Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Visiting the Bradfords

We're back in our old "hometown" again, this time primarily for Steve to get his dental work (crown) taken care of, spent a little time "in the office" working on a project for work, and of course, catch up with friends and family.  We included a dreaded visit to storage...seriously, I hate going to storage and seeing if we can possibly squeeze in any more items we "may" need or want later, while simultaneously trying to prevent anything from accidentally falling out.  It's really not fun...but what IS fun is that my sister lives not so terribly far from storage, so we can always combine a trip to storage with a visit to her place!  The cousins had a blast playing together all afternoon, and my sister cooked a yummy homemade dinner with fresh, homemade bread that we all enjoyed!  The night ended with watching Monster Truck videos on the computer and little gifts for the girls.  My kids were delighted...gifts don't come so often these days!  Great times indeed!

This was right before we ordered them outside since the weather was so nice!
Alahni watching over her cousin Jake
Nothing like a rousing game of 'Attack Uncle Steve'
You don't mind if I just grab your hair...
Genna is not one to miss out on getting snuggles.
Kisses for Aunt Wanda
Thavyn and Genna are just two months apart in age...and they both have a "finger thing"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Still in Texas - Conroe

Now that we've been in the state of Texas for more than two consecutive months, I realize that this full-timing has a dramatically different feel to it than it did when we started out.  There's still unpredictability, and there's still challenges, but we've definitely s-l-o-w-e-d down...at least for now.  We are finishing up more condo-time, which is easy on the budget, and in many ways, just easier (plenty of baths for the littles, no trips to bathhouses, endless amounts of hot water, and dishwashers!).  We've spent the last week here in Conroe, Texas, outside of Houston.  Steve has been working again...and that's a good thing, because he was definitely starting to feel uptight about the spending of money without any replenishment going on.  Besides working, we've been swimming daily (loving that!!).  Steve also took the big girls to play mini-golf, archery, and shuffleboard.  And of course, we celebrated Shanan's birthday.  She was delighted to choose lots of side dishes; in the RV, I cook more simply, often one-pot meals, so it's a rare day when we have more than one side with a meal!

They had a really nice mini golf course there
The girls had never tried archery before
After much trying they both were able to hit the target
We saw this pretty moth on our door when the Goldens were visiting
Jakeman trying to take up as much of the bed as possible
We played lots of shuffleboard and the girls got quite good

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Golden Gang

While staying in Conroe, we had the opportunity to meet another full-timing family whose blog we follow & get lots of ideas from, the Goldens.  The condo we are staying at has a great, warm, indoor pool, so it was a perfect opportunity for the kids to romp & play in the water while the grownups had a chance to trade stories & get to know each other.  Since both of our families are used to tight spaces, it didn't seem to be a big deal at all to have eight kids (their oldest was with his grandparents) and four adults in a two-bedroom condo!  The kids enjoyed a rousing game of hide'n seek while we swapped stories of life on the road.  It was great to see our kids all getting along so fabulously!  Parker & Genna had a spontaneous hug that we just missed capturing on camera.  Jake was delighted to see so many kids, especially two boys, and he was unafraid to wander right into the midst of all that action!

So glad we got a chance to meet you & your sweet family, Todd & Steph!  Here's to hoping our paths cross on the road again!

Cookie time
The kids had a blast playing in the back bedrooms
Bed gymnastics
Jake had fun playing with Parker
Emily was happy to convince Jake to let her hold him
Jake finally went to Stephanie at the end of the night

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Birthday!!!

With the advent of the new year, we embarked upon birthday season in our household.  It's kind of cool that in our family, we have a birthday every month from January to July, except May!  Jake is first in the string of birthdays, followed by Shanan. When the big girls were quite little, we started a Zavocki birthday tradition.  Steve got them flowers & a balloon, and the birthday girl gets to plan her birthday meals as well as choose her own cake.  Obviously, once Jake is old enough, we'll have to modify slightly for his little masculine tastes. ;)  It's always fun to see what ends up on the menu for each kid each year!  This year, Shanan chose crepes for breakfast.  If we were still in Flower Mound, she would have chosen lunch at her favorite Vietnamese restaurant, but since we aren't there, we'll have to make good on that when we return for a visit!  Instead, I made chicken and quinoa vegetable soup, and she was happy! For dinner, she picked chicken orzo bake (sans the lemon & dill) with corn, broccoli, beets, and beet greens!  For dessert, she chose ice cream cake (with chocolate and caramel ice cream).  It was a super yummy food day, for sure!

