Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wisdom from the Aged

    Our "part-time work" / "full-time stay-at-home parent" setup closely resembles a life of early retirement.  We spend the majority of our time home with the kids and only a small portion (about 10%) at work.  This work pace seems to be fairly similar to what many traditional retirees do as well, though they often work to keep themselves busy and for the social aspect as much as they do for an income.  Our couple of months in the RV world has made clear one thing – it’s mostly retirees.  [No, I’m not surprised by this.]  Since retirees are generally “retirement age” (65 and up), we find ourselves surrounded mostly by a generation twice our age or more.  And while more families with young kids might be fun, there is value to always having someone with wisdom in my midst.  These older RV’ers never hesitate to share their opinion, and considering their decades of life lessons, I welcome it.

Recently a couple of potential career opportunities have passed my way.  Both would have paid well, and I would have been reasonably satisfied in the particular fields of work.  When I see these opportunities, part of the old me wakes up in an attempt to derail the current plan.  “An opportunity like this may never come again!  Six figures – you can’t pass that up!  How long can you even go on like this anyhow?  Wouldn’t you be happier with more money?”  On and on these thoughts bombard me.  And then a little gem of wisdom is thrown my way.

While leaving the campground chapel in Tampa an older gentleman says to me after observing the boys and I digging in the sand parking lot with sticks:
“Do you know how old my son is?  He turned 40 last week, and it went by in a flash.  Cherish these moments.”

That short comment was enough to remind me why I’m doing this.  Why I’m choosing a life of lower income and potentially extending my working years later in life for time home with the kids now.

Another older man, driving his truck by our campsite as I pack up the truck for another day’s drive:
“Make the best of your time with them.  They grow up so fast.”

The wonderful retired couple staying in an Airstream next to us in the Orlando area:
“Do you mind if I tell you what I think?  Not that you should care what I think, but I’m going to tell you anyways.  I think what you are doing with these boys is wonderful.  Don’t change a thing.”

And of course there is the frequent, “Oh, what a precious age!  They grow up so fast” that is so often heard when I’m out with Baby A.  In fact, not once has anyone suggested that I’ve got my priorities backwards, despite my occasional thoughts that may lead me to believe otherwise.

It seems like on a daily basis, the words from these wise old neighbors – those who have lived full lives – reaffirm my decision to make the most of my time with my children while they are still young.  Brynn and I have been blessed with the ability to both be home with the kids full-time.  I can’t imagine giving that up so long as I have the option.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

3 Families, 3 RVs

We made it to Florida!!  Jon wanted to show the family around the town he loved while being in flight school.  So we stopped in Pensacola for 5 days.  Fortunately we have base access so we got to stay on a small beach on the Naval Base property.  I've decided we could move in permanently.

Aside from the lack of sewer hookup it was such a great place with the kids.
The campground was relatively empty, with the exception of the 10 fulltimers/snowbirds that were there. The boys basically had an entire campground to run and play in, which they took full advantage of.  Our spot was about 100 yards from a small beach that was protected from the wind that hit the area a few days after we got there.  They also had a really nice pavillion with a BBQ, a military themed putt putt course and boat rentals.  The staff were very nice and helpful and no one complained about our dog barking or homeless-looking children running around.

We discovered that some of Jon's Navy buddies were back in the area so we planned to meet up at the Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola.  It's free, it's accessible to the general public and best of all, the kids LOVED it!  They have model ships in display cases upon entering where AJ discovered planes that looked like "Skipper" (from Disney's Planes movie) parked on the runways.  After the ship display you find an indoor playground!!

You cannot understand the excitement I had at seeing this.  It was such a creative playground that was designed to look like the bridge of a carrier surrounded by seats taken out of a cargo plane of some sort where we got to sit and watch the kids run around.  AJ decided it was time to go look at airplanes but much to his disappointment 'Dusty" wasn't there.  Aside from the museum being low on cartoon crop dusters both boys seemed thrilled to climb on planes and run around.

During our visit to the museum our friends informed us that another flight buddy of Jon's was in town for the week.  So we had everyone over for a BBQ at our campground.  This was my first time 'hosting' a social event out of our trailer, but get this...all three of our families live in RVs full-time.  Crazy right? Both of the other families, one with four kids and one with 3, have been stationary in their RVs for some time. Maybe this is a trend the Navy needs to jump into.  RV spots can be a lot cheaper than a mortgage.

Jon spent one of the days in Pensacola replacing our brand new brakes on the truck.  It had been shaking violently every time we pushed the brake pedal.  For someone who had never done car maintenance on a regular basis before he sure has gotten a lot of learning opportunities recently. Fortunately he is a rock star and learns very quickly.

