Dec 1, 2014

RV tour, week 3

We have had a few requests for a home tour now that we are living in it.

You know, I remember reading once that a lot of full-timing families get requests for them to audition for a reality TV show.  The crew comes and films them for a day, and the ultimately decide not to follow through with it because living in an RV is surprisingly similar to living in a sticks and bricks, and rather boring on a day-to-day basis.  It's the field trips that make the lifestyle exciting, but they don't happen every day.

We are still fixing up the RV.  It rained this weekend and we haven't finished fixing the roof yet, but the tarp worked great.  We were warm and dry and hay a yummy chicken stew.

The motorhome is smogged and registered now, so we can drive it and stay at campgrounds now.  Yay!  Small steps.

My next post will be about homeschooling, and sharing what materials made the cut.


Nov 21, 2014

Our first week living in an RV

Well, we've done it!  We live in an RV.

Here's the TMI rundown, for anyone interested.  This week has been a time for making our ship sea-worthy.  Yep, we put the cart before the horse and moved in.  This week we just barely failed the smog test, and took it to San Bernadino where a mechanic worked on it in his yard after his day job.  He said we have a great engine, it just needed a tune-up.  We thought our fuel-gage was broken, but once we decided not to fix it up now and put more gas in the tank, it started working.  Yay!  Michael has been hard at work on the roof, and a young man in our congregation has been helping him.  Soon we won't have to put a tarp up there every time the dew point threatens us.  I know it rains a bit here in December, so that's our priority.  We found out our sewage system works great, and that was a relief since we used it before testing it.  Something's not right with our water pump, so we've been hauling water in.  Fortunately the reservoir works, so we can dump water down the sink.  This week we are still parked in our land-lady's yard, and have had electricity and internet that way.  So there's the details.  Overall, I'm feeling excited about this transition.  I've really wanted this life, and there's a part of me that has to pinch myself wondering if we've really taken this step.  Now all we need to do is get a location-independent income coming in and we can hit the road.  In the meantime, Michael is still doing solar.  Maybe the RV life will be handy for that since Michael's boss is working on opening a few new areas and we could easily move to those areas.  It's a big motorhome and we have plenty of space to store the things we use most often.  We took everything but the bare essentials to the storage unit and have slowly been moving more of the luxeries into the RV as we have wanted them and know we had space for them.  We've even started doing school again.  I'm looking forward to using fewer materials, but using them consistently.

Here's a bedtime moment I captured, I hope you enjoy it!


Nov 1, 2014

Update

Our life has been a little crazy lately, with a lot of unanswered questions as far as what we are doing and where we are living.  I haven't been able to give people a straight answer because, well, we don't know ourselves what we are doing.  Ha!  "Lead Kindly Light" has been an inspiring song for Michael and I as we keep coming back to the line "One step enough for me."

Did we move out of our home?  Yes, a week ago.

Did we sell our motorhome?  No, the lovebirds that were going to sail off into the sunset in it broke up, and the second potential buyer's home buyer fell through.  We have a few other people interested in it, we still might sell it.

Wait, you're selling your motorhome?  Well, we did put it up for sale because we were thinking that we bit off more than we could chew with the leaky roof and some other repairs that needed to be done.  I also wonder about having such a big rig, especially when we start to travel.  But now we're wondering if we should just fix it up anyway at this point.  At any rate, we still own it.

Is Michael still doing solar?  Yes.  We're going to give it another go.  We have struggled with sales, but there are some great potential deals in the pipeline.  But we are also moving forward with other business pursuits to keep our family afloat, namely my music website, www.teaching-children-music.com.  I've been working hard behind the scenes to make some new materials, and I'm actually very excited about them.  Internet marketing has been a dream of Michael's, and making music materials has been a long-time dream of mine, so I am hopeful that we can make it work together.

Where are you now?  We are visiting Utah.  When we thought we had sold the motorhome, we made plans to visit family until we could purchase a new rig and get our feet under us again.  We feel like we needed to visit our elderly grandfathers, and it's always nice to see our siblings and parents.  We went to Cache valley for a few days and we are now in Vernal.  But we plan on going back to California early next week.  Our landlady would probably appreciate it if we didn't keep the motorhome in her driveway indefinitely.  She's been an angel to work with.  My Dad was able to give Michael some great pointers on RV repair, as well as some aluminum he's had in storage for some time that will aid in a do-it-yourself roof repair that feels more doable now.  We're not homeless, we've got an RV.

Money has been very tight, but we purchased a Legoland pass last January, and we had a wonderful opportunity to go Brick-or-Treating before we moved.  It feels a little surreal to be pinching pennies like we have, and to sandwich a theme park visit in the middle.  It was so enchanting.  While most of the things they passed out along the Brick-or-Treat trail was small treats, there was actually a $10 Lego set at one stall- how neat!  At the end of the day, we happened to be on the boat ride when they paused the ride so we could enjoy the fireworks.  There wasn't a better place to watch them in the whole park.  There were people on stilts, jugglers, and loads of extra little attractions, such as an futuristic girl with a theremin-type contraption to communicate with aliens, and a man in a fortune-telling booth that scared the kids because they didn't expect to see a real man in an arcade-like box.  We went swimming in the Lego Chima wave pool too.  Imagine that in October!  Anyway, we have really enjoyed our Legoland passes and have made some great memories there.