We didn't have a vase so a decorated milk jug will have to do

Each time someone has a birthday, I take a little trip down memory lane.  It's hard to believe that eleven years ago today, I accomplished what was, at that time, the hardest thing I'd ever done in my 23 years of life...I gave birth to an 8 lb 13 oz, 21" long, beautiful baby girl.  We didn't find out what we were having in advance, but we had a pretty good clue we were having a girl.  The night before I took the pregnancy test, both Steve & I had the exact same dream---simply that I was pregnant, and it was a girl.  How awesome is that??!?

What an amazing gift we've been given!  Looking back, I was still just a kid, so naive and totally & completely unprepared for motherhood.  Oh, how many ways I have screwed up over the years, and yet, God is merciful and forgiving, and kids are resilient!  I regret to inform you, Shanan, but you are indeed our guinea pig!  We love you and adore you and we are so blessed to have you for a daughter.  You are beautiful, bright, creative, and ambitious.  I love watching you care for and fall in love with your younger siblings!  You are becoming an amazing, Godly young lady that we are immensely proud of!  Happy eleventh birthday, sweet Shanan!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Our Little Communicator

Now that Jake's one year old, he's really had quite the developmental leap!  Just days before his first birthday, he decided to embrace walking, and now, he hardly ever crawls.  He is one busy, busy boy!  In addition to walking, he's really, really getting into playing with toys.  He loooves playing duplos, Little People, Barbies, and even trucks now!  Walking aside, his latest and greatest milestone is definitely communicating!  I'm happy to report that he, like Genna, quickly latched on to sign language.  I never used it with my first two, but I love, love, using sign language with babies!  He learned please, thank you, drink, and milk pretty quickly.  He still yells, for sure, but it is definitely less because he is better able to tell us what he wants...or rather, we're better able to understand what he wants.  He's also starting to speak some.  The other day, he said, "Mama," and I answered him, "Jake."  He paused a second and then said quite clearly, "Jake!" Soo cute!  Steve is often "Da-du" and so far, we haven't figured out what names he'll use for his big sisters.  However, he nearly always bellows loudly when Genna walks away from him.  They are becoming quite the playmates!  One of my favorite things about parenting is watching the relationships between siblings grow & blossom.  Getting to witness that makes my heart full!

Another fun thing about this little guy is that he is truly Daddy's Little Buddy.  Our girls did not have this kind of access to their daddy at this age, and while they loved him, he just wasn't involved in the daily grind of caring for them.  It has been awesome to have Steve around to help get Jake to sleep, to help feed him, to help change diapers, etc.  It definitely shows in their relationship!  Jake still loves his mama, but he often eats better & settles down to sleep better & faster for his daddy.  He also toddles over to him & lavishes him with hugs & kisses.  It is such a blessing to see this father-son relationship develop between my two favorite boys!

Jake lounging on his daddy atop of Enchanted Rock

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rainbow's End and Laundry Fairies

Battleship Texas
We decided to overnight and pick up our mail from our mail service (as well as renew our mail service for another year) en route from Galveston to Conroe.   Along the way, we attempted to visit the Battleship Texas and the San Jacento battlefield and monument.   We did stop there but Genna started complaining her head hurt and threw up, so we made the decision to continue on to Livingston.  I had a sneaking suspicious she might have been dehydrated because we were so busy playing on the beach the day before that I had trouble getting her to drink.  Either way, Tylenol, lots of fluids, and lots of sleep cured what ailed her, and she awoke happy & full of charm near our destination!

San Jacinto Monument
The Escapees National Headquarters is in Livingston, Texas.  We use them primarily for their mail service, so now we can actually say we've been "home," or at least we've visited our mailing address!  Rainbow's End RV Park is a happening little big place!  Although we only spent one night here, we were all impressed with how friendly most of the people we saw were.  Minutes after arriving, a guy popped over with some petrified wood for the kids; it's all over the ground in the park here.  Others smiled and said hi---no avoiding eye contact here!

