Friday, December 31, 2010

Johnson Space Center in Houston

In 2005 our family of four visited the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and had a blast. So many cool rockets and displays and we even got to go into the retired Columbia Space Shuttle! So 5 1/2 years later and a bigger family and we were really excited to go to the Johnson Space Center in Texas.

The only disappointment we had was bad timing on our part. This week was probably the worst week of the year to do anything geared for kids. Everyone is out of school, bored with their Christmas toys and home from travels, so this place was crawling with families! At times it was stifling. But we did not let this dampen our enthusiasm.
Well, we did let it do a little dampening a couple of times. Still we managed to see all the special shows, exhibits and even rode the tram to see Mission Control (thought of Ed Harris) and Rocket Hall.

We all loved the moon rocks and learning how the astronauts go the bathroom on the International Space Station. Here are our favorites exhibits. Chase liked the special effects in the Blast-off theater, while Brendan liked learning about Astronauts on the big IMAX. David liked the traveling Lego Knights exhibit and Tanner liked building robots. Blake liked touring the fax Space Shuttle best and Patsy enjoyed the Mission Control tour the most. I enjoyed going down the rocket fast slide in the play area best of all! Seriously I enjoyed telling my boys about brave Americans like Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin the best. And going down a super fast rocket slide!

So as you can see, despite the crowds we had a fun and memorable day!

PS for some reason on our tram ride we saw several deer traipsing around the Space Center complex. Strange.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Campground review - Colonial Del Rey

We really wanted to park the RV for a few weeks during Christmas and set up a tree and put up a few decorations. We also wanted a warm locale. Glad we didn't pick Florida this year. We settled on Corpus Christi, Texas, which turned out to be a decent pick. The campground we picked was Colonial Del Rey, close to Padre Island.

Nearby attractions - 8 - Fair amount of things to do in Corpus Christi and of course there are beaches and lots of water nearby.

Staff - 9 - Very kind peeps here. Everyone took a real interest in our little guys!

Natural surroundings - 6 - There are plenty of trees here, enough to block our satellite service. Close to a busy street and fire department.

Value - 7 - We paid an average of $24 a night most of it as a weekly rate. This is their busy season with lots of winter Texans.

Bathrooms - 8 - Decent and well kept up.

Roominess - 6 - When we had neighbors on both sides it felt crammed a little, but the boys still rode bikes almost everyday we were there.
Facility fun - 8 - A pool and hot tub (big plus for me), library, small playground and again lots of planned activities, mostly for the older folks. We did take part in several of their Christmas activities.

Cleanliness - 8 - Good maintenance crew.

Facility usefulness - 8 - Laundry with the best and cheapest dryers we have seen, full hook-ups, dumps, no propane but a truck comes around every day but Sunday for those needing a fill-up, several shower stations. They also let us receive packages there.

Overall - 8 - We will always remember with fondness our stay at this RV park during this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sunset reports on Christmas

I thought they had completely forgotten about my present when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a warm cozy bath while the boys were near! It felt so good and all my muscles relaxed. Literally all of them relaxed and everything that was pent up inside me just came out in a moment of sweet release!!

Well 2011 is just around the corner. We are in Houston, Texas right now for this celebration! Hopefully the fireworks wont make me jump out of my skin! They give me the creepy crawlies!

Friday, December 24, 2010

USS Lexington

Christmas this year has been really very strange for us. Of course, living in an RV has made my normal Christmas decorating impossible. I usually have between 3 and 4 trees, outside and inside lights, wreaths, garlands, electric candles in the windows and a complete set of Christmas dishes in my arsenal of Christmas d├ęcor. However, living in Howard the RV, I have shaved that down to a tiny 28” tree, a few garlands covered with lights and a set of “snow ball”lights hanging outside the RV. But, the lack of decoration isn’t the only thing that has made this Christmas different.We are also in south Texas (Corpus Christi, to be exact) and the weather is something that I am not used to. Being a northerngirl for most of my life, I can’t get over the feeling of celebrating Christmas in shorts at the beach. Not that I am complaining in anyway, shape or form. I love this weather and I have to admit to a certain amount of nasty snickering when I hear of a snow or ice storm hitting one of the other states. I know I should be ashamed of myself, and I probably will be someday, but right now, I’m not. Right now I’m just enjoying the wonderful weather and hoping to see no snow during our entire RV trip.

