Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On the Road to Newfoundland!

Whenever we tell people that we spend 3 months a year road tripping in our RV, we often hear comments such as “Oh, I could never do that with my family in a camper. We’d drive each other crazy!”

We always laugh and say something like “it’s not that bad once you get used to it.”

But to get “used to” living in a rolling tiny house means that we must first survive the dreaded transition, or “first stop” of our journey. 

Even though we prep for weeks for these trips, we also have these jobs that we have to keep in order to pay for said RV trip. So, despite how hard we try to be prepared, there is always an enormous amount of work to be done the night before we leave… this last Thursday night being no exception. 

We (Mark) stayed up until 3:30am … slept for 90 minutes… and then put our sleepy selves and babies in to the car at 5am and drove (also Mark) to our 9am Tampa RV service center appointment in Lakeland, Florida. 

Service appointment? Why would we need a service appointment at the beginning of the trip? Well, during Mark's 356 point inspection he noticed a few minor glitches. The awning, for one, appeared to be falling off the coach. Also, we had no kitchen sink, since the faucet had come off in Mark's hand the last time he used it. We don't recommend the entry level faucets from Delta.

Since our trusty 5th wheel had these few things that were in need of a repair… we took the opportunity to spend the day in Lakeland with Mark’s family, and to ride out our “first stop” in Tampa. 

This is our 7th summer road trip… so at this point we just know that the first stop is going to be a hot mess. We will remember that we forgot things, we will break things and find new things that are broken, we will have to re-learn to turn the water heater on an hour before we want hot water, and to bring the awning in at the first sign of wind to keep it from ripping off… again… Despite weeks of packing and organizing, everything will have shifted during the first big drive and we won’t be able to find anything. No one will sleep because it’s “different” and schedules are off and the kids are sleepy but “NOT TIRED!” Something will happen with the sewage and the water and there will be a point where someone (Mark) has sewage on them but no access to water and all hell will break loose and everyone will start screaming for 20 minutes. 

And then it will be over. Then we will be “used to” it. 

So, that is what we were expecting. That, folks, is the best-case scenario. 

Having arrived in Lakeland on time, we dropped off our RV for its 9am repairs and headed over to hang with the Royan clan.  The boys got to the business of bonding with their cousin at one of Lakeland’s many parks, and Mark and April tried desperately to keep their eyes open.  90 minutes of sleep feels really decent in your 20s… not so in your late 30s. 

Around lunch time, Mark received a phone call from our pals at Tampa RV… the part they needed to fix our kitchen sink was not in stock. So, if we wanted a sink, we would need to provide a new faucet ourselves. Mark sprang from the delicious meal and mobilized the family in record time, and we made what would be our first Memorial Day Weekend trip to Lowe’s.

We won’t bore all of you with the details… but apparently off-the-shelf faucets do not come with all of the appropriate adapters for easy RV installation. As the service center closed for the long weekend, we got our camper back with 2 of our 3 problems solved, half a sink, dirty kids, tired parents, and Mark reading Delta faucet directions at 10:39pm. God bless him, as he worked under the tiny RV kitchen sink with at a stream of questions being thrown at him like "How much longer until we can turn the water back on?"  "Can I help?" and "Do you know what the best weapon is to fight a bad guy in Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild?"  Only one of those questions came from April, and it was certainly not the one about helping.

Once the shiny new sink was up and running and the water was back on, a quick midnight turn of the shower nozzle resulted in a lot of cold, cold water.  Seems the water heater wasn’t working. Why? Because it was on fire. On. Fire.

You would think it would at least heat the water while it burned. No. Such. Luck.

Apparently, in the process of the gas water heater burning itself up, portions of the electric water heater burned as well.  Around this time is when the screaming began.  

Ahhhhhhhhhh…. Vacation :)

Morning brought a well-rested fresh perspective, and we were happy once again. Our water was cold AF but we were “used to” it. Life on the open road! Let’s do this, Memorial Day Weekend 2017!

We donned our party pants and drove to Redington Beach, Florida for a visit to the Acker Beach House… an adorbs abode steps from the water and straight out of Coastal Living.  Here you’ll find ice-cold Kim Crawford SauvBlanc, a fancy-pants backyard pool, real grass (a rarity in Florida), and Netflix for the children. Absolutely lovely. 

