The Museum of Making Music – Carlsbad, CA…

On Tuesday we visited the Museum of Making Music. It’s around a 35 minute drive from San Diego. The ticket prices aren’t too pricey, and the museum does offer free entrance to children under age 12 the whole month of October. It cost $20 for our family of twelve.

It’s a small museum. We walked through and got to see instruments and listen to music from different eras.

As a family who loves music, we really enjoyed the museum. If you don’t love music or play an instrument, I think you could feel the museum is too small and not very interesting. If you love music, it’s worth your money and time.

Most of the older instruments were display only. Those were very neat to see.

Other instruments were available to play.

The last room in the museum is full of instruments, both unique and ordinary, that can be tested and played.

We spent a lot of time in this room, each rotating through different instruments.

There is also a side synthesizing room that was interesting to explore.

This was a great, low cost activity that was right up our alley.

USS Midway Museum – San Diego, CA…

Guess what? Kids get in free tons of places in San Diego the month of October! This was such exciting news to us. It enables us to be able to do so much more than we’d have chosen to do otherwise.

Today we visited the USS Midway Museum. It’s an aircraft carrier, formerly of the United States Navy.

Many of the employees are retired Navy SEALs. The kindest men took us in and showed us around, told us stories and showed us how things worked. One even purchased our souvenir photos for us.

The flight deck was really awesome. It was full of aircrafts.

We all loved seeing the planes and especially checking out the interiors.

We got to see in person things I’ve only seen in movies.

After exploring the flight deck, we went to check out the living quarters on the ship.

The kids just loved getting a little glimpse of what it’d be like to be in the Navy.

We learned that there was far more laundry done on this ship than is done at our home.

Our kids thought the sleeping quarters were awesome and that the beds were comfortable. Coming from RV beds, I suppose they compare fairly well.

(Bravely had a diaper leak and ended up with wet pants. I am the mom of 10 that has never carried extra clothes in the diaper bag. You’d think I’d have learned by now. Ha!)

This ship is so huge, we could not imagine learning our way around it.

Each link in these chains attached to the ship’s anchors weigh 160 pounds. I don’t think I’d want to be in charge of letting those anchors down.

Our kids loved that they were given permission to touch and push buttons.

There are some places we take our kids knowing that it will be fun and interesting for them. I chose this museum thinking that it would be interesting to Ryan and our kids. Turns out that it was all around interesting to me as well. Bonus.

It is a bit pricey, but I’d say definitely worth the price for most families. We have to pick and choose our splurges as a large family. I am not sure we would have chosen this museum without the free tickets. Knowing what it’s like now, I think it’s worth a splurge.

We got there pretty late. If you go, plan to stay at least 3-4 hours. There is plenty to see and do. Some things we missed.

We now have kids very interested in the Navy. And we all learned so many new things.

Indian Canyons – Palm Springs, CA…

Yesterday we went on the most beautiful hiking trail we’ve experienced thus far.

We had to pay an entrance fee to get into Indian Canyons. It was $9 per adult and $5 per kid ages 6-12. Ages 5 and under were free.

Someone we met, I think in Walmart, highly recommended this place. We decided to try it out, but we did not expect it to be so wonderful.

There was a stream of running water alongside the trail.

There were awesome rocks to climb.

There were beautiful palm trees.

And there were snakes. Yikes! Manning and Tapestry came right up to this rattle snake. Tapestry let out a scream and our big kids quickly started shuffling back my way. It didn’t rattle or try to strike, thankfully!

There are different hiking trails at Indian Canyons. We chose to hike the Andreas Canyon as it sounded the prettiest that would be easiest with kids.

We were able to push Bravely in the jog stroller through the first half of the trail. It got too steep and rocky the second half so we carried her for that portion.

Our kids loved walking on the rocks scattered across the stream.

Most of our kids had not hiked prior to moving into our RV. It’s a new found hobby we all really enjoy.

We loved visiting Joshua Tree, but I have to admit that we loved this even more.

This was a great way to end our time in the Palm Springs area.