During our trips to the beaches, we have seen some really amazing things. Today, we decided to visit the U.S.S. Lexington docked along the beach. It is opened for tours and set up as a floating museum. As we walked through I was awed by the amount of room there is on an air craft carrier. We climbed countless stairs, that were more like ladders and toured more levels than I can remember. As the boys walked through the ship and learned about all the things that make a craft like that work, we started to see them pretend to be sailors on the ship. I heard Brendan tell Chase “The Bridge is all clear, Sir” and I saw each of the boys take turns pretending to fire the guns in the turret. Finally, our whole family sat down in the officer’s meeting room around the conference table and demanded that “Captain” David issue orders to replenish the ship’s stock of chocolate. David was all for it, so I’m pretty sure that a requisition form will be filledout immediately.

However, as we went through the ship’s chapel, I was suddenly reminded ofthe men and women that served on these amazing vessels. My brother in law is serving in the Army as a Chaplain and as we looked at the Chaplain’s quarters, the boys were all asking if this was like Uncle Matt’s job. Now, as we finished our tour of the ship, I looked with different eyes at everything around me. What would it have been like to live and work on this ship for those men and women that risked their lives to protect us? What would their Christmas have been like?

This Christmas is a little different for our family, but I can’t imagine what Christmas must be like for those serving in the military during the Christmas holidays. So many of them are so far away from anything that is familiar. They are far, far away from family and friends. Some are facing dangers that most of us could never even begin to imagine. I have to say that I was truly humbled as I walked through this air craft carrier and realized how much these brave men and women were willing to give up just to keep the rest of us safe and comfortable.

What my family is changing this Christmas is minor compared to the changes our military faces when they are stationed overseas for the holidays. If you know of anyone who has served in the military, won’t you take a few minutes to try and imagine what they and their families have given up in order to serve you? Just let them know that you are grateful for what they have given to you. I think my family is going to be finding ways to show our appreciation to the armed forces this year. God Bless our Troops.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why we didn't go to Mexico

If you watch the video below you can tell our family was really pumped about going to Mexico. Blake was especially interested in going because he has been studying Spanish and also the culture of Mexico in school. I was so excited to show my family where I lived during the year I stayed in Mexico near Monterrey Mexico. I also looked forward to touching base with some of my friends who lived down there.

Of course we had heard a lot of words of caution regarding the dangers of visiting Mexico, but we have had plenty of people caution us about most of the things we do in life (planting a church, foster parenting, adopting, marrying an older woman, marrying a younger man, moving to Canada, living in an RV, you get the picture). We have not let fear or even caution direct our steps very often in life. We do try to listen to the voice of God. Now that can be hard to do, and honestly I am sure I have gotten His voice confused with something else more than once.

But this time it felt like God had opened up an amazing door for our family to do some ministry in Mexico and have another chapter of adventure in our life at the same time. Perhaps God was juts seeing how willing we were. A friend of mine recently said peace is a big indicator of God's will in your life, and I have always felt the same way. The morning we got up to leave for Mexico I woke up with a knot in my stomach. For some reason a big part of me did not want to go. I was feeling this was an unsafe position to put my kids in. I shook it off as nervous jitters and listening too much to the well-intentioned naysayers. So we packed up the van and headed to the Laredo crossing 150 minutes away. I said nothing to Patsy about my feelings.

I let her drive as I studied the maps of Mexico and tried to commit to memory where our route would take us, as we discovered our GPS had no coverage in this area of Mexico. Then our van started to act just a little funny. The steering was making some funny noises and acting a little weird. Nothing serious I was sure, but that knot in my gut was not going away. So then I committed and said something to Patsy about my feelings. She is the cautious one of our duo, so she was surprised how I felt but very soon began to feel dubious about going to Monterrey. Especially when I told her about the State Department warning specifically warning about the Monterrey area.

I made a few phone calls to friends and family, asking for advice and prayer. Then I made the call the the host missions agency and told them we at least wanted to get the van looked at before we went in. Of course finding a mechanic in Laredo outside of a Jiffy Lube or Walmart wasn't easy, so we decided to head over to San Antonio and spend the night there. The van still isn't sounding perfect, I think the power steering fluid may need to be flushed, nothing major. Anyway it was getting dark so we knew we weren't going into Mexico at night. Finally we settled on listening to our hearts and simply decided not to head into Mexico.

