An RV Christmas…

We’ve enjoyed spending lots of time with family and friends over the past couple weeks!

Last weekend we celebrated Christmas with Ryan’s family.

Card games, sports, baby dolls – our kids had a blast playing with their cousins!

Then we spent this past weekend with my family. We are still at Lolli and Pop’s, and we are getting ready to ring in the new year tonight.

Because our kids are home-schooled, most of their closest friends are each other and their cousins. They are loving all this cousin-time!

On Christmas Eve, our little {big} family opened gifts and unstuffed stockings in our home…our RV.

Many people have asked, “What do you get TEN kids that you can fit in an RV?!” So, I thought I’d share most of the gifts that we and other family members gave to our kids this Christmas.

The most exciting gift that was from us and both sets of grandparents were tickets to Disney World. None of our kids have ever been. We gave each kid a personalized Disney shirt I ordered on Etsy as a way to announce the surprise. Other family members gave our kids Disney gift cards, Disney character autograph books and Minnie Mouse Ears headbands.

We got each of our kids a belt bag that holds a water bottle. We will be so happy to have these for hikes and visits to national parks. We also got each kid a 4 X 6 photo album to put the postcards in that they collect from each place we go. Other family members got our kids books and more Jonathan Park audio series, which they love.

Many of the RV parks we visit have pickle ball courts and basketball courts, so we got our boys this pickle ball set and a new basketball. We also got them a badminton set and a frisbee.

I am a Noonday Collection ambassador, so naturally our girls love all the jewelry. Our older girls specifically asked for Noonday jewelry, so that’s what we got them. Each of them loved what they received.

We’ve had so many different baby toys over the years. We’ve learned what the majority of babies and toddlers tend to like, so we went with tried and true toys for Bravely. We got her a busy board, stacking cups, pull-back toy vehicles and toy car keys. She loved and has been enjoying all of it.

We stuffed the stockings with neat little items I found along the way as we were traveling. The favorite items were the tiny harmonica necklaces we gave to each kid. Those were from the Museum of Making Music we visited in Carlsbad, CA.

On Christmas Day we continued our tradition of making Jesus a birthday cake, singing “Happy Birthday” and going wild with silly string.

It was a sweet and special holiday season for us. Hope it was for you as well! ♥️

In about a week and a half we’ll head toward Florida. Our first stop will be Disney World, and then we’ll continue traveling through and visiting the southeast states.

Home for the holidays – Texas…

A week and a half ago we crossed the line back into our home state. There’s joy crossing the line going out and joy crossing the line coming back into home sweet home, Texas.

We’ve set up camp at our favorite spot on the lake near our hometown, Brenham.

It’s true when living in an RV that home is where you park it, but home is also the place where you don’t have to use maps to navigate to Walmart, the place you run into people you know everywhere you go and the place you have family and friends. We’ve missed home, as in friends, family and familiarity, but we’ve not missed living in a house.

We’ve been preparing for Christmas, and we’ve been enjoying some good quality time with friends. We are looking forward to spending a good bit of time surrounding Christmas with our families.

We’ve been knocking out practical stuff like doctor visits, hair appointments and tax preparation. Little Bravely got new glasses, and we think she looks as adorable as ever.

We are currently working on our next traveling route. We’ll be heading toward Florida the second week of January. We plan to visit the southeast states through winter and early spring. Please help us plan our route by letting us know your favorite spots among these states!

May you experience peace in the midst of the hustle and bustle the holiday season often brings. May you experience merry and bright if it’s been a hard season. And may you know the thrill of hope. ❤️

Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico…

Yesterday we visited Carlsbad Caverns.

Back in May we went to the Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio, TX, so this was not our first time exploring a cave.

The Natural Bridge Caverns was pretty pricey and it was a guided tour. We got into Carlsbad Caverns free with Cherish’s 4th grade pass, and we got to explore on our own. We loved both caverns for different reasons.

You can take an elevator down into the cave or you can walk down from the natural entrance. We chose to walk down. I read the cave is over 1,000 feet deep, and a park ranger told us the elevator goes down 754 feet.

The walk down was steep but not too steep. It was not slippery or slick. It was easy walking for all of our kids.

The natural entrance is pretty incredible. I loved looking down into it from the top and then back up to see the sunlight peeking through once we had gone a good ways down.

We love exploring caves. It’s just so fascinating getting to see the world underground.

There are so many intricate, beautiful, odd and unique details.

It took us about 2 1/2 hours to walk through the whole cave. There were shortcuts and options to take shorter routes. We chose to walk the whole thing. Our youngest three kids were really ready to be done for about the last 15 minutes. They kept a good attitude but were exhausted.

We did ride the elevator up at the end.

I told my little ones I thought they needed a treat after all that walking. They agreed and happily received a treat. Of course my big kids got one, too.

White Sands National Monument – New Mexico…

Friday we went to the White Sands National Monument.

It’s operated similar to a national park. We were able to get in free with Cherish’s 4th grade pass.

We stayed at Alamogordo/White Sands KOA RV Park. The park was so accommodating. They let us borrow 7 sleds and some wax. We were so thankful we didn’t have to buy and store our own sleds!

There are tons of sand dunes. The sand is so white it looks like snow. It’s beautiful.

Sledding is so much fun! We sincerely had such a blast!

We tried sledding different dunes and quickly realized the steeper the better when it comes to sledding.

We would not have known to use wax had we not been told. Waxing definitely helps the sleds move faster and further.

Even River and Bravely enjoyed sledding on our laps. And Bravely loved crawling and playing in the sand.