Our spot here was conveniently located directly across from the laundry, since we decided not to unhitch, and we needed to do laundry again.  I love how cheap it is to do laundry at Escapees parks--$1 to wash and $1 to dry! I was bummed when I realized two loads didn't dry well.  Of course, I only had just enough quarters to wash and run the clothes through a single dry cycle, & it was after hours, so I couldn't get more.  I should totally know better by now!  Nonetheless, I ran to the laundry to put the final load in the dryer, and lo and behold, a little laundry fairy had moved the load from the washer to the dryer and started it for me!  Not only was our laundry done sooner, but now  I had exactly four quarters remaining to re-dry all the clothes that were still super damp!!  Love it when God takes care of the smallest of details just for me!

Here is Shanan in front of "our" street
This "RV" was parked near us.  There are all kinds of people...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Galveston -- Another Beach Attempt

We saw another opportunity to hit the beach, and since our Padre Island beach experience wasn't quite as fabulous as we were hoping for, we decided to go for it.  Once again, we were able to use our timeshare and stay in a condo while parking the rig.  It's been nice to cut lodging & fuel costs this month as all the driving in Dallas and eating out resulted in much higher expenses than we can afford to make a habit without an income.

Even though the weather wasn't as clear and sunny as we would have wished for, it was still good for playing on the beach!  We just stayed here three nights, two full days, and we packed in as much fun on the beach as could manage. The beach here was much nicer than it was on North Padre.  Not only was it cleaner, we didn't see a single Man-O-War!!  There were also lots of shells!  These beautiful, pastel colored coquina shells were everywhere while we were here.  They look like delightful, dainty little butterflies all over the sand.  I collected them, thinking they would could make awesome crafts that we could display in the rig.  Sure enough, I ran into a former elementary art teacher that lives in a house right on the beach, and she told me the name of the shell, as well as how to glue the hinge so it doesn't get brittle and break.

In addition to the coquinas, we also saw lots of these beautiful moon snails.  Unfortunately, most of these guys were still very much alive, but Alyssa found a vacant shell!  Shanan found a very small, vacant one, as well.  And we had seen gobs of what looked liked a rubbery disk-like trash on the beach.  There was so much of it that we knew it must be something natural, but we had no idea what!  Turns out, while researching the coquinas, I found this blog that explained it---they are the egg cases of the moon snails, also known as sand collars!  The other treasure we found was an intact sundial shell!  Walking on the beach brings out the kid in me; searching for these little treasures, evidence of God's limitless creativity, never grows old!

Of course, there was more playing in the sand, too.  The weather was warm enough that Jake fearlessly ran into the surf and giggled when the waves crashed on his little thighs.  He would run and play until he wore himself completely out!  We definitely have to watch this little guy closely, but it is just so fun to watch our kids enjoy themselves so much!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Victoria, Texas

What on earth is in Victoria, Texas, you may ask??  A really quiet, clean, city-run RV park for just $12/night for full hook-ups.  No bathhouse, but with full hook-ups that's no problem.  Wow...we were impressed with this little campground!  There are only 18 sites, and they are first-come, first-served, but there were 3 spots remaining when we arrived.  This place is definitely a gem!  Even though it is next to the road, the road noise is minimal, though there are some loud trains at times...can't say they bothered us though.  Some of the sites are really awesome, with lots of space (those were full), but even the others are spacious enough for the kids to get out and play between the sites.  Plus, there's an open, grassy area that separates the two campsite areas that the kids can play in.  It's also not far to several playgrounds and fishing areas at Riverside Park.

Victoria is distinguished as the only county where all six flags have actually flown over Texas.  This is such a neat little city!  We went to The Texas Zoo here, just about two miles from the RV park.  This is a small but totally awesome zoo!  We arrived shortly after it opened at nine, and the animals were really active.  One of the tigers was pacing and roaring a bit, and we later learned that she doesn't care for hats (everyone except Steve was wearing one since it was cold out), and she especially doesn't like the color red (Jake's hat was red)!

