Saturday, April 27, 2013

A week in Big Sandy, TX with the Duggars...

We are on our way back home from the ATI conference in Big Sandy, TX. It really challenged us in our Christian walk, faith and parenting. Just like with anything new our discernment was heightened and ready to decipher error. We didn't find any here. We found families that love the Lord with all their heart and in turn want their children to love the Lord. In the week we spent camping with all the families there was nothing but encouragement, even when one night it poured down rain all night, the temperature surprisingly dropped to the 40s and numerous tent campers got completely soaked, only the words, "the Lord is so good" slipped through smiling lips and sweet demeanors. The true joy of the Lord was abounding at this conference and everyone was a shining light of peace. There was no snapping or loud remarks when dealing with children (and there were A LOT of children!) just gentle words of correction and no griping in the hour long latte line just sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters. I don't think I have ever been so encouraged to meditate on the Word and put prayer first so that I can make that true joy and peace part of my daily Christian walk. I need to know the Savior I serve so I can love to go to work for Him everyday in all I do!
Yes, we met the Duggars and the Bates. There were really just families. Families that love to serve the Lord. Families with normal children that misbehave. Families that stop to take the time to lovingly correct their children instead of getting frustrated and resorting to yelling. Families that love each other because they know where true love comes from. Families that are not perfect. Families that express their daily failures that lead them closer to their need for their Savior. I did get one on one fellowship with Michelle Duggar, she and I sat in the dim light of the campsite, past 10pm and just talked. I picked her brain on homeschooling, parenting and time for marriage with so many children. She really is just another mom in the daily grind, looking to Jesus for guidance, messing up, apologizing and teaching her kids God's Word. She has 24 years of parenting experience of 19 different personalities which makes her far more wise with much more time to learn from bumps and mistakes along the way. Since the Duggars were parked directly behind us I had a chance to just observe for 4 days. Too many times to count I saw Michelle tidying up the campsite, chasing lost socks and gently pulling little ones out of the dirt. She truly is serving these kids with her life. I had the chance to speak with Jana, Jinger and Jill, all of which were stunningly beautiful, very wise and full of joy. They took a great interest in our little ones and were so sweet to them, saying "hi" to them by name every time they passed by. Josie was quite the wild child but Michelle was so gentle, yet faithful to stop what she was doing time and time again to remind Josie the proper way to behave. Anthony found many friends in the Duggar boys and when telling us stories about their play together I was pleasantly surprised that their character-focused God-centered curriculum was really showing through in their behavior. We went to the Bates dorm parties two separate nights and they were so giving and definitely have the gift of hospitality. We mainly went there for a sweet couple of 7 kids, the Dempsters, they had staying with them that has adopted and I just loved picking their brain and sharing stories!
Here are some pictures from our week in Texas!
 Family Picture!
                              Our campsite                               Folding picnic table I found on craigslist for $15!

                     Two little poppers!                                                       Maggie and Josie Duggar

                         Mirabel tight-roping                                                      Dirty Maggie!

                    Mirabel at Pre-Embassy                                               Anthony at ALERT cadet challenge

            Blanket time during conference                          The only way I can keep track of 2 little ones

Risa with friends, Josie is hanging upside down :)            Risa and Maggie with Jen and Josie Duggar

Late night fellowship with Jill, Ally and Christie!                 Babies napping at conference session

The big Friday night Duggar cook-out, our backyard                 I love Mrs. Dempster! (at Bates dorm)

We loved little Esther! She is 3 with Spina Bifida           Daddy, kinda, sorta, bought a new toy ($600)

                   Flying in the golf cart                                      Thank you Gator for reinforcements!!!

We had such a great time! We made lifelong friends! We will be going back next year, God willing! We have such an awesome God-given Nanny and Gator who take care of us and our kids like grandparents! We are going to stop in Mobile, AL to attend Steve Lawson's church in the morning then only a 4 hour trek home! Once home I will have to hustle to unpack and repack the RV in two days, because May 1st Brian and I are headed to Nashville, TN for the Christian Alliance for Orphans - Summit9 conference!!!
Click here for our blog post about the 2014 conference
Click here for our blog post about the 2015 conference

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Tour of our Little Home on Wheels

