Monday, November 19, 2012

Aaaaand... that's a wrap!

Yes, I know it's not been a full first year yet. That won't happen for another 5-6 weeks, but we had our last big hurrah early!

A few years ago, before talk of full timing with the band had even begun, Michael dreamed of us going on a vacation to Disney World with the kids and playing our way there. At the time I suppose we didn't consider taking the really LOOOONG way there, but we did get there!

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It. Was. Awesome! So awesome it ruined me on fun for a time. In an effort to take in as much as possible with all the things one can see in every area we have traveled since hitting Pennsylvania, we pretty much wore ourselves out. The grown-up "ourselves", that is. I'm sure the younger two would keep going indefinitely.

However, if you're going to wear out your capacity for fun, Disney is the place to do it. I am in awe over their whole business model. Everything in and around the area is designed to part you with your money, but unlike other places that attempt that feat, Disney makes you desperately excited to see it go at every turn, inspires you to look for more places to contribute to their part-you-with-your-money goal, and sends you merrily on your way, dreaming of the time you can come back someday to throw even more money at them. They are the masters, and we loved them for it, despite our usually insane frugal mentalities.

The kids busked and saved their earnings for months, sometimes playing with tired voices, fingers, hot, cold, and weary, but they succeeded and enjoyed every minute of the trip. Grandma Susan joined us and the twins stayed at her hotel room with park-hopper passes. They were park hopping fools, sometimes late into the night when the Magic Kingdom had extended hours. The younger two were just hyper from the lights, music, loud sounds, rides, and all sugared up all four days. The after-Disney hangover has begun and we're fighting off weariness and some minor illnesses, but I think everyone would agree it was worth it.

Here is where I end this post and simply let the pictures speak for themselves. Thank you, Lord, we did it! He did it, really, finding us unexpected places to play and stretching the money we had to live off of for our first frightening and vulnerable year out on the road. I am very grateful for every moment, most especially learning to trust in the every day grace we needed to keep going.










Next stop: Texas and, Lord willing, a slower period of time over the winter. Should God's providence allow, we'll loop the eastern part of the country and find ourselves in Florida again next year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

O Blogging, Where Art Thou?

When I started this blog, one of the biggest reasons was to document our journey, not only from a standpoint of "we went here, then here", but some of the thoughts along the journey and internal aspects you don't always see in a simple picture travel blog. (Snore.) Somewhere along the line I lost my interest, and I can't pinpoint where that happened. I has become a bit too simplistic to the point where I'm not sure I'd have much interest in reading it myself. I am not sure how to recover the original intent, but when the writing bug strikes, I suppose I should grab it, without worry over length.

We've passed 10 months on the road. The sacrifices financially and materially have shown themselves to be anything but sacrifices. Some people say they dream of doing what we have done, and others cannot imagine how we tolerate it all. First, there are 6 of us in under 300 square feet, not to mention the grumpy cat. Even so, laughter far outweighs conflict. Yes, even when children are children and hit new stages, like the ability to argue with a post until the post turns purple and falls over (not mentioning names), or when tired and hungry raises the pitch of a little voice several octaves. That would occur in a house, bus, or igloo. Seven-year-olds will still get whiny when tired, and twelve-year-old boys will still prove every psychologist who ever studied developmental psychology to be nothing but quacks when they suggest refusing to give in or providing consequences for arguing will stop the behavior in all children. This will be true whether in a bus, out on the prairie, or living in a cave. Eh-hem. 'Nuff said. LOL!

What we do have to live with includes things rather easy to survive without, though people don't realize it in today's modern world. No eating out, pretty much ever because not in the budget, nor is a purified diet of organically grown, hand mixed, Asian dumplings with sauce made from a raw young coconut. Dumpy cheap phone service, so no touch screen, Angry Birds, or 4G network. Thrift shop clothing and hand-me-downs. No cable TV (yay!), few DVDs (redbox works), and no bookshelves. Ok, that one would be beyond what many can handle, but books aren't in the budget anyway, so e-readers can provide some public domain classics, and we sometimes read and return books in the exchange libraries found at many RV parks. Honestly, what on that list, besides the Asian dumplings, is necessary?