We’ve now moved on to a park near San Diego. Have you been? What did you enjoy here?

Joshua Tree National Park – California…

We’ve been staying at an RV park that feels in the middle of nowhere. There are tons of towns surrounding us, but we have joked that it feels a bit like the twilight zone here. It’s like beach meets mountains and desert.

Our RV Park is nice. We love all the palm trees, the pool, the game room and the basketball court. Our RV spot has an awesome patio and is nice. But the space for our RV is so narrow it was like playing Tetris getting our RV to fit between the patio awning and the electrical box, and making sure the patio polls weren’t blocking our outdoor kitchen or door. We had to re-hitch more than once. Fun times – ha!

We had a couple down days after all the birthday celebrations. We worked on school, laundry, cleaning, etc.

Today we visited Joshua Tree National Park.

We entered through what appeared to be the back entrance. It was a little confusing where to go and how to get around the park. I definitely recommend going with a full tank of gas. We went with about half a tank, so we really had to cut out seeing certain areas.

This park was very different than Zion. There were way less tourists, which was nice. But it also seemed less organized and not quite as easy to navigate.

Once we got the feel of the park, we ended up really enjoying Joshua Tree. We liked exploring on our own, just driving and stopping at places that looked interesting to us.

We thought the Cholla Cactus Garden was very interesting.

Our kids especially loved climbing the large boulders.

And, of course, we were fascinated by the Joshua Trees.

There are plenty of hiking trails and other areas to explore. These were just the ones that most stood out to us.

Tomorrow is our last day in this area. Then we’ll be heading toward San Diego. We really love both exploring outdoors and city life. Traveling is quite an adventure!

Cherish’s 10th birthday…

Today we celebrated Cherish’s 10th birthday.

We started the day out with yogurt and granola at Cherish’s request.

We gave her gifts and read her what we each wrote to her in her journal. Then we went to the pool at our RV park.

Cherish was so happy to have the perfect weather for swimming.

We all had a great time!

After swimming we went for a late lunch to Chipotle. Chipotle is probably our favorite restaurant. Chick-fil-A is in the running as well. Cherish got to pick anything she wanted and got a special drink. Being a big family, we typically give lower cost options and we just drink water. Cherish loved choosing her food and drink.

Then we went for a much needed grocery run. We do not all go to the store together often. In our pre-RVing life, Ryan grocery shopped most every Sunday and took 1 or 2 kids with him max. Shopping as a family of 12 is definitely an adventure – not a speedy adventure. We had fun with it, though, and we are learning to enjoy shopping together on occasion. Yes, we were looking cool or nerdy or interesting in our matching shirts. We got plenty of stares and lots of conversations. Haha.

Cherish got to pick a dessert. She chose a variety cheesecake, which we all enjoyed this evening.

Happy 10th birthday, Cherish!

I can’t believe you are double digits! You are such a sensitive, loving, kind and caring girl. You are a friend to any and everybody. You happily play with each of your brothers and sisters. You adore Bravely and want to hold her and care for her as much as you get the chance. You just love River and love to tell us all the cute little things she says and does. I love watching you worship – singing, playing piano and ukulele. It’s fun to watch you walk on your hands for a lengthy amount of time. You aren’t one for a lot of pretend play. You enjoy sports, being outdoors, and you love having deep and real conversations with people. You really are just such a thoughtful, precious daughter. Your name fits you so well…you cherish others. I hope you know how cherished you are by God and by us. I love you so very much, and I am so happy to have you as my daughter!

Celebrating in California…

Yesterday we made it to California. California is big and has so many great places to visit. We plan to be here for awhile.

We’ll still move from place to place within California. There is just a lot we want to see and do here. I’m loving all the palm trees!

Today was all about celebrating this guy! It’s his birthday.

We went to a rock climbing gym and had a blast. Except Bravely, we all climbed.

Ryan is a really fun, adventurous husband and daddy. He likes to overcome challenges and tackle obstacles. This was the perfect place to celebrate him.

Mercy (age 5) and Treasure (age 4) amazed us as they climbed high with little to no fear.

