’t consistent in saying only 1 number when he marks 1 box, and he’s very fond of guessing random numbers and saying them super excitedly as the answer. This too will pass. I know. But I might die before it does.

Well, I need to pack for our Thanksgiving trip tomorrow. We were all going to Mom’s, but with all the craziness with the bus Tj thinks it’s best for him to stay here. I love living in this bus, but I’ll love it even better when we stop having to learn so much.

Almost forgot to say, this morning the radio wouldn’t come on…come to find out the bus battery was almost dead. Tj and I texted back and forth a good bit before remembering to try starting it with the emergency start. Thankfully that worked! It’s always something!

4 Nov Fri
I slept horribly last night but was out of bed at 8:30am for school. I did a lot of wash today, took a walk, and started a food journal. School went well enough that I was able to take an hour and a half nap, woot!

Tj came home around 4:30 and he’d picked up our new printer! It’s so nice to have one, I’ve drawn many a sheet for Jack to work on and am eagerly anticipating printing out a ton now :-) For some reason our internet started working poorly after my nap…Tj had a hard time downloading the driver (or whatever it was he needed) to set up the printer. We finally gave up and went out to eat at Dale’s. I ordered 2 servings of their mashed potatoes with white gravy but I was not impressed…it was a little sweet. When we got back Tj was finally able to get the printer working, then he left for his pad.

I forget exactly what day it was but one day this week we finally figured out how to get Jack to shower by himself…what a blessing! I started off having Max shower first, then having him set up the water temp for Jack and leaving the water on, just not flowing. After a few times getting soaked while trying to start the water flowing I figured out a way to have the shower head at the right height for Jack and angled away from the door opening. Hallelujah!

I’m starting to double up on flonase…my nose is just extra itchy and I’m sneezing a little more. Hopefully this will take care of the problem.

5 Nov Sat
We got out of bed around 10am. Late mornings are so luxurious! Jack and I went to the Goodwill bookstore, then to Shipley’s, then to get cash and to the Salvation Army store where I saw Leslie! We were heading to Goodwill when I saw another thrift store on the way. Out of all those stores and the Goodwill I only bought 1 corelle plate! It was not our day.

We headed to Walmart for groceries (and to buy a buttload of paper for our new printer) when I saw Aldi across the street. I’ve been wanting to get some more of those awesome salami rounds so we stopped in there, and after going through all the aisles I’ve decided I should always go there before Wal-Mart.

We went home and I took the boys to jump at the big pillow at the front of the campground…that thing is kinda fun! We had cereal for supper and watched Lord of the Rings until Tj came home, then he and I watched tons of Parks and Rec. I’m gonna be so sad when we’re finished with that series.

6 Nov Sun
Jack prayed this morning, “Thank you God for this day. Make fried egg sandwich. Cheese on bread. Mayonnaise on bread. I need help mayonnaise on bread please Daddy. Amen”

Our internet’s still wonky so it took forever to dl the sermon; we finally watched it before supper.

We were good Christians today and took a nap :-) Nothing much else to say.

7 Nov Mon
No sign of any roaches or any more bugs for that matter, thankfully.

I printed up a storm…found a lot of good stuff for Jack. He still doesn’t seem to ‘understand’ numbers, but he knows how to perform a simple addition problem. He doesn’t always follow the setup I have for him (roll the dice, write the first number plus the second number equals, color the appropriate number of boxes or lay out the appropriate number of coins, count them all together, write the answer), his favorite thing to do is to say in a completely excited voice, “1 plus 5 equals 5!!!” or whatever number strikes his fancy. His handwriting is improving, though. He often has many letters on the line, and usually has the letters of a word grouped together. His reading is still steadily improving, which is wonderful.

Max is doing great in school as well, and Monarch is a lifesaver. He’s getting A’s in 6th grade Bible and 7th grade Language Arts and B’s in 6th grade History/Geography, 6th grade Science and 8th grade Math.