Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Miracles happen here.

Wow. That's about all I can say... WOW! It's been one heck of a roller coaster ride here at the Oatman RV. What we thought was strep for the girls turned out to be Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Let me just start by saying that I would never wish that on our worst enemy. Nope, not in the least. It was miserable. While one was up crying over her itching feet, the other was up crying about the open sores in her mouth. They both had high temps, they were both throwing up and it went on for days it seemed. Then to top that off, I had to leave with Montana and head to St. Jude. It's not easy leaving kiddos who are feeling poorly behind. Eventually, while we were away, the girls began to get better and Chris did an amazing job of taking care of them. So thankful for a husband who knows how to take care of sick kids. I mean, we did do this for years on end. Maybe not in that way, but in ways none the less. 

Montana goes to St. Jude every year until he is 18. They do extensive research to help find cures and to help battle illnesses. We said from day one that we would do whatever it took to help gain more research for the hospital. This means that all of Montana's records and experiences while being there are used daily in any way they see fit. We are more than fine with that. Believe it or not, we have heard of families who have turn that down and have then had to leave to find a different hospital. Um, hello!! They are going to do their best to save your child and help find cures on top of that. People are odd at times. 

It's sad, the hospital is super busy lately. More and more kids are being diagnosed with cancer. We actually had to stay at the hotel across the way due to the amount of new patients and patients in general that are there now. It's all just heartbreaking I tell ya. On this trip, we graduated by moving into the after care clinic. Our new doctors are amazing, super friendly and very knowledgeable. Montana had to do a 3 hour psych test as well as other blood tests and heart tests. Everything went smoothly and we will just have to wait for the results of some of those over the next few weeks. 

This trip was a tad different in seeing how Montana is aging emotionally and mentally. He actually teared up a few times seeing sick kids and knowing that some of his own friends have passed away. This hospital means the world to him and even now he speaks about how he misses St. Jude. I think it will always be a part of who he is and going back there will always feel like home. Heck, it was home for almost three years. Chris and I are super proud of the little guy he is becoming. They did save his life and we are forever grateful. 


We need awareness. We need a cure.








Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sickness in 200 sq. feet.

One of the things I wondered about when moving into the RV was dealing with sickness. How would we handle sick kids or ourselves being sick in such a small space? The past two weeks have tested that worry. In the end, it's like anything else... you deal with it as it comes.

These past few days, all three kids have had their share of fevers, throwing up, coughing and countless naps. Just last night, the youngest threw up on the couch, the floor and all over the blankets. We have gone to the doctor 4 times and finally found the cause of it all to be strep. Chris and I looked at each other yesterday with no words needing to be said. We both knew what the other was thinking, "I sure hope we don't get this too!" It's hard enough taking care of sick kids but then to take care of sick kids while being sick yourself.. NOT FUN. Needless to say, today was spent doing load after load of laundry. After washing all the pillowcases, blankets and clothes, I wiped down any surface they could have touched. Lucky for us, this place is only so big.

To be quite honest, we haven't been sick in over two years and that was when we all came down with pneumonia. Trust me, we do anything we can to not have to relive that experience again. It was absolutely horrible.  The entire ending of summer was lost that year. These past few days have been rather hard on these little ones too. They've spent countless hours lying around watching movies, resting and napping. It's been tough making them stay inside when their camping friends are begging for them to come out. Many tears have been shed. These kiddos like to go, so it's been a bit of torture having to stay in the RV. I do believe the worst is behind us now. At least we hope.

Have me managed in the small space? Of course. We've just had to adapt to the smaller space and make it work for the circumstance. Each morning we would make the couch/bed up and place the sick child in the back on our bed. We hoped this would help to keep the germ contact down but in the end it didn't matter. It was too late. All three kids had been dealt their hand with the strep bug. Now they are all on meds and hopefully this is finished. Here's to getting healthy again and heading back into the great outdoors.











Friday, July 18, 2014

Craft space in an RV.



When I tell people that I have an online hair bow shop for little girls, they automatically assume that the work is not being done in the RV. Some have even mentioned how hard it will be for me to move all the supplies into the motor home. Well, we have no stick n' brick home anymore, which means that everything we do, have or use is already in the RV. Hence, I work out of the RV already. Then they look at me like I'm crazy and want to know where I store it all. How in the world do you get all your supplies, everything you keep, all the kids things and so much more in that tiny space? For us, it's all about organization and routine. 

In order for me to get my work done, I have to have all the dishes done and out of the way or else there is little to no room for my stuff. The kids bed/couch has to be put away as well or there is no walking room either. For dinner to be made, I have to clean up my workspace and the viscous cycle continues. However, what we have managed to do as far as our routine works. There is a system to this madness I tell ya. I promise.