How are the kids?  They've been real troopers.  I'm impressed with how they have taken everything in stride.  With the crazy move, I let them have a lot of screen time and we have developed some bad habits.  School hasn't been a priority this last month; I've been resting on my laurels in a way I know I wouldn't have if they were "behind".  But I did bring supplies with us, and we started up again here in Vernal.  I love doing school with them, and it's been nice for Grandma and Grandpa Spackman to see what we do.  Piano has been a great exception to our slacking nature during the chaos.  Something has clicked for Peter and Helen and they now rather enjoy piano and they need little prompting to practice, especially Helen.  Yay!  They are also starting Saxon 5/4, which is a big milestone for us.  Having the two big kids doing mostly the same work has been very nice for me.  Peter is more advanced by his own right, but it shows more in his reading material than anything else.  Peter doesn't like writing and Helen loves it, so there you have it.  We struggle with writing and spelling, but we are working on it.  Patrick is playing Big Brainz by himself, and is working through the John Thompson primer.  Ruth is mostly just playing starfall lately, just because she can do it on her own.  I do the BrillKids programs with her, including a few books I brought with us, but that's about it.  I also brought our educational DVDs which we use sporadically.  She is beginning to sing more, and overall is becoming more verbal.  Philip is beginning to crawl and sit up on his own.  He is friendly and lets most people hold him.  He gets a lot of compliments both on what a big baby he is, and especially what a happy baby he is.  It's true, he really is a little sunshine in our life.  Assuming he gets to be a part of the action, that is.  Like most babies, he prefers to be held most of the time.  It's been so nice to visit family.

A new chapter of our life is starting soon!

Oct 6, 2014

Kickster Campaign for a Location Independent income

Things have been crazy at our home lately.  We are moving into our RV in 12 (TWELVE!) days!  While I have dreamed about this move for a long time, now that it is at our doorstep, I'm starting to 2nd-guess myself, lol.  No, this is a good thing for us, the kids are excited, and we'll make all the little hurdles happen.

In the meantime, my husband is still doing Solar, and that will continue to be our main source of income until we can work something else out.  I am truly hopeful that it will be the dream expressed in our Kickstarter Campaign.  It's great for homeschoolers, musicians, and anyone wanting to teach children music, and I really do think we are offering a lot of value.  Please check it out if you feel inclined.  Thank you.  :)

Jul 25, 2014

We bought a motorhome!

This post marks a big change for our family.  A time when dreams of RV living start to have a solid foundation of becoming a reality.  We are now actual owners of a motorhome.  This post is dedicated to the "Why now", the "How", and the "Why this one?" But first, a video tour, because videos are so much cooler than text, and let's be honest, that's what the majority of my readers want to see anyway.



Sweet.  So...  Why now?

Well, ultimately it boils down to our family wondering if this home is a safe place for our kids.  Now granted, Norco is an awesome place, and having a house that is hidden in a back yard that's not visible from the street, as well as having a closed yard with no access to the street has been a big plus.  Our landlady is really awesome and her son is sweet.  And the price of rent is right.  It's just that, well, the previous tenant smoked in this home, and it's just so-o-o hard for a home to recover.  We've got fans running full-time to circulate the air, we did a lot to fix the place up, scraping the ceiling, painting, replacing the carpet, etc.  I love the layout of this home, and I certainly don't mind the size.  Well, we left for a week and the air just sat.  When we came back, it smelled like someone had just smoked in the room.  We realized that no matter what we do, that smell is never going to really go away, and we worry about what the air will do for us and our kids.  Certainly we are in no imminent danger, but because of this situation, we started talking about an exit strategy.  We know we were really, REALLY lucky to find a place so affordable in Norco (we don't believe in coincidences, and we truly feel we were SUPPOSED to move here, even though we knew about the smoke issue before we moved in).  We know we would be hard pressed to find something better in a stick and bricks home.  There's also the elephant in the room, being the fact that I WANT TO LIVE IN AN RV.  This is a dream I have been chasing for some time now.  So what does a girl like that do when she wants to change her living environment?  She gets on Craigslist.  And it just so happens that I found a nice motorhome that fit the parameters I thought would be ideal for our family.  And it was a good price.  So I showed Michael, we contacted the seller, and a week later after taking care of financial arrangements, we brought it home.  We need to fix it up a bit, so we won't be moving in right away, but it's there in the driveway, clean but a bit dusty, waiting for us to make it uniquely ours.

HOW?

