16 hours in a van with 5 kids, over two days.

  I took my 5 children, by myself, home to Alabama for a 3 week vacation. No, I’m not insane or, at least, that’s what I tell myself. 16 hours in a van with 5 kids, over two days…. it was a win.

 We started our adventure at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Waking up children is never advised but it is especially dramatic if it’s before the sun rises. With 5 grumpy and awake children, 4 backpacks, one mommy bag , one cooler of iced coffee and a backpack full of snacks we embarked on the rainy road toward Alabama.  The first few hours were full of excitement and talking about what we were going to do when we got there. All was well till we stopped for lunch. I filled up the tank for a second time and was fixing pb and honey when my eldest son, Elijah, told me his knee was really hurting. I looked him over and realized he had several swollen bites that were inflamed and painful. I did what every good mom would do, called my mom and husband and took a million pictures of the spots. Both said he would be alright but to keep an eye on the swelling. 

  My mother and her fiancee Robert got me a hotel ahead of my departure so that I could break up the 16 hr drive. We were coming into Little Rock, AR, where we were to stay the night, when we decided to stop for dinner. We stopped at Cracker Barrel, my least favorite restaurant, and Elijah couldn’t walk from the pain in his knee. As I stood there, baby on my hip and a toddler in the stoller, with very hungry children I look up to see a God sent. Next to the Cracker Barrel sign was a Baptist Emergency Care sign. A hospital was literally down the road from were we had pulled over for dinner. So, I piled all the kids back into the car, with much protest and many tears, and we headed to the emergency room. The hospital staff was very speedy and kind as we waited to get Elijah some relief. To my astonishment he had staph in his bug bites. They gave us an antibiotic prescription and said he should be fine as we had caught it early. Let me tell you that having a prescription filled out of town while on tricare is quite the adventure. That being said, Krogers went above the call of duty by taking my script 5 mins before closing and grabbing bandages and antibacterial cream for me to purchase through the drive through window. All the medicine received and Moe’s is our bellies we headed to our hotel.

  Why are hotels so exciting to children? I just do not get what’s so great about sleeping in a random room with papery sheets and germ ladder carpet. My kids love it. I’d love to say we got a great nights sleep and I was well rested come morning to finish off the last 7 hrs of driving but I’m not a liar. After a restless evening we still got on the road at 6 a.m. and were ready to concur the day. Let me tell you, the novelty of a road trip had waned tremendously. At one point the rule was no more “when will we be in Alabama” or any form of the question unless you wanted mommy to hang you out the window by your toes. The boys found that exceedingly interesting and my empty sarcastic threat became a challenge to test my sanity. I have never been so elated to see a state sign as I was when we rolled into Alabama. 3 p.m. and ready to stretch  our legs we drove into my home state. Glory, it was pure glory. 

  I had taken my 5 children over 1000 miles with one emergency room trip and I say it was a win. They amazed me with their wonder and genuine conversation. I got 16 hrs to listen, to really listen, about how things make them feel and what they think about everyday things. In those moments I became a better mother, they made me a better person because I could see through child like eyes. What an amazing place the world is when you think like a child. Our time in Alabama is coming to an end and I’m excited to learn something new about them on our trip back to Kansas. Maybe I’ll get a glimpse into their tiny minds and big hearts. I can only hope.

The soul is healed by being with children.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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Paved Paradise.

 Joni Mitchell said it best, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone, paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” While we were in Hawaii I set my hometown on a pedestal in my minds eye to now be utterly disappointed. 

Progress for progressions sake is wasteful of simple beauty. My home town of Fairhope, Al was a simple beauty full of eccentric artisans and free thinkers and is now full of strangers buying up her resources. What once was small and treasured is now at the mercy of the highest bidder. I’m not trying to bash the place that helped mold me but I can’t believe how fast it’s fallen into the tourist trap. From over developed subdivisions, full of empty homes, to un needed and over priced shopping centers. I just can’t imagine how those who have stayed and watched this transformation feel about the developments. The small town is dieing in America. 

After seeing my own towns demise I know that I want to travel and see the last small town dinosaurs before their eminent extinction. As I make lists of places to see, while living full time in the bus, I’ll most definitely start seeking out small towns. Towns to drive through and enjoy for what it is, not to make permanent camp and try to change it to fit mainstream needs. 

Though Fairhope is more parking lot than it is paradise she will always hold a place as she molded me in my youth. Her bays held me, her rivers carried me and her spirit will live in my soul. 

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.


John James Audubon

Pack only the essentials.

Me and the kids are taking a trip back to Alabama and as I pack for 6 people my eyes cross and I slowly drift into madness.  No, all kidding aside, packing for this many tiny humans is mind numbing, for a number of reasons.