Then there is the work and storage space. It doesn't take up a ton of room but it does take up a descent amount of space as far as storage. IKEA is our best friend when it comes keeping things hidden and clean. Because we live in such a small space now, we have to keep everything in its spot or our home becomes very cluttered and messy looking very quick. Our house is now quick to clean but also quick to look like a junkyard. I guess it's just part of the whole downsizing space & things while still having 5 people living together. Mess is bound to happen. Plus, when it's a work day, I allow it to turn into a tornado of toys, blankets, games, coloring supplies, and work supplies. No matter what though, each night it all has to be put away or the kids don't get their bed. It works. The bed won't fold out with junk all over the floor. 

Below I have a series of images that show just how the space is utilized and where the work is done. Hopefully this will help all those who have asked about how I manage to take my crafts in the RV with me and how I am able to work from the road. Plus, it's always nice to see just how other full timers store their belongings. :) They know the deal and it helps to keep our house in some sort of routine while it not becoming a pig pen. 

"Please excuse our messy house. We are busy making memories."

1. Here is the actual work space. This is where I make all my products from start to finish. It's a small space but allows me to get done what I need. 



2. I love this cart. It's from IKEA. I move it each morning to this location and at night it goes back to the front so that the kids' bed can open up for them. 



3. Here is my computer station. The internet right now is horrible. Not all websites load but I guess that's part of moving from location to location. I can do all my online work here as far as editing photos and printing out orders.



4. This section holds the bulk of all my supplies. The entire area houses all bow things which is a big deal in such a small house. The tall white tower is also from IKEA while the shorter one to the left is from Target. Both work great for what I need and I can use them for others things later on if need be.



And that is how I have managed to bring my shop into the RV and work from the road. If you have other ideas or have brought your crafting hobbie on the road, share it with us!! We would love to hear all about it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Taking your pictures on the road with you.

Oh, what's a photographer to do with such a small home, few walls and a love of photos... they improvise. It's as simple as that. I need my photos. I want to take the images of our family, of my kids, of the memories and so much more on the road with us. It was the hardest part of leaving the house and getting rid of the possessions. I didn't care so much about the other "things" but I sure as heck cared about all the pictures we'd accumulated, framed and hung on the wall. Our old house was covered with framed images hanging on just about every wall. Some referenced it as a museum, but to us they were some of the most important things we owned. We always said that if our house was up in flames, it would be the hard drive we would grab. I mean, these photos told stories... our stories. They were stories of victories, of fun, of places traveled, of love and of laughter. They're of images that can never be replaced. All the photos from Montana's battle with cancer, of my brother who was taken too soon, of our vacations, of our marriage and of the kids aging are all on the hard drives. We cherish all of them, each holding their own value. 

With that being said, we are finding that we have to be creative. I heard about the website PINHOLE PRESS and decided to see for myself just what kind of goodies they sell. Well, I happened to find this uber cute memory game. What a perfect way to bring more photos into the RV without actually having to find the space. The game comes with 24 cards of 12 separate images. It's made with good quality cardboard and sized perfectly for little hands. Each of these cards has a family member from the Dumont side and the Oatman side. No one is left out. Perfect. It was an answer to our space problem. The girls love it and it's a game that never gets old. Now, no matter where we travel to, our family will be able to come with us. Well, in one small way. :) 

"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory."
Dr. Seuss







Friday, July 11, 2014

How to do Disney.



How do we do Disney? It's a question asked quite often actually. Within the last two weeks alone I've had 3 friends ask me all sorts of questions pertaining to Disney World. It can be very overwhelming knowing that you're heading to the "happiest place on earth." Why do friends ask me about Disney you wonder. Well, I've worked at Disney World (the Magic Kingdom to be exact), Chris and I honeymooned there, Montana had his Make-A-Wish trip there, we've done the Disney Cruise and have been to Disney World way more than 20 times. Now by no means does that make me an expert but I'm pretty sure I have a few pointers that could be helpful. Also, note that we do Disney on a budget. It's never a once in a lifetime trip and so we don't spend money like is.

To start off I'm going to ask the questions I get the most and answer them according to my opinions and experiences. From here you can take what you want and make your own wonderful memories. We love Disney and will always go back. They are by far, above the standard, have high expectations, clean parks and their customer service is amazing. We love the mouse.