All of our children really like trying new things. Most of the time each will push past any fear or hesitation and give something a try.

I was really excited to be able to climb. Repeated pregnancies have limited my activity over the past 13 years. When I get the opportunity to do something like this, I go for it. Even if it’s harder than it would have been before birthing 9 babies. And it was definitely harder. Ha.

Climbing high. Living life passionately, to the full. Pouring all he’s got into his family. That’s Ryan.

I am so happy we are his and he is ours!

We ended the day trying In-N-Out Burger, Ryan’s choice. The burgers were really good, the fries looked just like Texas fries but somehow tasted so different – not as good to us. Ryan loves ice cream, I mean, really loves it. Chocolate shakes were the grande finale, leaving a big smile on Ryan’s face.

Tomorrow we will celebrate again. Cherish turns 10!

Hoover Dam – Nevada/Arizona

Yesterday we visited Hoover Dam.

It was just a short drive from Las Vegas. It is on the border of Nevada and Arizona.

We drove through security and had a quick van search. There was no admission cost and we parked for free a short walking distance from the dam.

You can pay to park closer in a parking garage. You can also pay to go on a tour. We decided to just explore ourselves.

The dam is huge and is very interesting to see.

There are several signs along the way that share some of the history of when and how the dam was built.

We enjoyed the views and reading the history of Hoover Dam.

It was definitely worth the drive and time to go see.

The Las Vegas Strip…

We made it to Nevada a couple days ago.

We decided to visit Las Vegas for a few days. I had heard about flyers with half dressed women being handed out at night and about billboards with the same. I thought maybe we could visit the strip during the day to see some of the neat hotels and other kid-friendly places.

When we drove into Vegas and all the way through to our RV park, I was happily surprised to see no crazy billboards. We decided to drive down the strip around 5PM. There were driving billboards that drove up and down the strip with ads we definitely didn’t want our guys to see. I’m talking porn. Us girls helped the guys look other directions, but we got out of there as fast as possible.

I did some research and came up with a plan for the next day. We decided to go to the strip early morning. We parked at Mandalay Bay, which was one of the few parking options I found for our 9 foot tall van. We absolutely loved walking down the strip seeing the outside of the different hotels.

New York, New York was my personal favorite.

And, of course, Liberty just loved seeing the Statue of Liberty.

This is when it got crazy. As soon as we hit the walkways over the streets, escalators and elevators, there were literally almost naked women walking around in pairs trying to take photos with people and get tips. I’m talking a lot less dressed than a bikini. I honestly don’t know how we got through that gauntlet without Ryan, Manning or Rhythm seeing these women. Our girl team was strong in helping navigate the guys. I am not kidding, though, two of the women chased after us asking to take photos with us. We still were able to shield our boys, but it was pretty overwhelming and reason enough for us to never want to visit Vegas again – definitely not the strip anyway.

There were also characters who were quick to try to get photos with our kids. We were happy to see the characters, but were asked for tips. We weren’t carrying cash, but just be aware that is what the characters want.

We made it to a couple of the main places we wanted to visit that we felt sure would be kid friendly. Those were the M&M and Coca-Cola Stores. We were in those for at least three hours and had a great time.

Our kids did jobs and saved money over the past couple years preparing for RVing. Each of them chose to buy a cup that they got to fill with an assortment of M&Ms.

Our little girls could not think of much other than eating those M&Ms.

Mercy’s birthday is coming up in November, so I snuck away to buy her a few gifts. All the M’s made for perfect gifts for her.

The M&M Store has four floors. They have a short iMax video that was fun for our kids to watch. You can also personalize M&Ms, printing whatever you’d like on them. That was really cool to see.

After the M&M Store, we went next door to the Coca-Cola Store.

It reminded me of my sister’s childhood bedroom. She had her whole room decorated in the Coca-Cola theme.

The thing we loved most about the Coca-Cola Store was trying a couple trays of soda from all around the world.

Most of the drinks were yummy or interesting. There was one we could all barely tolerate that tasted like a strong cough medicine.

