2.25.2015

Why I Love Our Life

It is easy for me to get caught up in all the really cool places we see. I blog about it, I spend late evenings planning online, and my adventurous personality revels in the next big travels. BUT If you ask me why I love our life, and I answer honestly, it has very little to do with the adventures.
I love our life because I get to love on my kids all day everyday. I get to snuggle with them in the morning; see the excitement of the beautiful world unfold through their eyes; learn about really cool things with the funniest kids in the world (I do realize I might be a bit biased).
There are a lot of days we just spend time hanging out with each other - talking about whatever is important to them that day. These are the heart building days, and I am learning all to quickly these days are very limited. In less than 10-15 years, they will be venturing out into the world on their own.
Don't get me wrong, I want them to grow up, and I am looking forward to John and I having a new lease on life. I only hope as we all grow older, we still enjoy spending time together. I look forward to  hanging out with them as adults. But right now I LOVE and cherish these simple days.


2.24.2015

Reciprocal Museum Passes

If you are like us, and enjoy spending time at local museums, zoo's, and other cultural institutes, you really should check into a reciprocal museum pass, and if you are lucky a local museum may even offer a multiple reciprocal pass for multiple institutes across the nation.
I first learned about these passes while looking through the roadschool link at the Families On The Road (FOTR) website. They even listed a couple of the cheapest ones nation wide. We have chosen to support institutes that we frequent more often because of the in house discounts and programs.
In Tucson, these memberships made our stay really fun and educational. I can't imagine our stay without the zoo and desert museum memberships. These places also get bonus points because the curriculum we use, Oak Meadow, has curriculum ties to the natural world, which means I can set up the weekly plan, take the kids to the museum or zoo, and let the experts do the teaching :) And most weeks we visited both places, so we could also talk about ethical and global best practices as well.
I blogged about The Desert Museum the last time we were here, but it is so worth another recap. The Desert Museum is a zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, children's museum, and natural history institute all rolled into one. A most stop for children of all ages - including the adults kids.
Once again it was cheaper for us to buy the family membership pass, and go several times, than to make a one time trip. One of the nice things about the membership is you also get a free coffee or ice tea and discount at the reasonably priced food court every time you go.
We visited the beautiful outdoor museum a total of 6 times, and each time we seen and learned new things. Our favorite activity was the Mineral Madness Weekend. When the kids arrived they each got an empty egg carton and then walked around to various stations to participate in mineral themed activities, and earn a mineral to put into their egg carton. Now, 4 weeks later, the kids are still analyzing their minerals, and can even identify minerals like Micca and floridite in found rocks.
I know there are a lot of reasons to not love a zoo ethically, and I am sorry if I offend anyone, but we love a nice zoo. Tucson is a big city zoo with a small hometown feeling. We spent several days at the zoo and enjoyed all aspects. We were even lucky enough to hook-up with my grandparents for the day, so the kids got to spend time with Grandma and the Greatparents :)
Our zoo membership from back in Iowa expired in 2014, so we opted to buy our reciprocal zoo membership for the Tucson Reid Park Zoo, and we will be able to use this pass at different zoos all over the nation. This allows us to spend our time lollygagging around and not rushed because we know we can always come back. The other nice thing about buying into a membership pass is that by the second visit to any zoo it has usually paid for itself.
Each kid has their favorite attraction at the zoo but one we all enjoyed over and over was the elephant exhibit. There is a relative group of elephants with Mom, Dad, Sisters, Brother, and a new 6 month old little female. The activities around the elephants are very hands on and cultural. Some of the kids watch the elephants as the zoo keepers train and work with the elephants, while other kids play on drums, and others climb giant ant hills. The elephant exhibit is a total experience.
Another add on to the zoo is one of Tucsons Aquatic centers shares the parking lot with the zoo, so bring your suit and you can go swimming when it gets too hot at the zoo. We did this on several occasions, and it is only $1 for children and $2 for adults. The twins chose the zoo and swimming combo for their birthday - nothing better on a warm Feb. afternoon than playing in the water after running around the zoo.