Next, a visit to the Otto family, long-time Royan buddies and owners of the coolest house and most creative dinners ever.  They made us a BLT bar, you guys…. They supplied different types of flavored lettuce… and mimosas. They gave our kids crowns and fed them donuts. Then they let us fly their drone.

April broke a champagne glass. Then Mark flew their drone straight into a palm tree. They no longer have a drone that can fly. Whoopsies. 

Believe it or not, they let us stay after that… and they made a Low Country Boil for dinner. While Mark ordered replacement drone parts online, the Ottos whipped out a turkey-fryer-turned-giant-hot-pot and fed us once again. We do not deserve them.

A vacation cannot revolve around Acker and Otto visits alone, so we finished our weekend in Tampa with a Memorial Day trip to DailyEats and the The Dali Museum.  

Now.... Salvador Dali is one interesting dude... don't get us wrong... but we're not sure that his museum warrants a $68 entrance fee. Interesting, yes.  Time consuming, no.  We cruised the one-room show in 20 minutes flat, walked the outdoor garden until we started to melt, and tied our overpriced entrance wristbands to the cool wishing tree.  

I wish I hadn't spend $68 on this museum. 

It is possible that Dali, being so ahead of his time, had this experience in mind when he painted that melting clock. 

Tuesday morning brought rain and a trip back to Tampa RV for the much needed water heater repair (Tampa RV has the best service department anywhere... ever.... it really is THE place to buy an RV).   Thanks to their amazing service team, we were out of there before Andrew could finish his second Egg McMuffin! We headed toward Georgia with plans to meet April's Dad along the way! As he headed toward Naples and we headed very much away from Naples, we met up at the Gainesville Cracker Barrel for lunch and a game of checkers! The boys were thrilled to see Grandpa! 

We crossed in to Georgia just in time for some Legos by the LED fire and a few episodes of Peaky Blinders

Look out, Georgia family! Here we come! 

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Parenting is Worse than Your Parenting

I read the most amazing mom-meltdown end-of-school article last weekend. It spoke my language. I love my kids, I love their school. I LOVE their teachers! But I am over all of it. All. Of. It. 

I, too, have completely abandon the homework binder - so much so that now I just leave it at home. I can't even bear to put it in their backpacks for fear it will come back with more stuff inside of it. 

For snack this week, Andrew was assigned “dairy” and Max a “vegetable.” I swear to you that today, at 7:59am, I put two balls of almost-expired fresh mozzarella in to Andrew’s bag, and a handful of questionable cucumbers that I found in the back of the veggie drawer in to Max’s. Somewhere, as we speak, elementary school children are gagging. Kids other than just my own hate me for my choices. And I'm totally fine with it. 

Here's how May has been going in my house... 

Max's lunchbox reeks of fish... a byproduct of him asking for fish sticks in his lunch, then refusing to eat them because they were cold... then leaving said fish in said lunchbox in the van.. all weekend.  

Andrew's shoes have laces that are straight-up shredded. He can't tie them anyway... I don't see the point in replacing them right now. They will teach him that next year in school, right?* For now, bring on summer and Crocs

*Dear sweet, amazing, teachers. I do not expect this. I'm fully aware that I should teach my kid to tie his own shoes. You are patient, kind, angels of the classroom and I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I am a complete sack of exhaustion and no help to you as you try to instill skills and values into my child. I will bring you a very nice gift card on the last day of class. Probably wine as well. Definitely wine. I'm sorry that I said "probably." That was dumb.  

I shared my new favorite mom-meltdown article with my Audiology bestie, Phallon Doss of DossAudiology, a Decibels 180 VIP and a certified mom badass.  Her responding text was epic:

I live that article! That is so how I'm gonna be when Allysa starts "real" school.  I'm having a hard enough time remembering to send her with a show and tell every week (by the way I forgot yesterday and she had to show an un-sharpened pencil she found in her backpack)!

As I read this, I envisioned little Allysa, show and tell approaching, scrambling through her backpack, knowing she didn't have what she needed, but handling it.. like a boss. 

I was composing a text back to Phallon to say "Trust me, my parenting is worse than your parenting. Maybe we're not the kind of moms that pack pretty lunches or fire up hot glue guns! Maybe we forget their show-and-tell. Maybe we don't alllwwwayyys check that our kids are actually wearing pants before we put them in the car.  But our kids have been taught to handle things. To pull it off. To work with what they've got. And that's life." 