Some of the things we live without have even shown to be a blessing. We go without a regular paycheck. This means we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to learning to trust God for our future. We left behind our grain storage we had for economic hard times too, which turned out to be a foolish investment when Michael got metabolic syndrome and couldn't handle the carbs, then Mary was diagnosed gluten intolerant. It just goes to show you that sometimes, if you can't make the trust leap yourself, you get pushed! Health care is another one. We couldn't figure out how to pay the outrageous prices, but we are praying for provision to enroll in one of those Christian Health Shares very soon. In the end, we really only need a level of catastrophic coverage because we added up all we spent this year on medical care, including a trip to the emergency room with Mary, as well as Michael's blood-work and meds, and it was FAR less than we'd pay for full coverage on any insurance. So, that has been a life lesson learned.

Well, let's get on to the most obvious benefits, shall we? 

First is, of course, is all that gushy family unity stuff. I admit, touchy-feeling is something this family isn't particularly good at, and I can't bring myself to fully go there or my children will look at me like I sprouted 2 heads. We laugh a lot, talk a lot, play music together a lot, and when we get sick of socializing with other people, we go hang out in the bus with the people who are not "other people".  I think that covers a whole lot right there.

Friends. Now that's a big one! I've mentioned before the hospitality we've received in the first half of our journey. The second half was no different! We are honored to be welcomed into the home of so many during our travels, including parking the bus at the Farley's house for a whole week, where they gladly let us make our messes, showed us around D.C., and treated it all like we were family.

We left that area and headed to Virginia to meet the Hollmans who invited us to dinner, let me ship packages, and then stuffed my daughters with books to read. Last, but certainly not least, the Knotts family, with their fine North Carolina hospitality, an evening drive in Dolly the Bus, livermush, cheerwine, grits, and wonderful fellowship. Honestly, I don't know that I could have been so welcoming myself. I tended to stress over visitors, when it came to the state of the house, entertaining, or what to feed everyone, so I often avoided it. I'm in awe at the kindness we always receive so far beyond what we have provided. That's the way of things sometimes though, isn't it? We have a Savior who gave what we could never give, and then we are given friends who give us what we could not give ourselves. Fitting lesson there, and quite humbling.

The rest of the fun times are easy to imagine. Part of the beauty of playing in a band is the places you get to play. I think my kids have seen more bounce houses this year than most kids see in their life. Balloon festivals, harvest festivals, fairs, city events... you name it.





Personal responsibility is one of those unexpected perks. We have planned all year to end our first year with a few days at Disney World. The problem was, of course, that Disney World tickets are very expensive and we are not in a position to buy-now-pay-later on anything. So, we let the kids save with the smaller cuts they'd get from larger playing gigs, and we hunted down busking opportunities.
 Busking money is *all* kid money this year, and all of it in the last few months went towards Disney money. Some days it was cold, other days it was hot. Sometimes they were tired, fingers sore, voices weary, but they got in there and played, gathered a crowd, and earned that money! Tickets are now waiting for us in Orlando. We'll go get them on Thursday and Lord willing, meet the Mouse guy next Monday!
 RV Parks can be the best and worst in the travels. A bad RV park can ruin a week, but a good one provides so much fun, you start to worry that your children will be ruined from excessive expectations towards entertainment. They are also great places for holidays. Trick-or-treating, more bounce houses, bingo, crafts, and lots of other kids to run amok with.

 Batgirl and an Angry Bird pig had a great time!
 Sights to see! New places sometimes mean new and exciting man-made structures, but some of the most interesting things has been the subtle changes in the types of trees and the bird sounds. Such things are harder to describe, but add more to the richness of the experience than just the structures alone. Then there are other little things, like the smell and thickness of the air, the accents of the people around you, and even the names of the local grocery stores!


Variations in ocean waves were something I had forgotten about. The gulf coast off South and North Padre Islands are more calm and shallow than the area we were at the Atlantic, though only by degree. The sand was different, as were even many of the sea shells and how they congregated. I look forward to meeting more coastlines in the future.

 This week returned us to the land of palm trees, where we'll stay for the remainder of the winter months. Next week we head to the Orlando area, Disney World, then stick around to get in some heavy practicing Thanksgiving week to prepare our Christmas show. By the end of the month we'll make our journey to Texas, staying in Rockport for a month, then over to the McAllen/Mission area to play some music through March, when we build a new adventure for 2013.