2.22.2015

Boon-docking in Tucson - The Hidden Gems

Boondocking is a great way for us to camp for several reasons:

  1. It allowes us to save some camping fees, so we can spend the money on some great adventure or museum pass. Nightly rates range from $20 to $40 in Tucson, so a couple nights of boondocking can really add to the FUN fund. When boon-docking most places are free. We have run into a couple places that charge a small fee - anywhere from $1 to $8 a night.
  2. It takes the pressure off me to be the good neighbor. Not that we ever try to be bad neighbors but when our neighbors are paying $30 a night and our kids are having an off day, and multipule multdowns, I feel quilty that we may be spoiling their paid for spot. When we are out boon-docking I figure they aren't out anything and can move to the otherside of the hill or parking lot if they don't want to listen to it.
  3. Most boon-docking we do is out in BLM land (Bureua of Land Management) and great places for the kids to hike, run, and just be kids. We usually tend to get a lot of "schooling" done while at BLM land because it is more laid back and we can get dirty.
  4. We also meet the coolest people while boon-docking because the saying really is true - birds of a feather flock together.

The two really cool places we boondocked in Tucson where at Snyder Hill, South of Tucson on Ajo and San Juaquin, and Casino De Sol, also on the south side of town off Valencia.

  1. Snyder Hill is BLM land and we stayed 14 days. Most BLM land has time limits posted at the entry points and Snyder Hill allows a person to stay 14 days in any 28 day period. This place is really fun for the kids. There is a smallish mountain/hill they can climb where they can venture out on their own, yet I can have a visual of them. Plus the sunsets a beautiful here.
  2. The Casino is a paved parking lot on one side of the Casino, next to the ampitheature, with lots of really neat people. They say you can stay here infanately except for a few days or a week in April, when the casino asks everyone to leave for about a week, and then you can come back. Staying here is also free, and it sometimes nice to have a little pavement under your feet. We stayed here for a total of 8 days. We actually went to the Casino for 3 days before we went to BLM land because of the record setting rainfall, which would not have been fun in red, wet, sandy clay. We then went back to the casino after our time at Snyder Hill because we were waiting for some mail to arrive. We liked Casino because John could go in at night and watch the craps games after the kids went to bed, and one evenign the kids and I went over to the spa like swimming pool and hot tub - total FUN!

We stayed a total of 22 days without being plugged into or Hooked up to something other than our solar panels. Water was a bit of an issue at times, but mostly we just went down to my moms and filled up our containers. We dumped 3 times in those 22 days, and that was $18 each time, so I figure we saved about $422 by roughing it for a couple weeks, which is awesome because that is almost the cost of the whaling boat trip I want to take in San Deigo in a couple weeks. Not too shabby in my book.

 

 

2.07.2015

Reid Park - Oasis in the Middle of Tucson

I could really see us settling down in Tucson, except for the hot summers.  Tucson is for the young and old, and since we are on a set income we really have to watch where our dimes go, and Tucson does not disappoint. 

Feeding the Ducks


In the middle of the city is the Reid Park complex with a rose garden, a series of little fish/duck ponds, playgrounds, a stage, the Reid Park Zoo, aquatic center, golf course, and bike/walking paths connecting them altogether. 

At the Waterfall


Today was a free day exploring the lay on the land. We took a picnic lunch, started at the playground, off 22nd street, and walked over to the little duck pond.


We Love Swinging
We even had time for some theater.  Hanna is currently reading The Wizard of Oz, so the chosen chapter was the monkey scene.  Gotta love homeschooling - we had the best seats in the house :-)

Sleeping Monkeys

1.17.2015

A Walk in the Desert

There is nothing more appealing to me than a walk with no destination nor agenda. We see what we see, and don't worry about getting to point B - the journey is in arriving.

