Winter Solstice

We had a wonderful, although very different, winter solstice celebration today. We popped the popcorn, packed the cranberries, and headed for the woods.

We are in a very urban type campground about 10 miles from a HUGE woodland - De Soto National Forest, and went into the woods at the Bethel Bike Trailhead. We spent the afternoon creating, singing, dancing, and enjoying the outdoors. It seemed a bit unusual walking around in the woods without mittens and snow pants, especially since we are told the house has 20 foot drifts around it.

We crafted popcorn and cranberry garland to hang in the trees for the animals and birds to enjoy.

We eat snacks from the same garland mix, and at times the twins stole popcorn and cranberries from the garland strands Hanna and Lexi were working so hard on.

After our crafting and eating, we went for a walk; enjoying the sunbeams as they broke through the naked trees.

Shortest Day, Longest Night,

The year full circle, ends tonight,

Blessed be the New Year!



Whole Family Fun

A sunny winter day brought the football out.

It hard for this midwest family to believe we are playing football in shorts at Christmas time.

The huddle - everyone listening to hear their position.

Everyone to their place - hustle hustle.

Play interference in the middle.

The twins and Johnny found something much more interesting than tossing a brown ball around.

Or as John would say

"Something shiny, look, something shiny".




    1. /trəˈdiSHən/


      The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.

      A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on in this way.

      I tend to call traditions baggage, and lately with our minimalist lifestyle we have been getting rid of a lot of baggage. So where does it leave our traditions? How do we decided which traditions to keep and which ones no longer serve a purpose. Which ones are true and which ones are built on consumerism. I think living minimally, or getting old, has forced us to look at what we really want our kids to take away from a tradition or celebration.

      Why do you celebrate? What traditions are necessary baggage for your family?

      This year we celebrated our family as it is and will be. We went to the beach where John grew up - gigging flounder, and casting nets. We ate sauerkraut made from my great grandmas crock and hand packed by the kids. We gave thanks for all those we love, have loved, and will love. We gave thanks for all those we don't know but sacrifice for us. We were silent and thoughtful.

      Here is to less baggage, and pray, it won't be easy going into this winter solstice season.


50 years

I can remember getting married and thinking happily that I would be with John for the rest of my life; however, at the time, through the haze of youth and love, I couldn't picture us getting old and 25 years of marriage seemed far, far, away. I only hoped for a large family and lots of love.

On the 14th of November 2012, my amazing in-laws celebrated 50 years of marriage, and it was a wonderful celebration. The entire family showed up to ring in with well wishes.

But for John and I, in those early years, there were days, and weeks, and even months, when I cursed the day we got married, which further clouded the image of 50 years. The reality of that blissful wedding day was something not so happy. The first 5 years of our marriage was hell. Nobody tells you how bad things can be when the honeymoon is over. It was always one thing after another, usually money, children, or shattered dreams. Although, if someone would have told me how bad it would be I probably wouldn't have believed them.

But somehow we muddled through, one day at a time, and now 20 years later, life is full of family and love. I wish there had been another road we had taken to get here. Yes, I can hear you saying, "But then you wouldn't be what you are now".

I am blessed beyond belief! 9 amazing children, 2 adorable grandsons, and 1 wonderful son-in-law; what more could I have asked for.

On this day, I realized that not only can I see our marriage at 25 years, but I can realistically see us at 50, and it looks much like the first picture.

So here is to the next 30 years; although, I hope they are easier than the first 20 :)


Happy Happy Happy

Hello, My name is Christine and I am a reality t.v. show junkie.

Oh goodness, this road trip has brought out a side of me I had long forgotten. I remember when I was in my teens, and MTV aired the first ever reality tv show (I know, Im showing my age) - I liked reality tv then and like it even more now. What is the draw? Most of it these days is mainly staged and not reality at all.

At our campsite, we get free cable TV, and as I type I am flipping between Moonshiners, and Long Island Medium. I think my favorites are Duck Dynasty, Sweet Genius, and Chopped. I lay in bed at night almost peeing my pants from laughing so hard at Si. Even my kids are sneaking back to catch a glimpse of the spirits or some delectable desert.