When we were finished there, we navigated through the gauntlet of almost nude women and made it to our van. We left the Las Vegas strip knowing that would be our first and last visit.

As we left, we talked about all the fun we had and that we’d focus on the fun. We also talked about how important it is to not get into certain situations and how we can choose not to visit somewhere even if other people do and like it. We talked about how some things are unavoidable to see but how we can choose what we continue to look at or if we choose to look a second time or not. We talked about not judging the barely dressed women, why they may be doing what they are, and that we’d love them and care about their stories if we had a conversation with them or knew them. And we talked about not judging people who like the Las Vegas strip – how there are tons of neat things there. It was all around a good learning experience, and we had some fun along the way.

Zion National Park – Utah

Yesterday we visited Zion National Park.

We got out of bed around 7:00AM, which is early for us. We are not super early risers. I had read that we should arrive between 8-9AM to be able to get a parking spot. You can park in Springdale and take a shuttle if you want or are unable to get a spot at Zion.

We arrived around 9:30AM. All the spots were taken. Lucky for us, we were able to park in the oversized vehicle lot. Our passenger van most places consider either a passenger vehicle or an oversized vehicle.

The cost to get in Zion is $35 per vehicle. We got in free thanks to Cherish’s 4th grade pass.

We first went to the information desk at the visitor center to find out which hiking trails would be good for small children. We were directed to three different trails.

We went to the gift shop to let the kids purchase postcards. They have a slew of pen pals, and all our older kids love sending mail to family and friends.

At the last park we visited, Mesa Verde, we tried the Junior Ranger program. It is a really neat program. Each kid is given a pamphlet with activities and questions pertaining to that specific park. The child finds the answers and fills out the pamphlet along the way. He or she turns in the pamphlet when complete. Then each child is given a badge from a park ranger.

Our kids enjoyed participating at Mesa Verde, but we have decided not to continue to participate in the program. Our kids felt like they were so busy trying to get all the answers that they couldn’t truly look, learn and soak everything in. And, as parents, helping 9 children find answers and complete pamphlets added a stressful element to something that was meant to be fun. As an alternative, we offered to buy each kid a national parks passport book. For those you purchase a sticker at each park for $1.99 to put in your book. Then you use an ink stamp at each park to stamp your book. Our kids loved this idea, so that is what we are doing.

The first trail we walked was Pa’rus Trail. It was 1.75 miles and took about an hour. It was very easy walking, mostly flat land. The landscape was beautiful. I pushed River in our jog stroller, and Ryan carried Bravely in a baby carrier.

We stopped for a snack lunch and potty break after the first trail. We then rode a shuttle to the next trail we wanted to hike, which was the Upper Emerald Pool Trail. It was a 1 mile hike that took about an hour.

It was what I consider more of a true hike. There were a lot of ups and downs, it was fairly narrow and there were drop offs. I did push the jog stroller. It wasn’t super easy, but was still enjoyable. We had to watch our little kids closely and keep them close by to make sure no one ventured over the side. All the kids seemed to enjoy this trail, and many of our girls said this one was their favorite.

The views were amazing. There was a waterfall near the end. It was more of a sprinkling of water, but it was still neat to see.

There were deer and squirrels that would come up very close. This squirrel almost let Bravely touch it when age she held out her hand. She loved it.

After we finished the second trail we stopped for a snack, water and another potty break.

Our little ones were needing to rest their legs, though they never complained.

We then rode a shuttle to our third and final hiking trail, The Riverside Walk. The shuttles had a lot of seating and would be very easy for 95 percent of people, couples and families to ride. We are not in that 95%. Ha! It wasn’t bad, but we really had to hustle on, keep headcount, separate in groups and share seats. There was a wrack to put strollers on the front of each shuttle.

Our little girls loved riding the shuttle. Treasure kept asking when we’d ride the school bus again.

Bravely really loved the shuttle ride and cuddle time with her mommy.

The last trail we hiked was about 2 miles and took about an hour and a half.

It was an easier hike than the second trail but still had some ups and downs. It felt safer and easy going with kids.

This trail went alongside a river. It was a beautiful view, the best of the day I thought.