Yes we were disappointed, especially Blake and me. But who can fathom the mind of God and perhaps what He foresaw if we did make this trip. So while in general I do try to encourage people to live an adventurous life of faith and to not let fear dictate their life choices, I do highly recommend that you let God order your steps and be open to His voice at any time! He doesn't always make sense, and He even seemingly asks you to do one thing only to change course midway (think Abraham and Isaac on the mountain).

So in the end wether anyone was wondering or even reads this post, it is always a good reminder for me to write these things down as a memory stone for myself and my family of just how important it is to hear the voice of God and obey.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kevin Shutterbug Merry Christmas

Thanks so much to everyone who has been praying for our family and the Kidology to Go ministry! We pray God's blessing on you this Christmas!! Thanks again to One Way Street who helps make this ministry possible and to Kidology for partnering with our family!!

Merry Christmas

Marty, Patsy, Blake, Tanner, David, Brendan, Chase ....... and Kevin Shutterbug!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pape's Pecan House and Nutcracker Museum

We are sorry, but we have removed this post because it is a part of our new book entitled Napkin Dreams.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Padre Island and Mustang Island

You got to love the weather we are having here in Corpus Christi, especially when so much of the rest of the country is in a deep freeze with blizzards blowing and winds howling! We have had several sunny days in the 70s and 80s and loved exploring the nearby islands.

First we visited Padre Island and the Padre Island National Seashore. Here we met a super nice ranger who talked to the boys for a long time, giving them a lesson in all the different things they can find at the beach. Not only did the younger ones do the junior ranger program, but our family also did some beach clean-up and they got a patch for that too. It was a little cooler that
day and we did not do much in the water, but we did search for shells and other wildlife. We saw lots of birds (the area is a cross section for a ton of migrating species). My favorites are the flocks of brown pelicans that fly overhead, but the little guys love to chase the pipers and plovers who are incessantly combing the beach for clams.

Saturday was an amazing day in the mid 80s and not only did we go to the beach at Mustang Island State Park, but we did a fair bit of swimming and wading. They have a large jetty there and we explored the tide pools there where Blake found a sea star. There was a nice gentle breeze so we also got out our kite. We thought we were so crazy driving our mini-van out on the beach. Regular adventurers! Anyway not only have we been enjoying the warm weather, we also have enjoyed the nearly empty beaches! There have been people there, but you don't feel like you are tripping over everyone else like you do when you go during the warmer months!

Today we are celebrating our 2nd birthday in the RV - mine! Turning 41 today my big wish is to watch the Bears and go to Joe's Crab Shack! My best gift this year was a walking stick my family made for me. Patsy found a stick in a pile at Red Rock Canyon and the boys whittled it, sanded it and signed it and mom put varnish on and oversaw the whole procedure.
Loving the good life!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Texas State Aquarium

When I was a little boy I wanted to be a zookeeper. I loved animals and wanted to be around them all the time. We had a neighbor who had a menagerie of sorts, raccoons, foxes, peacocks, farm animals. I used to go with my sisters, cousins and friends to "tour" his farm. Maybe this is where I got the idea of being a zookeeper from.

Then in third grade my class took a field trip to Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago. Suddenly I was open to either working in either a zoo or an aquarium. I was star struck by the harbor seals, the beluga whales and the diver who fed the fish and sea turtle in the giant center aquarium. Since I have been a dad I have been taking my kids to zoos and aquariums across the country. Now that we are literally crisscrossing the continent and we have our special zoo membership card, we plan on getting in as many zoos and aquariums as our interest levels will allow. For the most part all of our family loves them, so we should be in good shape.

Yesterday we had an exceptional experience at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. Using our membership card we got a hefty discount, and the crowd was quite sparse on this December afternoon. We saw three other families and few of the retired set there. They have several shows and demonstrations to go to so we took full advantage of these. We went to a bird show where to our surprise our little shy guy David volunteered to go up on stage and got to pet an anteater (at a bird show?). He even won a Whataburger gift certificate!

We got to see a bunch of cool looking sea turtles up close, we think they thought we were going to feed them, some amazing looking jellyfish, a show-off macaw and a big shark. We also got to pet stingrays who were very active. So active that poor Brendan got nearly soaked by one splashing him. Now this was crazy enough, but then he got splashed a second time later on! Later on little David got picked again to play a game with a diver feeding some fish! He's come a long way from the little guy they weren't sure was going to live he was so badly abused. We were so proud of our David and he was pretty proud of himself!