Questions:

1. Would you do the park hopper pass?
- No, we do not get the park hopper pass and I do not recommend it. You will be paying for something that you will very rarely use. If this is your first time heading to the Wonderful World of Disney, you will be very entertained by staying at one park per day. Trust me, they have way more than enough to keep you busy that you do not need to be hopping all over the parks. Remember, it does take time to get on and off the buses, wait in lines and go to and from. The only reason I could see wanting it or finding it useful is if you are finishing with your trip and there is a ride you really love so much that you want to run back over there to see if you can ride it again. That's about it.

2. Do you get the meal plan?
- No, we do not get the meal plan. My family in no way shape or form can eat the amount of food on the meal plan. I would never pay that kind of money for my 4 and 5 year old so that they could each have their own entree, dessert and drink. We tend to share our meals so that they can buy the mickey shaped ice cream later on. I have been to Disney many times and on EVERY single trip, I've seen families throwing away entire plates of food that have not even been touched.... oh the money I see going in the trash cans. :( Also, the meal plan is not a deal where only one person can get it so that others can share. If you are staying on Disney property and purchasing the vacation package, you all have to either get it or not. Kind of bites. If that wasn't the case, maybe then I'd get it.

3. Do you have to pay for the fast passes and how does that work?
-Well, Disney keeps switching things. Fast passes are free. They come with the ticket you purchase and you are able to get three. Now they allow you to get them online early if you already booked reservations or what not. I believe it's two months out. Yes, take the time to get the fast pass. The lines can get soooooo long. Did I say so long, cause I meant hours upon hours long. Chris and I went over New Years years ago. We wanted to ride Test Track but the wait time was 5+ hours. Well, the fast pass line alone was 2 hours. Needless to say, we never got to ride it but we knew we would be back. Get those passes and hop over the major wait times.

4. Would you stay at a Disney hotel, also known as "On Disney Property"?
- Yes, It's such a great convenience to be close to all the Disney parks. They have all the transportation for free and you can hop all over Disney Property with their buses. Plus, you never pay for parking. Also, if you purchase anything in the parks and don't feel like lugging it around, they will bring it to your hotel. We don't buy things like that, but it's a nice perk. There are some close hotels to Downtown Disney which I've never stayed at but have had some friends stay at. I think they've liked them but you don't get the same perks. We also always stay at the value resorts such as All-Star Sports, Movies, and Music. These are the lower end hotels but are awesome. They have cafeteria style food which is great for the kids and the pools are really nice. They also have some amazing photo ops. Bigger and more expensive hotels are not for us. Why pay huge sums of cash for a room you will barely be in. Once we leave at 8am, we usually don't come back til the sun goes down. Even if we do come back early, the kids want the pool. Again, totally up to you.

5. Which park would you recommend?
- This is very tough. If it's your first time and you can only pick one... Magic Kingdom for sure! It's the park with a little bit of everything and it's pretty much the start of it all. We love this one!! The rides are for all ages, Mickey Mouse is there, fireworks, yummy food, and great shows. Our second runner up is EPCOT. This park is tougher for kids because it's lots of walking with not many rides. All the rides are up in the front mostly and I think there are like 3 or 4 rides for the younger kids. You then walk around the world showcase which is filled with numerous countries and great food. I'll break down the parks later on.

6. When is the best time to go?
- We have found that the best times to go as far as lines and crowds are in Sept-Oct-Nov. and then again in Feb into March. Be careful with March though because it's the start of Spring Breaks. We've been in the fall and have been able to walk right on the rides that we have waited 2 hours for during other seasons.

**I also get people wanting for us to recommend restaurants, rides and shows. I'll give our opinions below.

**Help Tip
- You can stop at any restaurant (fast food style) and ask for a cup of ice water... it's FREE! Why spend $3 bucks for bottled water when you can get a cup of it for no cost. This is super helpful for large families.





Our FAVORITES!!! 
*Keep in mind these are only a few of the rides and these are our favorites based on the ages we have with us (4-9yrs. old).


- The Magic Kingdom is our favorite park. It's great for the kids, for teens and for adults. We truly believe there is something for everyone. We arrive in the morning and leave at night. The fireworks are awesome, there are plenty of characters and the rides are amazing. You won't be disappointed with this park.




- This park is our second favorite. Chris and I could spend days upon days here. The countries offer so much variety of shows and food all of which it taste amazing. Each building and country has new things to view every time you go back. Also, depending on when you go, this park has interactive events for kids to be involved in. One time, Montana was able to participate in the lady bug release which he thought was uber cool. Don't miss out on this one.





- This used to be my favorite park while I worked at Disney. My major was graphic design so I would go here just to view all the animators at work. I loved it. However, now that I have kids and a family, we don't go here much. There aren't many rides and the kids get bored. We just don't do shows too much. If you love shows, then this could be your park. The Bugs Life play area is super fun though.