I am/was one of those moms who had a daily limit of 1 hour of television at home, and we never knew what was on the other 4 channels except PBS. I prided myself when their peers were talking about Sponge Bob and mine didn't know who that was. And now, even though they are not watching cartoon network or that blasted Disney channel, they are becoming PBS junkies - there are 3 PBS channels. Curious George and Cat in the Hat have now become a part of our morning routine, and to be quite honest I am enjoying this. For the first time in a LOOONNNGGGG time I get to prepare breakfast in peace or I can turn on the tv and read for a bit; I am enjoying A Game of Thrones just as much as the reality tv marathon.

So for now, I am Happy Happy Happy as Phil would say but just like on the show I am sure there will be a backlash for over indulging.

However, I am convinced now, more than ever, that we need our own reality t.v show

7 Rambling Kids - 7 kids, 2 dogs, and a generator

I wonder which channel would pick us up? Are we The Learning Channel or Discover material?



Under The Trees

We were camping out on the savanna but are undercover once again. Same campground, just different area. After driving home from the base exchange and commissary, we spied an empty spot under three large shade trees next to the shower house - how much nicer can it get?

So with hungry bellies, we quickly jumped into action. Everyone rushing to their assigned departure duties and scrambling to move before someone cruised in and stole the coveted tree covered concrete pad, and it didn't hurt that the sooner we got moved the sooner we could all eat lunch :)

Under the trees there was an instant breeze. We moved a whole 100 feet, and who knew there would be such a difference in temperature and temperment. We opened the windows to let the sweet breeze in and the stink out. And almost instantly everyones disposision mellowed.

There is something primal, primitive, and otherworldly about being in the woods; the movies stereotype it and the novels personify it. There is something relaxing about being among the trees - there must be some warm and fuzzy DNA switch that gets turned on under the canopy of the ANTS.

As much as I love the beach and the desert, nothing beats a good old oak tree, and one as beautiful as the one we are residing under tonight makes for a peaceful, easy night.



Life With Out Internet

Is like life without vodka.   

It can be done, but is not near as much fun.  

Seriously though, we are going to have to do something – US Cellular does not have towers in the south, so we are limited to 200 mb a month (how is that even possible), even though our plan is for 5gb.  Something about getting data from non us cellular towers and roaming, so we have to decide what we are going to do.  We have been with US Cellular since we got first our phones, probably 15 years ago, and I hate to dump them but I have got to have internet – I am getting the withdrawal jitters.

The thought of going shopping for another carrier is as bad a looking for a new car – I don’t even have a clue where to start or what to ask. 

So wish me good luck and any tips would be appreciated. 

You will know when we get switched over because I will blog all the back ones I have writing J


My Favorite Modification

With a family of 9, in a 24 foot trailer, there were plenty of modifications made, but my favorite one was probably the easiest to do.  The blackboard fridge, which we use everyday.

On the bottom, I let the kids color away.  It is a great way to keep them busy while I am trying to get meals ready, and they want to be under foot.  I also like it because we erase it every day or so, which I think is good for the kids. It is important for them to learn it is okay to create something, enjoy it, and then not be afraid of letting it go, and starting again.  And if it is something they absolutely LOVE then we take a picture of it, and they put the picture in their log book.  As a writing professor, all too often I see students who can't let go of that first draft or introduction when it really just needs to be deleted.  It served a purpose (to get the juices flowing) but it just isn't final draft material.  Life is like that, and it is important to John and I that our kids learn the joy in creating something, enjoying it, and then letting it go.

Bonus is that 20 years from now, in the age of white boards and ELMO, my kids may be part of the elite few who know what a chalkboard is.

The functionality portion is on the top where I keep the grocery list.  We simply take a picture of it before we leave for the grocery store - then it is all right there while I'm shopping.  It is also great when John happens to stop by the store unexpectedly - I just take a picture of it, and whoa-la it is sent to his phone. 