I try hard to have the kids be quiet and take in the little things around them; although, for some it is just a cross crountry race, which I guess is good too.

Today we went for a walk into the desert behind the RV park my parents, grandparents, and aunt stay at - Desert Trails RV park. I love this place, and would stay there too but it is "mature" campground only, so on this particular day, we left Ciara with grandpa watching some Disney Jr. cartoon, and took a nice long walk.

We took the shorter loop, which was only a little over a mile long but for some of the kids it seemed like foreeeeeeeevvvvvvvvver.

Even though it was not a race, these two Saguaro Cactus marked our end. The Finish Line

These are the days we will remember!

1.15.2015

Push It - Push It Real Good . . . or maybe not so good.

As we packed up in the morning, heading out of Balmorhea State Park, we had two option for the night. We could stop in Deming at Rock Hound State Park (a 3 hour drive), or we could push through to Tucson (6 hour drive), which was our end destination. Six hours didn't sound that bad, and it was a cold rainy day, so what else was there to do. We decided to wing it, and make up our minds when we got closer to Deming.

We waved goodbye to Balmorhea around 9:30 a.m., and made good time to El Paso. The kids in my car had eated their snacks for the day in the first hour of the trip, and there is nothing like hungry, road riden kids. Somewhere between El Paso and Deming, I gave into the relentleess whining, and said we could stop at the Burger King, since we had stopped there before and I knew where it was. Meanwhile John decided things were going reletively well (especially since he was in the other vehical with kids who spaced out their snacks), and we would push on through to Tucson. With that, we decided we would split and join back up at the rest stop about 15 miles to the west of Deming. When I pulled into the Burger King, it was obvious the store was closed for remodleing - my heart sank! I hoped that if I didn't say anything, and quickly turned around I might be able to play it off. No such luck, as I turned around the kids instantly broke into a crying chorus about what a horrible mom I was, which I was kinda believing at this point. There was nothing I could do but push on, and catch up with John - empty handed - and hope there was another fast food place between here and there.

At 4 pm, in Wilcox, I pulled into the Burger King, and John refueled at the Flying J. That 2 hours between Wilcox and Deming was a real stretch for all of us. I pulled out every postive/motivational parenting trick I knew, and NONE of it seemed to matter. I officially got the bad mommy of the year award.

As we pulled out of Wilcox, I called Davis-Monthan to make sure they had some openings. I kinda figured the way our day had been going it was a 50/50 chance. Luckily they had several, and we would be pulling in about the time they closed and the very nice man at the desk gave me the late arrive the directions just in case, which ended up being useful since they closed at 5 pm and we pulled up at 5:20 pm. As we pushed through the Benson pass, things started turning up. The kids had full tummies, John and I were refueled, some of the kids were sleeping, the rain was letting up, and we could see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The beast behind me, and a rainbow.

 

1.07.2015

Swimming in December and Not the Polar Bear kind - Balmorhea State Park, Tx

Rise and Shine! Only there is no shine this morning. At 6:30, we are greeted with a dreary, overcast sky, and we started packing up in the chilly December air (48 degrees). I think we set a record because we ate and were on the road by 8 am. The moring has consisted of rain and mist but that doesn't stop the kids from stopping twice for potty breaks. Gotta love Texas turnouts, since we bring our potty with us, all we need is a safe place to pull over :)

Our destination for the night is Balmorhea State Park and at about 1 p.m. we roll through the one stop sign town and 3 miles later pull into camp. If it hadn't been for the nice ranger at check-in, the place could be mistaken for ghost town. But I guess most people aren't out enjoying the natural springs in December :)

This park is no disapointment. We have our own little pergola, the spring fed pool to ourselves, and a beautiful view of the mountains. The pool started off a bit chilly (they say it stays at a constant 76 degrees all year around) but not bad after we acclimated. There are ducks swimming in it, and little fish kissing our feet. The water is a beautiful green, and in the center the pool measures 25 feet deep.

A perfect way to end a long dreary day on the road.

 

 

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