- This park doesn't take us very long. They have some cool animal walk through areas and a few rides that our kiddos ride but overall it's not the one we go back to if we have to choose two. The park closes early so you could honestly do this park and another if you wanted to do the hopper pass. It's fun to walk and look around though. Basically, a big zoo mixed with a few rides and shows.




So there you have it. Our favorites, our opinions and our views. Now you can choose what you would like to ride, do and see. We hope you have an amazing time on your Disney Vacation. Heck, maybe will will see you there... "It is a small world after all"!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Moorman River Swimming Hole - Charlottesville, VA

Our 4th of July weekend was A-mazing. I can't get over the weather we had here. Usually on the 4th of July it's so dang hot that we are dripping with sweat as we wait for the fire works to start at 9:15 at night. This year however, there was a nice breeze and some people even had on a light jacket. It was absolutely amazing to be able to enjoy the high 70 degree temps. It was also our first 4th being a fulltime family so we decided to stay on the base and watch the fireworks from the pier down on the York River. We didn't have to fight any of the crowds, plus it was something different. The kiddos did miss all the noise that the fireworks give off though. Happy late 4th to all. 


On Sunday we decided to take the kids to go hunt down a swimming hole or at least a good river to play in. We usually tend to go up to the James River in Richmond but this time we wanted something a little more kid friendly. Charlottesville was our goal on the map. It was about 2 hours from Williamsburg and was within our time frame for a good day trip. So after much internet searching we decided to go with the Moorman River. It's also known as the Blue Hole to locals, The North Fork Trail, Sugar Hollow, and the Big Branch Spur Trail. Google any of those names and you will come up with the location we stopped at. It was our goal to narrow down a trail that was interesting enough to keep 3 young kids entertained. We didn't want to hear complaining the entire way, only for some of the way. 

Well, we found it! This trail was fantastic for everyone. Before getting to the actual trail entrance though, we stopped off at a few different locations on the river. At that time we still didn't know what we would come upon so we were kind of scouting good places for "just incase". We did eventually travel up the road and found the parking area. It was full, which we took as a good sign. For those of you who may actually go on this hike, you can continue to drive down the gravel road and past the parking. There are more spaces up ahead which would cut off .4 miles of walking before starting the actual trail. It really wasn't too bad of a hike though, so either way is fine. We didn't know this at the time and walked those extra .4 miles each way. 

Once starting the trail, the kids were excited. It was new, it was fun and we were in nature. Montana was busy searching for snakes and bugs while the girls were content to look for walking sticks. I think they were all just super stoked for the river they would get to play in. Turns out the entire trail all the way to the waterfall is 4.8 miles round trip. For us that would be about 5.6 with the extra hike to the car. :) Amazingly, the kids did great! There was no complaining until the last 20 minutes or so. Then started the whole, "my legs are sleeping", "my feet hurt", "my stomach is hungry" and so on. But overall, Chris and I were super impressed. Not many kids continued past the swimming hole which is a 1.5 mile hike from the entrance. So our kids pretty much rocked it out. :) 

As for wildlife, we saw a HUGE wolf spider. I didn't need to step any closer because I could see it right from where I stood. No thank you. Myla found a snake and that was the wildlife excitement. It was a friendly little guy, so no worries. However, there was a girl on the trail ahead of us who was bit by a copperhead. A guy came running down asking to use our phone but nobody, and I mean NOBODY received any cell service out there. We eventually saw her slowly making her way down the trail to the four ambulances waiting for her (from what we heard).  So did we continue?... of course. From that point, we made sure to keep our eyes open and scan. 

The river itself was awesome. The water was freezing but refreshing and the kids had one heck of a great time. They were able to swim, jump off rocks, play with fish, and build stone stacks (also known as cairns). Just be aware of the fact that the river crosses the trail 3 times on the actual hike. We saw many hikers taking their shoes and socks off for each crossing.  Lucky for us, we had our trusty Chacos because we knew we would be getting wet in one way or another. It actually made the hike more interesting and fun as far as the kid meter. 

Overall, it was definitely a hike worth keeping in the books for future trips because we know we will eventually be back. 

Things to know about the trail:
- Hike is roughly 5 miles round trip
- The river has to be crossed 3x on the trail itself. Be prepared to either take your shoes off or get them wet. 
- Great swimming hole at 1.5 miles in
- There is a waterfall at about 2.5 miles (at the top) 
- Beware of snakes
- Good trail for kids and keeps their interest 
- No restrooms. :) 























Directions if you are coming from the Richmond/VA Beach area. These directions start at the I-295 area which comes off of 64 and then goes back on 64 (FYI).