How I did it:

  1. Pop off the top molding on the fridge and freezer panel.  
  2. Slide the wood panel piece out.  It does bend a little bit, and will just come right out.
  3. Sand the back side of the wood panel.  I decided to paint the back of the panel just in case we, or someone else if we decide to sell it, wanted to flip it back over to the wood panel.
  4. Using chalkboard paint, paint the back side of the panel.  The first layer I put on using a brush, which was a bit rough, so I switched to a small foam roller, which worked wonderful!
  5. I painted two layers and then sanded the rough areas out.
  6. I then painted two more layers and let it dry thoroughly - about 3 days or follow the directions.
  7. YEAH!!!!!  You now have hours of fun and functionality!
We LOVE the blackboard fridge!


Week 1

We are officially gone for the winter :)  We battened down the house and set sail on the 5th heading towards Dickson, TN.  We left on a cold, rainy, fall day, and I was ready to head for warmer weather; although, what awaited us along the way was anything but warm. 

We stayed at Rend Lake in Illinois for two nights.  We love staying at Corp of Engineers campgrounds for many reasons but mainly because there are always lots of walking/hiking/biking trails, and we get to stay for 1/2 price with our National Parks Access pass.  There is not much else better than $8 to $10 a night for full hook ups.  And Rend lake was no exception; we got a spot right next to the tennis court where the kids spent all day playing and we watched a flock of bachelor pelicans fly overhead off and on much of the afternoon.  

Then it was onto my sisters house for a couple nights with chilly weather hovering over us the entire time.  We made the best of it though, and did lots of fun things in the Nashville area. 

Kaylen, Lexi, Hanna, Kelsey, Johnny, and Maia in the Meekat tunnel

$25 for gas, $5 to park, and $0 to get in (we used our reciprocal membership card from niabi zoo).  A fantastic day at the Nashville Zoo - Priceless!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was a bit overcast and all the animals were out.  The Gibbons showed off, the flamingos ruffled their feathers, and the meekats ran crazy - all for our amusement, and a wonderful day was had by all.  The zoo also has a HUGE - the brochure says 66,000 square foot - jungle gym for the kids to play on.  We ended up spending an hour at the gym, and all of the kids slept in the next morning :)  I would highly recommend this zoo when you are in the Nashville area.
My favorite exhibit at the zoo - aren't they beautiful?  I want feathers like that :)

The lizards in the new Unseen World Exhibit house.
We also stayed 3 nights at Montgomery Bell State Park, which is another gold mine (actually it is an old coal mine).  Of course we stayed at the campground, but they have some beautiful new cabins and a lodge house that are set back in the woods, and well worth staying at.  We hiked the trails and waded in the creek (even though it was only 50 degrees).  The flat rock creek bottoms were delightful, and everyone forgot their toes were freezing when they panned out tiny crayfish.  There was also a nice park for the kids, and lots of bike/hiking trails set in the beautiful Tennessee hills.   The colors were just on the verge of turning and the acorns were starting to litter the forest floor.  So even though it was rainy and cold, it was still worth the stay.

It was bittersweet leaving my sister, and my kids will sorely miss them.

But a rambling we must go!  
Onward and upward (downward) to warmer weather we will go!



TOYS, Toys, and more toys

As we are edging closer to take off, I am getting hardcore about the amount of stuff we are taking.  I am on the third round of clothes sorting, and hopefully the last round of kitchen stuff. 

I have been putting off the toy cut as long as I can; mainly because I don't want to listen to the whining and moaning from the kids.  I have known for a while that we have too many toys, and have downsized many times with garage sales, trips to goodwill, and re-gifting; yet, still we have a closet full of toys (thanks to well meaning friends and family).   And today I left the house littered with toys on the living room floor. 

Last week I gave each of the kids a backpack to fill with "things" they couldn't live with out.  What a big mistake!  They filled their packs to the brim, and then some, and since then have been carrying around their worldly goods on their backs.  At first it was funny watching the twins walk with backpacks so heavy they could barely walk upright, but that didn't last long as my mind was spiraling with all the damage those things were doing to their tiny little vertebra, and who knows what else.