We finished the day up watching the otter play and wrestle and then making a stop at Whataburger to redeem that certificate!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kevin Shutterbug - Boredom while driving Howard

Kevin Shutterbug talks to Marty about how our family deals with the long hours of driving in Howard the RV.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Campground review - Rainbow's End

Trying to push down to Corpus Christi, we wanted to stop over at the Escapees headquarters and main campground in Livingston, Texas. Escapees is an RV club that also has one of the premier mail services for full-timers, which is why we joined their club. Their main park is called Rainbow's End and was a nice day stop-over for the family after a long day of driving (7 hours).

Nearby attractions - 6 - About 70 minutes from Houston, Texas and another 30 minutes beyond that to Galveston.

Staff - 9 - Sone of the nicest staff we have met. Even got a hug when we left from the nice lady (older let me stress) that checked us out.

Natural surroundings - 7 - Nicely shaded campground.

Value - 9 - $about $17.50 a night - cheaper since we are members.

Bathrooms - 8 - Very nice, but they do want you to squeegee the walls and refrain from throwing depends in the toilet!

Roominess - 8 - We felt we had plenty of room, and the boys played outside quite a bit.

Facility fun - 8 - A pool, library, free DVD lending service, lots of planned activities - aimed at the retired set.

Cleanliness - 8 - Lots of volunteers keep the park looking sharp.

Facility usefulness - 8 - $1 Laundry, full hook-ups, dumps, propane, several shower stations.

Overall - 8 - We really enjoyed seeing the headquarters and picking up our mail! We recommend all Escapees members to check this RV park out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

McDonalds Missouri

Our latest McDonald's stop was in the show-me state of Missouri. We hit one McCafe with a big RV/Truck parking lot in Mt Vernon, Missouri (between Springfield and Joplin on I44) for what they called "Happy Hour." This meant they had 99 cents speciality coffees. This stop was just for dad and mom since we needed a pick-me up on our way from Branson to wherever we were staying that night on our way to Texas (ended up in a Walmart in Oklahoma).

Patsy and I do love their speciality iced lattes and iced coffees, even more so during Happy Hour!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Silver Dollar City Light Show

Campground review - The Wilderness at Silver Dollar City

During our visit to Silver Dollar City near Branson, Missouri, we decided to stay at Silver Dollar City's campground - The Wilderness. The rates were reasonable and they have a free shuttle to SDC, so it seemed a good choice. We were not dissappointed, but I was not wowed like I thought I might be.

Nearby attractions - 8 - So close to Branson with a ton of things to do!

Staff - 7 - Staff was pretty friendly, although I must say I expected "Disney nice."

Natural surroundings - 9 - Besides all the trees, there are some nice mountain views in the campground.

Value - 6 - $32 for a night - full hook-up. No discounts that I no of unless you have a yearly pass to Silver Dollar City.

Bathrooms - 8 - Great, warm and roomy showers, clean bathrooms. Plenty of stalls and showers.

Roominess - 7 - Very nice for an RV park, almost State Park roominess.

Facility fun - 8 - Two playgrounds and a pool. Game room and walking path as well.

Cleanliness - 8 - Well kept up.

Facility usefulness - 8 - Laundry, full hook-ups, dumps, decent size store.

Overall - 8 - This park made me feel good. We did haircuts for the three little guys here. They had some cute cats around the park. Still it did not make me feel like we were staying near a "magical" theme park.

Christmas in Silver Dollar City

This post has been deleted because it is in our new book describing our adventures across America entitled Napkin Dreams!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kevin Shutterbug and friends Christmas song

When we were at Rock Church we did a puppet song. Blake, Tanner and Patsy all did a puppet for the kids. One Way Street Ministries is a sponsor of our traveling ministry, and we used several of their ministry tools in this performance. Kevin Shutterbug, in the middle, is one of their puppets. The other two puppets, Dude and Bob, Patsy made using One Way Street puppet patterns. The song is off their RPM Christmas CD. Be sure to check out this great ministry's website and their many resources!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

50 McDonalds - Illinois

We added another McDonald's to our list of one from each state. On Tuesday, November 30th, on our way down to Branson, we drove most of the daylight hours and did not want to stop and make dinner. We did want to get south before snow flew in Northern Illinois, so we stopped at the McDonald's just off Interstate 39 in Oglesby, Illinois, near LaSalle-Peru.
Our boys were thrilled that they had Transformers in the Happy Meals! Finally a toy they can play with for a long time.
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