The aviary was pretty cool because the birds were allowed to roam free, so they actually got quite close to you.  There was a bright green parrot named "Steve" that is super friendly ('tho he also bites & has a particular fondness for chewing on shoes) that came right up to us.  Outside the aviary, there are peacocks roaming around, as well.
These monkeys were locked in a long embrace
This turkey was beautiful, if you can get over the ugly head

We especially enjoyed the lions, two female Barbary lions.  They were right up against the glass and interacted with the kids.  They also played with toys and wrestled a bit, giving us a great show!

Right as we were leaving, two school buses of small kids arrived, so we were delighted that our timing was so perfect!  What an awesome little zoo!

Steve also took the kids to the Children's Discovery Museum here.  I stayed back in blogging purgatory...hey, it's not so bad when I can hear myself think, and I don't have to sacrifice sleep to do it!

Other than that, we hung out at the Public Library, much to the kids delight.  Even though we couldn't check out books, they were delighted to be around so many books again!  We definitely miss the library and even our own somewhat formidable collection of books.  Now you know much of the contents of our little 5x5 storage unit!

At the library, notice Jake asleep on the chair
Victoria also has a historical driving tour, and although we didn't stop by the Visitor Center and get the info for it, we did spend an evening driving around, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the beautiful old houses and absolutely spectacular old trees!  Guess we were too busy enjoying it to remember to take pictures though!  When we got back to the RV, Genna expressed great frustration that "We didn't pick a house!!" Lol...there are definitely times we still long for the good things about living in a regular house.  Interestingly enough, though, as time keeps ticking, and we realize that there will indeed come a day when we will kiss this lifestyle good-bye, we are ever more cognizant of how bittersweet that will be.  Though this has certainly been challenging to adjust to, it will be just as challenging, I think, to re-adjust to "the way things used to be."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Padre Island National Seashore

After slaying the laundry monster & drying out from the rain, we took off to Padre Island National Seashore.  The sun actually peeked through the clouds and even showed us its face!  What a refreshing change from Padre Balli Park!  This was a popular spot, and it's easy to see why! At just $8/night for dry camping here, the view is way better, and the beaches are way cleaner.  No doubt, there's still plenty of trash that washes in from the strong currents in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is waaaay cleaner than at Padre Balli.  And if you're not a wimp when it comes to cold showers, you can even have showers here.  Note...I AM a wimp.  I have to be pretty desperate to take an icy cold shower.  Odd thing is, they have hot water in the faucets in the bathroom, just not in the showers.

We were impressed with the volunteers manning the Visitor Center here at the park when we arrived.  They really took to our kids and shared a lot of knowledge with them!  The touch table with the various shells, bones, and sea beans was really awesome!  The big girls and I also went on a birding tour one morning  and saw 30 different birds!  We even learned to identify a few of them. :)  We're not birders, but the couple that led it did such an awesome job of catering to our inexperience and lack of knowledge and made it interesting.  I'm pretty glad that God didn't make us humans like the white pelicans that grow a large bump on their beaks to attract a mate!
The girls impressed the lady at the visitor center with their marine knowledge
The paved road ends here
The road continues on the beach for miles and miles

The weather here was still pretty cool and windy, but we did enjoy ourselves.  The girls built sand castles, Jake tried his hardest to catch shore birds and sneak into the surf, and we all dodged the seemingly millions of dead Portuguese Man-of-War on the beach.  There were also lots of dead fish and even some birds.  We were told a red tide had just ended in January, and animals that eat the fish get neurotoxins that often lead to their demise.  Kinda gross but all part of the circle of life.  We were a bit bummed that there weren't more shells though.  I got the big girls up early on our last day for a final walk on the beach to see if there were more shells at low tide, but there still wasn't much!
Loggerhead Shrike that Mom and the girls saw on their birding adventure
Jake man had a grand time playing in the sand
Then he decided to just walk into the ocean
Alyssa's sand castle
Shanan's sand castle
I will admit that I was also a bit bummed that we didn't make it down to South Padre Island, but that would have been another 200 miles each way to get there (think $$ for diesel), and since the weather wasn't that much better than on North Padre, Steve wasn't persuadable.  Oh well....maybe one day...