Now the silliness has gone on long enough, I am going to have to cut back on even more toys.

But what to keep and how to do it.  I would love to be the strong arm, rifling through their bags while they sleep; cutting out everything I don't think they need.  Awh, yes that would be the easy thing to do; however, what would that be telling them about how I feel about their most treasured things.  Next I thought about telling them to downgrade to 5 objects, and while I think that is a realistic number, I am not sure they will pick the most educational things to keep.  What happens if they pick 5 pretty ponies and the cute Melissa and Doug dolls get ditched.  

So it is with much thought and calculated planning that I have come up with an idea.  I am going to let them widdle it down to 15 items, then I am going to pick 10, then let them pick the last 5.  That way they get to pick first and last, and I get a say in at least some of the items.

Does that seem crazy?  Am I still being too controlling?  Maybe I shouldn't care that they have 5 brown blocks and nothing else, if that is what they really want.  And just maybe getting down to 5 toys is an insane thought to begin with.  Ohhhhhhhh, the agony. Sometimes this minamilist stuff and this parenting stuff is just too much!!!!!


Should I stay or should I go

If I go there will be trouble
An if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
 . . .
This indecisions bugging me

I'm ready to go . . . I'm not . . . I'm ready to go . . . I'm not . . . I'm ready to go . . .  

The weather has been so nice here that I have been flopping like a fish outta water.  I am ready to hit the road but I really want to stay and enjoy the Mabon season.  I love all the seasons but fall is my favorite - what's yours?  As I am doing dishes, I daydream about sitting on a secluded white sand beach with the waves gently breaking close to shore, and my kids playing in the landscape.  Then Autumn oak leaves with a hint a rain floats by, and I want to hurry and escape to my  hammock overlooking the pond with the kids giggling around me just one last time. 

We need to go.  We are really ready, and just finding minor things to cross off the list; things that can wait until spring.  The major hold-up was the roof and it was done last week, and the last of the clean-up was done this weekend, so there really is nothing holding us down . . . except enjoying these lazy fall days.

So without much further ado, we will be hitting the rambling road - but first one more fling in the hammock.


Tricks of the Trade

A few tricks I have learned on this past mini trip, which saved us money, and kept the tribe happy and healthy.

Homemade freeze pops are the bomb, (oops, can I say bomb) on hot days. I made ours out of cranberry juice and a little H2O and the kids loved them. We were out and about, and the kids would get a case of the I wants. I would say, "You can have a freeze pop when we get home", and they were all smiles. It was even a behaviour bribe a couple of times (I know, I shouldn't bribe with food but . . . ). The pops were Super easy to make, the kids even helped make them, and they cost a fraction of the festival pops. We use the Tupperware ones because they aren't in a tray and I can break them apart to get them in those small spots in our trailer freezer.
A round pen for the kids to play in. We have two sets of the super yards by north state, with a home made slider gate as the door. Add a few tie straps and you have a great play area for the kids, and even the dogs. This gave them some freedom to run and goof around, and me a break from the constant child check. I do not leave them alone in it and 80% of the time I am sitting in there with them, but it allows me some peace of mind :)

Separate play area for the big kids, so the little ones are not on top of them all the time. Most the time the kids all play well together, but there are times they want to play with little pieces that aren't suitable for the toddlers, and a play center outside the kid corral was really helpful. A sheet over a picnic table is worked great!

Time-out spot inside the camper. We use 1,2,3 Magic as our primary discipline method, and initially had the time out spot outside on the trailer steps, but because there is still a lot of "stuff" going on outside it didn't turn in to such a removal from the given behaviour. When we moved the the time out spot inside, two things happened 1) the neighbours stopped looking to see what was wrong with our screaming kids, and 2) they were isolated inside when all the fun was outside. Made a HUGE difference!