Then, folks, she sent me this... 

I'm still laughing about it... two hours later :) 

This should win a Pulitzer Prize for parenthood photography. I see something different every time I look at it. The chair. The food on the floor. The little guy going on about his day as though not a damn thing is wrong with his sister or the chair on her face.  

I love it so much. 

Work hard, super moms. Love them the way you can. Because no one is going to sharpen your pencil for you. Show it anyway. 

P.S. Speaking of badass women, look at these hotties I found at Starkey this weekend! Love my girls Phallon, Gyl and Michelle... and we all loved that chandelier!! 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ears and Cheers... Fixer Upper Style

Our first consulting road trip for Decibels 180 started bright and early, with Michael (Buzzy) picking April up at 5am.  Not two seconds later, something funny happened...

"Don't kill me," he says.. "But we take I-75 South to Ft. Lauderdale airport, right? Or North?"

We've been besties for 27 years... this should not keep coming as such a surprise.

Definitely South, Buzzy.

We didn't have to worry about Buzzy's sense of direction for long, as we were greeted in Austin by a Decibels 180 favorite, Denise Kopecki.

Denise owns Texan Renew Hearing Center in San Marcos. She's adorable, a gracious host, and she for some reason agreed to drive us to Waco (that's 300 miles round trip, folks) to see the Silos. Texas hospitality.

Here are two of the happiest people on earth:

Everything Chip and Jo touch is magical... so everything was of course, perfection. Denise and April wandered the shops and bought the most amazing candles.  Buzzy blew through the entire place with the determination that only a gay man in a designer's shop can bring. We thought we'd lost him.. but he popped up right at the first sighting of a photo op. 

The obsession is real. 

Denise not only drove us to Waco, acted as our Magnoia tour guide, and allowed us to move her kids' car seats to make room for more souvenirs... she also took us to Buc-ee's. Anyone know it? It's like a gas station and a Walmart combined. Very bright. Sort of overwhelming. A good place to get more souvenirs!

We ended our day with a bit of a bar crawl in Gruene, Texas. Tour Guide Kopecki had lots of interesting facts about the cool, old buildings and the delicious cocktails. She even took us to a place with haunted chili! Or maybe it's a haunted place that makes chili? We don't know... that was near the end of the bar crawl. 

By the time we got back to our hotel, we were obnoxiously speaking with a Southern accent and legitimately saying "y'all." 

Anywho... we came to WORK, right? Consulting. Millionaire making. We're good at it. ((Hiccup))

Decibels 180 provides business consulting to private practice Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dispensers. We teach people how to run their businesses more efficiently, make more money, and sell more hearing aids. Guess what we ALSO figured out we can do? 

We can make our very own little episode of  Fixer Upper. 

Denise's office... through no fault of her own... was a bit of a cluttered disaster. She bought it that way.. and she was kind of overwhelmed... so it stayed that way.  But you know how sometimes a fresh set of eyes can see things that you otherwise are blind to everyday? Well, that's exactly what happened. 

We arrived with our consulting gear, all ready to talk process and numbers. We then looked around. Our collective OCD kicked in. So much stuff. So many fake plants. Dust. Outdated materials. 3 desks piled up in one room. 6 broken printers.  Thousands of brochures. Towering office supplies. Two cockroaches: one dead, one very much alive. 

Chip (Buzzy) and Joanna (April) informed Denise (unsuspecting client) that they were going to redecorate her office. To her credit, she saw the intensity in our eyes and went with it. 



After... Denise Kopecki... are you ready to see your Fixer Upper? 

We made a lab, that didn't exist before, out of stuff we found in the closet! 

We made an Exam Room 1 out of an old storage room and extra furniture we found lying around!

Exam Room 2 can now test and counsel patients!

We cleaned up the booth, throwing away all of the fake plants we could find. Bye, Felicia Plants. 

Two dumpsters full of garbage later, our "client" was happy .. even though we made her work with us the whole time. This isn't TV! We don't have a crew! Roll up your sleeves :) 

These two exhausted consultants headed to Austin for some much needed Tito's. So much work but so much FUN! We can't wait to see what the next Decibels 180 adventure brings!! 

Snarfs and Snoozes

While driving the 1772 miles home from Bar Harbor, April looked and Mark and said... "What should we call our last blog of the summer?&...