Next stop...Tallahassee!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Unrelenting Pace of Life

Life has a way of moving forward, one day at a time, whether we want it to or not.  We can’t make it go any faster, and we certainly can’t slow it down.  And while this isn’t a new idea to me (or anyone else), it wasn’t until the last couple of months it has become so obvious to me.  Baby A came on her time.  Outside of unnecessary induction, there wasn’t much we could do about that.  We had to be patient and wait, one day at a time.  Once our movers were scheduled to gather up our goods at the Nebraska house, time then marched forward, one day at a time, and we were helpless to slow it down.  Instead of patience, we now needed sanity amidst a flurry of preparation, while juggling three children, none of which can wipe themselves yet.  And it was somewhere around this point that it hit me.  With three kids, we struggle to keep up on even simple daily tasks, like making sure there is enough toilet paper to last us another day.  Rare is the occasion that there is no crying of any kind, and three kids hollering all at once is a daily occurrence.  To get anything done, from setting up and breaking down camp, to even a minor RV repair, one parent has to manage all three kids to free the other for focused effort.  Perhaps it’s just me, but one parent and three young kids is rarely a delight.  It’s stressful and often borderline dangerous for at least one child at any given moment.  As I write this Brynn is out visiting friends in San Antonio, with all three kids, by herself.  Bless her!  I hope it’s going well, and that I can soon recover from this stomach bug to return me to being a productive member of the team.

This isn’t to say things have been entirely hectic and overwhelming since Baby A was born.  Certainly separating from the military, selling a house, moving into a trailer, moving thousands of miles away on 250 mile jaunt at a time (with three children to boot), is far from a vacation, but I am unemployed after all!  That gives us just enough free hands to stay sane just enough of the time.  I can’t imagine how we’d be managing if I was still working 12 hour rotating shifts. 

So with this unrelenting pace of life, compounded by having three young children, I’ve come to realize something.  Single parents, often mothers, are an incredible type of person.  This could be single parent due to military deployments, or even from a spouse that is working 12+ hour days.  That mom that stays home with three or more children and gets anything done is quite the hero.  I’d be lucky if I didn’t starve to death if I were left to care for the three youngins unassisted.  So while it isn’t Mother’s Day just yet, I still want to take a second to appreciate my wife, my mother and all those who have somehow managed to raise a family under what I consider impossible odds.  Thank you!

(See how I started talking about one thing, and then rambled on to kind of a totally new idea?  Welcome to my brain.  It's a daily struggle.)

Bonus reading:  This post perhaps makes it seem like I don't enjoy being home with the kids, or at least home alone with them.  Who am I kidding?  I don't like being home alone with all three kids for long periods of time.  I feel like I'm stranded and drowning all at the same time.  And as much as Baby A may accept a bottle, it's apparently nothing like the real thing.  However, my sister-in-law and mother of four asked me what it is like to now have three kids.  I said "busy."  She told me the proper response to that is, "It's a blessing."  And she's right.  How blessed I am to have my little kiddos, and especially my wife to walk with me through this journey.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Reliving The Past

We came down to San Antonio to visit with some friends we made in Omaha that have since moved down to Texas.  Originally we were only staying for 2 days, but remember that sickness episode AJ had in my previous post?  Yeah we all got a turn with that sucker.  So we decided to stay longer.  Our next stop is to visit with friends too, but they were out of town for a few days.  Here we are a week after arriving, still enjoying San Antonio.
You may not know this but Jon and I met here in San Antonio 9 years ago.  Hard to believe its been that long.  But we fell in love in this city and it's sweet to be back.  We took the boys to a restaurant I celebrated my 22nd or 23rd birthday together at.  It was kind of a joke of a place.  It's a 24 hour Mexican Restaurant with a 4 story playground that serves margaritas and pina coladas by the pound.  The kids loved it and the food was actually better than we remembered.  
Jon and I needed new IDs so we took the kids to the base where it all started.  They got to see the plane we were trained on.  It has since been retired and a memorial has been created with one on display.  We got some major cool points for having worked on an airplane in AJs opinion.
We are in the middle of selling our house,which means having to get documents printed, notarized and mailed.  Being that we don't own a printer we made the best of the multiple military bases and their free resources.  This time we stopped at Lackland where the kids got to run around a whole slew of classic military aircraft on dispay at the parade grounds.  For being dragged around to the legal office they were pretty happy.
I forgot all that this city has to offer, and we only tasted a small amount during our visit.  We wanted to take the kids to see the Alamo, but thought it might be above their heads.  We decided to find something a little more kid friendly and landed on the Hemisfair Park in downtown San Antonio.  They had a blast climbing on the rope playground, running through the water features and playing on the piano there in the park.  We walked down the Riverwalk with them as they aww'd at the passing tour boats and ducks.  

Being able to visit with friends and share a bit of our past with our kids made for a memorable visit to this great city.  We hope to be back again soon, but for now we are headed East! 
Eating at Chacho's with the kids.
They thought the 3 story playground was the bees knees!

You really start to feel old when they
retire your first aircraft and display it on base.

The kids (big and small)  enjoying the Hemisfair Park

Can't leave San Antonio without a trip to Sea World.
Check out their awesome military deal

This picture might deserve a blog of it's own.
We had a short visit with friends in College Station who
let us borrow their backyard for a campsite.  We got the
trailer in, but it was a tight fit and we were tempted to call it quits
a few times.