Oh, our kids wore their Sibling Squad shirts I had made for them, and Ryan and I wore our Squad Leader shirts he had made for us. We had probably 50-100 people comment on the shirts. People loved them. One lady with an English accent thought our family was adorable and asked to take a photo. We find all this hilarious because we are just used to having a big family and living our lives. But we are also used to getting many reactions, questions and comments everywhere we go. We enjoy meeting so many different people and having conversations. And we’ve become quick at throwing a witty comeback to witty comments we get. It’s our life, and we like to have fun with it.

River is just starting to understand what a river is. She loved that we walked alongside the river and that she got a photo taken by it. She also loved that people kept saying, “river”.

About halfway through this hike, our little ones really started asking if we were about to go home (the RV) or ride the shuttle or even just sit down. Those little legs were getting tired!

We encouraged them, and they really did great through the end.

We took a shuttle ride back to the visitor center, got in our van and went to Chipotle for a big carb and protein dinner.

It was a great day, a first hike for most of our kids, and something we’d do again. Zion National Park is a great place to visit!

Beyond the shore…

Ryan and I are both pretty laid back people. At the start of our relationship, neither of us worried much. We both enjoyed high-thrill activities. We were both passionate and deep in our own individual ways. And we were both go-for-it type people.

We had one baby, then two, three, four and five. By the time our fifth baby was born, I felt paralyzed by the responsibility of raising our kids. I loved having five small children and I loved the responsibility, but still, deep down I was terrified of not being able to adequately give my kids all they needed plus my dreams of giving them so much more. I wasn’t even sure I could physically protect that many small humans. And that really terrified me.

Swimming is something I loved as a child. I was a fish, and I swam all summer every summer. Getting 5+ non-swimmers around water can bring on a full blown panic attack, though. We put our kids in swim lessons summer after summer, but we’d rarely go practice or just swim for fun. We felt so outnumbered watching our kids in or around water. By the time we had ten children, I thought it’d be a true miracle if we could ever enjoy anything in the water.

Several months ago, a determination came over me. We found a great swim teacher for our kids. We were willing to pay month after month after month for swim lessons. We had nine kids in lessons for over 5 months, up until the week we left Texas for our RV adventure.

This week we were given 10 free passes to swim at the community center near our RV park. In the past, we would have politely declined. This time we went for it, and we had such a great time.

We are still happily and unapologetically overprotective. We still counted the kids 1,000+ times. But my heart didn’t race. Not once.

Bravely got in the pool for the first time, and she absolutely loved it.

This moment had seemed so far off; it was awesome to live it in the now.

We aren’t ready for any swimming parties. We aren’t ready for a major water park. We aren’t ready for swimming surrounded by tons of other kids. Those may be awhile. BUT we have made it out beyond the shore.

People ask, “What drew you to this lifestyle of full-time RVing?” That is a loaded answer. Part of that answer is this. Venturing out beyond the shore.

We will still be our overprotective selves. We will not take risks that we feel could endanger our children in any way. We will have bumps and bruises and ER trips – no matter where we live. We’ve had our fair share thus far, for sure.

In fact, we had an ER trip the night before last. Our two oldest daughters decided to flip over each other for fun in an enclosed slide on a plain old playground. One hit her head. Hours later she was dizzy and vomiting. It was determined she had a mild concussion. This could have happened in our backyard when we lived in a house. I hate those things, but they just happen.

We want our kids to be wise, protective and not overly risk-taking. We, also, want our kids to live life, to push past fear, to dream and to actually do. We want them to dive in deep. To move beyond the shore.

And we want to dive in deep. To move beyond the shore.

I get told fairly often that I’m a brave woman, mostly when people see me surrounded by our ten children. I am a woman like any other, wife like any other and mom like any other. I don’t feel all that brave, and I completely cower at times. My confidence is in God. He is the only one who makes me brave. He is the one who calls me beyond the shore and into the waves. He is all that is brave within me.

May you venture out beyond the shore in your life. May you experience the beauty of the deep. May bravery be ignited in your soul.