Our RV is 32ft long and about 10ft wide, so that is 320sqft. How on earth do you fit 7 people into a 320sqst living space....comfortably!?! Well, I had that same question when Brian brought up the idea of buying an RV for vacationing with our quick-growth, large family. I thought there was no way, I kinda even put up a little bit of a fight against it....well, maybe a big one ;)

Well, believe it or not, hubby was right, it is mighty comfortable. Like taking home with you wherever you go. We don't have to stop for snacks, meals, potty trips, diaper changes, or stretch breaks. Everytime I pack it I think, "For sure, this time there will not be enough room! There is no way everything we need will fit." Everytime I am amazed we still have empty drawers and space in the under-storage compartments

We bought our class C motorhome in Aug. 2012. After much research and hunting we found a used 2003 Coachmen Santara 316ks for $15,000 under Kelly Blue Book. She had minor flaws, couple of repairs and not the preferred floorplan, but we love her despite her age and previous issues. She has made quite the perfect first-timer RV.

This time we packed for a 9 day trip. Here is a little tour of our small home on wheels:

This is our main living space. Our living room and dining room. The couch side has a slide-out so when parked we gain about 3ft of living space. The couch, dinette and bunk above driver's cab all turn into three full-size beds.
Left cabinets, above couch, are where Anthony and Mirabel put their clothes and belongings. Right cabinets, above dinette, are where Titus and Maggie's clothes go.
There are two drawers under each dinette seat, one is for Risa's clothes and belongings and the other holds books and games.
When we drive at night the kids are set up "girls and boys" among the two beds but during camping, usually Mirabel and Risa sleep in bunk over cab, twins on the couch and Anthony on dinette.
Kitchen has frigde and freezer, sink, microwave, oven and stove (under cutting board). There are a lot of cabinets and cutting boards make more counter space.
Fridge and freezer really appear small at first but I have found fit a week to week and a half of food comfortably. We have 5 frozen crockpot meals as well as a loaf of bread, 10 frozen breakfast burritos, and 14 burgers in the freezer.
Left cabinet, next to microwave, is a little messy (it was last packed by little hands and mommy missed it during re-organizing) it has plates, bowls, cups, plastic utensils, etc. The right cabinet, above sink, is spice/coffee cabinet.
Cabinet under sink holds crockpot, baking bowls and glass pans. Under oven drawer holds tons of pots. Two small drawers for all kitchen utensils.
Cleaning supply cabinet is across from fridge, under extra fold-down countertop. Then a step past kitchen is our dry pantry.
I pretty much just empty our pantry at home into the RV. About a week to a week and a half of food.
Past the bathroom is the master bedroom. Now Brian and I don't sleep in seperate beds at home but since separate twins are not preferred with RV buyers it saved us about $5K, also if we have a future need we can convert twin single beds to bunk beds and fit 2 more children :)
Cabinets around beds store my and Brian's clothes.
Left is my bed, there is a small stand with two drawers and a tv, there is also a drawer under bed where diapers and wipes are stored. Right bed (Brian's) has cabinets above it that hold all blankets and sheets used for three full-size beds in main living space. There is a 2nd wardrobe for kid's church outfits, jackets and extra shoes. There are 4 small empty drawers under wardrobe and bed.
Bathroom takes up space between kitchen and bedroom and there are two dividers that close in bathroom.
Under cabinet, three drawers and mirror cabinet holds, really, everything we need for the bathroom.
Toilet room is bigger than it looks. It has built-in hamper for dirty clothes and very deep cabinet. The bottom shelf has 14 bath towels as well as medicine box and emergency nebulizer. The top shelf holds all our small camping gear like lanterns, fans, flashlights, etc.
There is also TONS of room in the under-storage compartments. I will try to snap some shots and add them tomorrow :)
This little vehicle-made-home truly makes it easy and cost effective to take vacations with the family. The only cost in vacations is gas and $15-$30/night if we do a campground.
Although the packing is quite overwhelming before we go it makes up for not having to lug in bags to a hotel, unpack in the room, re-pack at end of our stay and lug bags back to car then repeat at next stop. The RV allows one major packing excursion then constant home at our fingertips the whole duration of our trip. Plus the older kids are becoming good packing helpers, thru trial and error, as we develop a system that works best for us to pack most efficiently.
This time hubby knew best....well, he kinda always does, but don't tell him I said so ;) Love you babe! COACHMEN! :)
Posted by Shannon