123 magic 

Take snacks into the grounds with you. They don't take very long to make up, the kids stay happy, saves a lot of money, and can be much healthier. I always made sure I had a fruit or veggie, carbohydrate and tried to get a protein in there too. For example, one day we had vegan brownies made in the little square pampered chef cookie sheet, and a bag of frozen fruit. I packed each of the kids brownie in a snack bag, and when they finished there brownie, I open the large bag of frozen fruit and divided it out between them. You could easily do this with peanut butter and crackers, carrot sticks, celery, hummus . . . the list is endless. The frozen fruit was nice because it was a hot day and the fruit was only partially defrosted. This is my favourite vegan brownie recipe right now - they are so yummy. http://gimmesomeoven.com/vegan-brownies/. We also love frozen grapes. We just stick the whole grape container in the freezer and then take them out when we need a nice cool down snack.

Take umbrellas with you. We use umbrellas rain or shine. They a super great for keeping the sun off you, providing a little privacy for napping babes, great wind blockers, and oh yeah, they keep rain off you too.
Get out and move. Keeping everyone from getting cabin fever is essential when there are 9 people in a 24 foot trailer, and getting out is key even if it is just to the shower house and back. We would ride the free ground shuttle around and around and around for hours just looking at the different camps and people.
Teach the kids to line up. Thanks to my mom, we started this and boy was it a lifesaver. It was easy to keep track of where they were and kept everyone safe. We even started making a game of it by singing songs and having the kids copy the leader. Most times an adult was in front, but on occasion one of the older girls took the lead, which was even funner for them. John over heard one of our neighbours saying, as I was leaving with my brood, "There goes the pied piper". I don't know if it was ment to be a compliment but I sure took it as one :)

Do you have any tips to share? If so please post, I'm always in search for more.
Happy Adventures!


Breaking the Rules

Today was one of those days. It started out chaotic and went downhill from there, and by two o'clock Hara-Kiri sounded better than my current situation, so I broke some of my rules - rules are really made to broken anyway right?

Rule #1 - Quiet time is from 1ish to 3ish. This is a time when the big kids can be introspective and dream or do anything that is quiet and recharges their soul. The little kids use it to dream and recharge with their eyes closed. And if I'm lucky, I get to recharge too.

Rule #2 - Earn privileges/bonus points for end of the day extras. Usually they earn imaginary points that I tally in my head through-out the day, so they can do something as a special privilege like paint their toenails or have a special desert. But today not one of the kids had earned any kind of privilege and were on the verge of loosing them for the whole weekend. They didn't deserve anything nice.

Rule #3 - No verbal or emotional warfare. This is pretty self explanatory, but when there are 6 girls in the house, this rule gets broken too often with a roll of the eyes or a snide remark.

So back to the beginning. . . By two o'clock I was fit to be tied. No one was paying any respect to rule #1 because they were too busy breaking rule # 2, and the twins had already been woke up twice by the squabbling - no recharging was happening here. I was just about ready to personally violate rule number three when I remembered I was the adult, and needed to come up with a better plan. It was then that I dug into my resource bag - when things are falling apart there are two things that can fix just about anything - water and playground equipment.

Water is wonderful! I can make a warm bath on a cold day, send them out to the sprinkler on a hot day, or let them splash in the rain, and they will play for hours. Water fixes almost everything.

The playground is the next best thing to water. They can hate each other all the way to the park but the minute the van door opens, they are the best of friends helping each other swing on the monkey bars or race down the slides together.

Today I chose the playground because we don't have a tub in the camper and the thought of taking 7 kids to the shower house by myself seemed a bit too much at this point.

Mearly breaking rule number one brought some silence to the chaos as we loaded them up in the Tahoe. We listened to them squabble all the way to the park and then let the magic happen.

They didn't deserve to go anywhere because of the way they had behaved earlier but sometimes it isn't about what they deserve - it is about what they need, and we all needed a break; we needed to break some of the rules.

One of the things I am learning as a tribe leader is that there has to be structure yet enough flexibility to keep everyone happy. We stayed at the park for almost two hours; playing tag, making leaf piles, running up the slides, making fairy houses, and laughing - a lot. When we got home, things still weren't perfect but they were a whole lot better.