This one is a bit personal, but so many people have asked, I might as well be public about it, since that's what bloggers do and it's not a secret really.  So, Michael's first solar gig didn't work out so well for us, and we are transitioning into a new job.  Money has really never, ever been so tight for us.  Those in our close circles who know about this have been rather shocked that we would be capable of paying for a giant rig.  Someone even asked us if we are independently wealthy.   Ha!  No, but wouldn't that be nice?  The reason we were able to pay for it is actually very simple.  We drew money out of our Whole Life Insurance policy.  It's as simple as that.  We borrowed money from ourselves, from our future retirement fund to pay cash for a house.  And now we own our own home.  How cool is that?  Yes, we are taking a risk here because that life insurance policy has been our safety net financially, and now it's worth much less.  And we are in debt.  But on the other hand, owning a roof to put over our head is also a safety net.  We paid less for this motorhome than it is worth, so we are confident that if we needed to sell it, we would be able to get our money back.  Anyway, it's a risk we were willing to take.  People say that whole life insurance policies are a dumb investment, but we don't see it that way.  It has given us the freedom to be our own banker more than once, and that's a cool feeling.  This isn't the first time we have borrowed from our policy only to pay it back later.  We will pay ourselves back, and we will have that safety net to fall back on again when the time comes.  Newlyweds take note.

WHY THIS ONE?

 That's an interesting question.  When I first started my research into the RV world, I noticed that a large portion of full-time FAMILIES lived in 5th-wheels.  The benefits of this route is that they have the best lay-outs for multiple people, especially the toy haulers.  If the engine needs fixing, you can still have your home while the truck goes to the shop.  So we wanted one, and almost bought one earlier this Spring.  Ultimately we didn't go this route, simply because we would also have to buy a truck to pull it.

We also thought about doing a schoolie (converted school bus).  They are very durable, and were MADE to withstand roll-overs.  School buses are great for their structural integrity.  If you make your own, you can make it just how you want it.  It can be insulated like a real house.  There are some great conversions out there and we dreamed a bit.  However, they take SO MUCH WORK, and we don't have the time right now.  People who have made them tell us they love their rig, it is indeed exactly what they needed, but they would never do it again.  Just taking out the old seats is a real pain, then you're left with all of the wiring, plumbing, and building you would have in a regular house, only your margin of error when it comes to design is much smaller.

Then I read this great post:  Honey I bought an RV.  I reflected on how there are indeed many rigs from the '80's in great shape, they are just cheaper because they are simply old.  It's crazy how the difference between a beat-up piece of junk '80's motorhome and a relatively nice one is only a couple thousand dollars.  No matter how nice it is, the sheer fact that it's old drives the price down.  People with these rigs often just want to get rid of them.  Maybe it's the cause of some marital conflict.  Or the owner died and the kids don't want to pay taxes on it.  Or a myriad of other things.  The point is, there are a lot of nice rigs out there combined with the relative junk, and if you're willing to watch the market and be patient, you might get lucky.  That's what we did.  We bought a 1989, 40' bounder with only 4200 original miles on it, 47 hours on the generator, and the price was right.  Now, we are sure there will be things come up that will need to happen.  It's got the original tires so we need to replace those soon.  As there are no cracks or flat spots, it's not an emergency, but it needs to happen.  I'm sure there are brittle pipes that will break, and more of the like.  These things happen in old rigs.  But they will happen over time and even all upfront, they will happen and be fixed and our overall cost for a complete rig/motor setup is the least.  I wanted a motorhome from the '80s with low miles, and I got the best of both features.  Lucky me.  But then again, I don't believe in luck.  I know someone was looking out for us and I'm very grateful.

Pictures courtesy of the seller.



















Jun 13, 2014

Kids Reading Update


I made this video by way of a progress report to see where we are at right now.  My children are not the product of any one reading program, rather their abilities are the result of Glenn Doman's teachings in his book "How to Teach Your Baby to Read".

You can never have too many children's books.  Over the years we have collected reading materials from various companies as well.  You don't have to go all out like we have to be successful.  I'm just an early learning junkie.  :)  The following all contribute to their reading skills.  This is not a comprehensive list, nor do we faithfully follow any of these programs religiously.  They are just a good place to get your feet wet.  This list is not meant to intimidate or overwhelm, but rather to serve as a reference for those looking for reading materials ideal for babies/toddlers/preschoolers.  We also read a lot of books.

Little Reader
Your Baby Can Read
MonkiSee
TweedleWink
Preschool Prep (Meet the Sight Words. Great apps!)
Starfall (including physical copies of the beginning readers)
Reading Bear
Sparkabilities (not directly a reading program).
Word World (Edutainment, but a fun introduction to spelling and phonics)
Rusty and Rosy (great music!)
Peter Weatherall DVDs (mostly science)

We also have homemade materials we draw from, such as Flip-up Cards and Bits of Intelligence.
For my older kids, we are simply finding materials at their level and read with them.  Patrick and Helen still do their formal reading with me.  Helen's favorite book this year was "The White Sea Horse" by Helen Cresswell.  Peter reads on his own and I periodically check in with him, ask him about the story-line, who the characters are, and clarify anything that may be confusing.  His favorite book this year has been Charlotte's Web.
Early learning has really made regular school so much easier!

 By the way, I made the text portions of the video using VideoMakerFX

May 23, 2014

Top 5 reasons to visit the BrillKids website

Our family truly loves BrillKids.
I've mentioned before why I love Little Readerthe Deluxe materials, Little Musician, and Little Math.  But these products are only a part of my journey with the company as I have followed them through the years.  After the products, Here is my top 5 list for why you should check the website out.

1.  The Forum!
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