The first reason packing for 5 children, 4 of which having opinions, is a challenge is the amount of items that are necessary. Four outfits, swimsuit,  church outfit  and under wear for each child may seem like nothing but that’s 5 back packs. 5 back packs, because goodness forbid Elan’s dress touch Elijah’s underwear. It would be anarchy, I promise you. I’m hopeful that by separating their items I save myself some refereeing. All the time saved refereeing clothes will be needed to referee snack consumption. 

Another reason packing for this many little dictators is challenging is that we all have different understandings of the word “essentials”. For example,  I think diapers are an essential for my 2 year old but she thinks it’s her tiara collection. My 7 year old could barely pick up her back pack because it was so crammed full of ” essentials”. It was quite impressive, she was able to fit a tea set, 3 full sized stuffed animals, 4 or 5 small stuffed animals and 2 costumes on top of what I packed her. I’m not sure what she was planning to do with these items but it must have been world changing because when she was asked to remove them I became a villain, in direct opposition of her plans. She has since calmed down, though still trying to sneak the “essentials”, and I am hopeful that she will begin speaking to me again in the near future. 

I give you a glimpse into my travel crazy to say that I am so excited about traveling in my home. When we convert our bus there will be very little non essentials. Yes, the kid’s essentials will be priority even if I don’t understand needing four dinosaurs all the same color and type. I collect coffee cups and the kids seem as baffled by that as I am about the rock collection. But once we are in the bus it’s our home. Aside from prepping to drive there will be little to no packing. At this moment, while I gear myself up for a 15 hour drive with 5 children under the age of reasoning, that aspect is appealing. 

I’ll be posting pictures and blogs about our mini adventure over the next few weeks. Thank you for sharing our journey. 

               Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.            J.K. Rowling 

A little bit at a time. Part 2

So, this post is later than I expected but nevertheless here she is.

What have we been up too? Not much of anything aside from nearly completing the gut job! We are starting to feel some forward momentum and beginning to see the light at the end of the bus….. Below you can see our progress and I hope you will join in our excitement.

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Stickers, stickers everywhere!

The above picture is the sticker massacre that was the “WATCH YOUR STEP”sign located at the bus entrance. I never noticed all the frivolous bus cations stickers during my public school career.

The flattering picture bellow is the beginning of defacing our bus. Eventually, where the SCHOOL BUS was located will be vinyl spelling out E X O D U S. Super excited about that particular aesthetic.

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Below is the aftermath of said sticker. It took both Ethan and I to remove it. My arms were screaming in protest after holding that heat for what felt like an eternity. With a lot of coaxing and diligent paint scrapper skills we got most of the sign off in one piece. I wish the same could be said about all the other reflective tape.

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Below: Look at this amazing sight brought to you by sweat and more sweat. The temperatures in Kansas range from hot to blazing hot, now imagine being in a metal tube. Yes, the thought is rather provoking, isn’t it.

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The creative photo below, Ethan’s skills of course, shows both side of the bus after the insulation had been pulled from the bottom portion.

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All the interior demolition progress has us creating sketches and design elements for the future. Thinking about how we will function in a smaller space has made us think out side the rectangle, literally and figuratively.

 

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The SketchUp program has been a contrivance for our interior design.

Above: This is one of our ideas for the kids quarters. The bunks would house four of the five kids but would give all of them their own cubby spaces (look to the left of the bunk). There would be storage located under the bottom  bunk and the 5th child would sleep on a converting bed located at the front of the bus.

The bathroom is unique, using the sliding door as a way to have a sink without taking up precious floor space. The shower is also a tub and the steps would serve dual purpose to help us get into our loft style master bed.

Below: The sketch, done by Ethan, is of our dining room table/ converted bed for the 5th child. To make the bunks fair we think we may do a rotating sleep schedule. That way everyone gets to sleep on a top bunk and no one is permanently relegated to the pull out.

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We are on a roll and are trying to stay diligent with progressing this forward momentum. Hopefully we will finish the engine come the 4th of July. Then we are moving on to painting the exterior.

“When you find yourself in the thickness of pursuing a goal or dream, stop only to rest. Momentum builds success.”
― Suzy Kassem

Exodus and the adventures of Tingle Team

Getting excited about nothing.

As my children had a tiny melt down today, over throwing away broken toys, I had some deep reflection. What are we doing? What will become of us and is too little too much for the kids?

It’s strange but I am excited about having nothing in societies eyes. Not because it is obviously less to clean but because I feel like the less I invest in things the more I can invest in experiences. I would rather have picnicked at the Grand Canyon then have 20 articles of clothing I hardly wear. Simplifying is so much deeper than possessions, when I think about all the walls in our home I want to simplify. I want to break them down and build something beautiful, something intentional. How am I going to relate and spark this excitement in my children? The same way every other family does. Communication, being intentional and listening are how my children are best reached. I’ll communicate our hopes and dreams, our goals. We will be intentional in our purges always counter balancing with communication. Lastly, we will listen, we will listen to their tiny but effervescent voices about how well we have communicated and about being intentional. We do not want to break their spirits but unleash them! Setting them free in a world of possibilities, in a world were their parents followed their faith.