It was a gorgeous day. We started off wearing jackets and ultimately ended up very comfortable in short sleeves.

If you ever get the chance, the white sand dunes are worth seeing and sledding!

Petrified Forest National Park – Arizona…

Wednesday we went to the Petrified Forest National Park.

It was so fascinating. There are petrified logs and stumps randomly laying around the park. It’s amazing to me that wood can transition to stone like this.

The park did not have many tourists. It was easy to navigate. There are easy walking or hiking trails. There are some steep harder ones as well.

Our kids loved exploring and seeing the beauty of colors displayed in the petrified wood.

There were many logs broken into pieces like this. We learned that this is how the logs naturally break as they harden over time.

There are several areas unrelated to petrified wood to explore in the park.

We really enjoyed the Blue Mesa area.

It is said that this area looks blue. We thought it looked more purple than blue, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

We also really enjoyed the Newspaper Rock area. There are petroglyphs, which are pictures carved into large rocks. These are near the Puerco Pueblo ruins and are believed to be carved by the people who lived in this area 600 to 800 years ago.

We had a lot of fun trying to figure out what different pictures and symbols might have meant. I looked at this one below and said, “Oh, look! A stork delivering a baby!” Ryan saw a sign nearby and read that apparently many people see a stork delivering a baby. However, it is believed that the people taught their children that a giant bird would come eat bad children. 😳 Alrighty then. I think I’ll stick with the stork delivering a baby! Ha.

The Painted Desert area was beautiful. It showed off vibrant tones of red.

We stopped at the Painted Desert Inn before we left the park. It was a neat place to walk through. A mother and daughter were selling Indian jewelry there. Our girls used some of their own money to purchase beaded bracelets or hair clips at a very reasonable price.

It was another great day of exploration!

Snow Days in Arizona…

When we say it snowed in Texas, we typically mean snowflakes fell from the sky for 15 minutes to 1 hour. And that is exciting! Because that’s about all the snow we get once every few years.

As Texans, we would have never imagined getting to play in real, stick-to-the-ground, more-than-1/2-an-inch snow the couple days after Thanksgiving. It snowed and snowed and snowed in Williams, AZ.

We prepared by buying plenty of groceries because Texans are 100% unprepared for driving in snow. As far as we were concerned, we were snowed in and happy about it.

We bundled up in our warmest clothes and went out to play.

Snowballs, snow castles, snow forts, snowmen, snow angels…we did it all.

Oh, and don’t forget eating the snow. We did that, too.

Manning braved being buried in snow, all but his head.

Our five oldest kids had a blast and were able to endure the cold longer than our little ones. Jubilee, Mercy and Treasure really lasted longer than I thought they would, though, and they had so much fun.

River loved looking at the snow. She enjoyed being out in it only if she was being held by her mommy or daddy or holding one of our hands.

Bravely just looked around curiously.

All in all, these Texans thoroughly enjoyed the snow! AND we were thankful the roads were clear by the time we were scheduled to head to our next location!

The Polar Express – Williams, AZ…

While we were waiting for the closing on the sale of our house, I planned most of our first traveling route – October through Christmas. I booked most of the RV parks where we’ve stayed in advance. I did not preplan many activities, though. When I called The Grand Canyon Railway Hotel & RV Park to book a spot, the lady on the phone told me about the Polar Express Train. She said it is very popular and sells out quickly. I splurged and bought tickets then. I’m so glad I did.

Our kids had never ridden a real train. Just getting to ride on a train is an amazing experience in and of itself.

A few days before our scheduled train ride, I went to Target to buy Christmas pajamas for all of us. I was planning to buy matching pajamas, but I quickly realized that it was impossible to find each size in the exact same kind. That’s typical. In a big family, Plan A almost never works. You learn to adapt quickly to a Plan B, C or D. Flexibility is key. In the end, I got an array of cute pajamas and loved the mismatch more than I would have liked matching anyway. Ryan and I gave our kids the pajamas and told them we had tickets to ride the Polar Express. They were so excited!

Our oldest five kids have seen the movie The Polar Express. Our youngest five haven’t, but that didn’t stop them from loving the train ride.

We boarded the train, and not long after the action began.

It was seriously so cute and fun! There was music, dancing, hot chocolate and cookies.

The conductor came by and punched each of our golden tickets, just like the movie.

We rode to the North Pole. Santa and elves waved. Then Santa boarded the train and gifted a bell to each child.

Every one of our kids, Ryan and I all had a great time. It was an hour and a half of pure Christmastime fun!

The Grand Canyon – Arizona…

Wednesday we went to the Grand Canyon.

I have seen photos. I knew it would be amazing. But it was even more grand than I could have imagined.

We entered the park at the south rim. We went to the visitor’s center, and from there we walked to Mather Point. It was fast and easy to get to, and it was a great view of the Grand Canyon. There were a lot of tourists, and it was a little tricky trying to get photos without tourists in the background.

There is a shuttle that takes visitors to several viewing points. We did not ride the shuttle. Instead, we chose to drive to one of the spots the shuttle doesn’t stop, Grandview Point. It was less touristy and had really great views.

Taking kids was fine safety-wise. There is high railing in several look out spots and no railing in other places. If you have kids who tend to run ahead or not stay close by, it would be easy to stick to the high rail viewing spots.

Our kids were truly amazed by the view of the Grand Canyon. Tapestry said it was one of the coolest things she’s ever seen in her entire life.

Our oldest five kids had been memorizing Psalm 91. It’s all about God’s protection. They thought it would be pretty awesome to say it at the Grand Canyon to send to some friends who really love these verses. So that’s what they did. ❤️