My goal is that in a few years from now we will all look back and be able to be happy about where we got. Every parent  wants to give their child the whole world. We too aspire the same thing but with a different method. Less, it really can be more. More time, more experiences all the while less in weighting bills and costly distractions. A child unseen, be it tv or another solitary device, is not how WE want to flourish. WE want to see them learn and grown into the amazing adults that they will no doubt be. As a home school parent I get to see the light bulbs go off and I take so much joy in their accomplishments. I have always loved living life with them. In our culture we will all eat different, teach and learn differently. There is more than one way to MAKE a wheel but maybe not reinvent it. You make yours, I’ll make mine and our kids will make theirs. Is not that the beauty of life, you get to choose. I’m not sure how the bus will mold our children just as I wouldn’t be sure how a standard home would. I’m excited to see them blossom, over the moon to give them this part of me and their father. Adventure.

As we all feel the growing pains of minimalism we know that, in the end,  we have each other. That dollie or old car, once treasured but soon forgotten, will not weigh out in the end. The weight will be carried in out hearts. Were we tender or an ear to listen? Did we stay stagnant and unmoving at the feet of their frustration? Only time will tell but I can be sure to make every aspect intentional. To be present even when it’s difficult and I want to tap out. Is this all worth the hassle and uncertainty?  Yes, I do not doubt the outcome just taking the road less traveled.

 

“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.”

                                                                                                             1948. Jackie French Koller. 

Exodus and the adventures of Tingle Team.

 

 

 

 

A little bit at a time. Part 1

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Photo credit: Myself 😉

I feel like a kid at Christmas, once all the presents have been un-wrapped,  when nothing has been assembled yet. Frustrated and impatient are the feelings clouding my excitement. Im ready for the nitty gritty the hard work not the tedious prep. Alas, the prep stage is the stage we are at. Here is what we have done so far. It’s not much but it’s progress and if nothing else we will all learn some much needed patience.

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Photo credit to Ethan

Ethan removed the rear heater that uses engine coolant as its heat source. This could have been a messy job but Ethan was epic and didn’t spill any radiator fluid while removing. Shout out to my awesome handy hubby!!

With the rear heater removed we have more space for the kids bunks and bath room. Another plus to its removal is that once the bus’s interior is completed there is no concern of a radiator leak from the heater.

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Another example of Ethan’s composition skills

When we had the bus delivered it developed an oil leak, from the main seal, on its
way from Texas. We opted to fix it ourselves and have learned a lot. She is still in the works. Estimated time of completion: Within the month. I’ll post specifics once the oil leak is repaired.

This is me taking off sticker for days. Patience is always a virtue I’ve prided myself with having until the bus. These stickers are the bane of my existence. Who knew there were so many? Not me, that’s for sure. I have learned how to use a heat gun, which may never be a useful task for anything other than reflective tape.

Check back later this week for part 2. To see more photos of our progress check us out on Instagram @exodusskoolie

 

 

What’s in a name?

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Exodus – A mass departure of people. We by no means think that 7 people is a mass departure but it is a whole family ready to decamp from expectations. The social and economic ideals of our culture and nation have never been out heart-felt paradigm. Like God called the Israelites we feel called to go to the “promise land”.

While looking for our bus and thinking about why we were going to do this we knew from the beginning that it was God’s provision. Provision and prosperity looks different to different people. To us its an opulence of family unity and an insatiable love for Christ. Being in 250 square feet is us trusting our security and comfort to God. No, we do not believe that everyone is called to live simple lives and that if you own a home and a new car that you are some how less reliant on the Lord. For us, having less is having more. More time for missions, more time for study and less time on worldly endeavors. As crazy as many of you might think this is, though you have been polite and keep those doubts internal, we are living by faith. Faith is not something hoped for its something promised, still unseen. Our faith is that Christ will honor and bless this life of less possessions with more existence. We are not seeking a longer life but a more fulfilled one, an existence of independent dependency on Him.

While Bob Marley sang “exodus, movement of jah people” I would sing along thinking it was “exodus, moven lots a people”. Even after being corrected, and looking at the lyrics myself, “moven lots a people” was ever engrained in my mind. So, when Ethan asked what  we should name the bus I immediately said exodus. It fits what we are doing. Moving out of one life and into another, moven lots a people. Exo-Bus, as we lovingly call her, will be transporting all our people into our new adventures. As we endeavor to love more deeply and trust fully our Father in heaven, Exodus will be the spark. This spark, once a dream, will ignite a full-fledged revolution in our family unit. I hope and pray that we can pass the kindling on to our children. I want them to run after Christ with all their heart and with all their passions. Together, we will get to our promise land. It’s not a place its an idea, a thought and a hope, it’s faith.

What’s in a name? Everything and nothing, but for us Exodus carries the weight of our goals. Exo-Bus, moven lots a people.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.                    Mathew 7:7

Exodus and the adventure of Tingle Team