What We Did on Our Summer Vacation 2018 : The Airstream Adventure

Every summer, in an effort to reinforce the pillars of exploration, curiosity, and independence, we plan an exciting summer adventure with our family. The qualifications for each adventure is that it be a little different than the year before and something that none of us have done previously. Being the extroverted bunch that we are, these qualifiers become more challenging year after year. We were fortunate enough to have some amazing partners to help us, quite literally, pull this adventure together(<<you’ll see why that was such a great pun in a minute). So, before we get too far along in our story I want to say a BIG thanks to Ford, Airstream, Vogt Family Fun Center, and KOA for helping make this summer adventure one that our family will never forget.

When we were dreaming up what this year’s adventure would look like, the travel method was a resounding: “ROAD TRIP!!” In a world full of technology, online reviews, smartphones, we are simultaneously more connected and less connected than ever before. There is just something classic and inspiring about heading out for adventure knowing you have every amenity and luxury of “home” literally right behind you. To be honest, the combined amenities of the Tommy Bahama airstream, East Austin KOA campsite, and the Ford Expedition we were traveling with may just have afforded us more luxuries than home.

Truck and Towing – What the Haul?

Maybe you’ve been secretly been interested in trying this out too but you’re a little nervous?

Never towed anything before? Same here. Put those fears aside you have nothing to worry about.

Being brand new to towing and hauling a home on wheels, I was a little apprehensive about calculating travel time, towing hookups, and setting up the airstream at the campsite. I may have been having flashbacks of the RV scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with cousin Randy outside in his short robe…..which let’s just be honest, is not a good look for anyone. Thanks to the ease of the 2018 Ford Expedition and the great instruction from the crew at Vogt Family Fun Center, it was incredibly easy even for newbies like us.

The good news was that we had absolutely nothing to worry about because before we left we were given a very detailed walk around answering any questions we had. The ease of hooking up and towing with the technology in the Ford Expedition was going to make this trip a breeze. You don’t even need a spotter because you can see everything and are perfectly guided right behind the wheel.

Now that we were all hooked up, It was time to get on the road! You can read Randall’s account of the journey featured over on Thrills and Wheels. It’s a pretty sentimental father-son story that I really enjoyed hearing from his perspective.

Texas Airstream Adventure

The mileage between Dallas and Austin isn’t very far, even driving a little slower with the added weight of towing an RV is only a few hours. We’ve traveled a good deal of Texas so we the location wouldn’t be the unique factor but the accommodations would be. I’ve never been much of a camper. Lucky for me camping in a 2018 Tommy Bahama Airstream is the most luxurious way to stay on the road. Combine that with the amenities that were available to us at the East Austin KOA site,  it was like living a dream. This was in no way going to be a typical camping experience.

Setting Up Our Glampsite

Staying at a KOA site is really cool! There are various levels of camping available, from roughing it my preferred style of ‘glamping’. We had no idea how cool these locations could be! It was our first time to stay a KOA and it definitely won’t be our last! Some locations have tiny homes, treehouses, or teepees you can reserve. I really like the unique campsite ideas. It’s pretty much the only way I want to camp from now on.

Getting set up at our reserved campsite was so easy! We checked just a little after regular office hours but there was still an attendant on duty to give us a check-in packet. Getting our hookups in place and only took about 15 minutes to get set up.

KOA Airstream set up

Our deluxe campsite came with outdoor patio furniture, a fire pit, and a gas grill. The staff who also stay on-site came by to check on us and make sure we didn’t need any additional help. Everyone we encountered was so friendly.

KOA deluxe campsite

I really loved the East Austin KOA location and HIGHLY recommend booking here if you are staying in the local area. I’ll share a more detailed post specifically about this in a post of its own but for now here are a few pics of the amenities onsite!

KOA pool

Inside the Airstream – Home Sweet Home

We have always played with the idea of a tiny house or something of that nature all the while living in Texas-sized accommodations in the neighboorhood of 3000 sq ft. Could we really manage a vacation in an airstream? Not only could we but we loved it! My biggest concern was whether we would be cool enough since the forecast for the weekend we chose was hitting over 100 degrees every day. Not only were we cool enough, one evening we woke up and turned the air conditioner up because we were getting chilled.

Inside the Airstream were all the comforts of home. Let me take you on a quick tour….

In this first space, you’ll see the full kitchen(gas stove, microwave, ice maker, sink, refrigerator), dining room ( which transitions into a full/queen sized bed), bar area and SO MUCH storage and plenty of USB/outlets for all our devices. That part was a dream for traveling with teenagers who are always charging. Even on vacation.

Inside the Airstream kitchen

In this second view, you get a better view of the rest of the kitchen, pantry, queen size bedroom, television, closet, and an idea of where the bathroom and shower are located. The KOA site had amazing wifi so in the evening we could stream a movie or shows if we wanted to but we were so busy having fun there wasn’t really time for that. Still, it was cool to know that if a rainy day had been in the forecast we could have.

One area you can’t see from the pictures is the bathroom with a full shower, toilet, sink, mirror, and storage. The door folds in when not in use to give you more room in the bedroom. It folds out when in use to provide more space when someone is taking a shower etc., It never felt crowded or cramped. We were really impressed with the excellent use of space.

Glamping vs Camping

Glamping vs. Camping means that we expored city life too. While we did spend a good deal of time at our KOA exploring the property, swimming, and lounging about in our fancy airstream accommodations but we also got to enjoy our FAVORITE city some too. It’s no secret that we love Austin and we have the BEST time every single visit. We ate Torchy’s Tacos because truly their queso is heaven. We went night swimming at Barton Springs. It was too hot to sit over a campfire for smores so we went for fancy Smores rolled ice cream from a food truck. Oh, and did I mention I forgot to pack shirts? Yep, not a single one because …. ? That was totally okay though since Austin has some of the best thrift stores- vintage and otherwise- We went family thrifting.

I got this adorable dress for $8. Our whole family got new outfits actually and we decided to have an impromptu photo shoot. It truly made for the best memories and I’ll be hanging these new family photos on our living room gallery very soon.

As you can clearly see there is a lot of personality in our family. We love spending time together at home or traveling. This adventure was incredibly memorable for reasons I’m not sure I’ve entirely written here. Memories like this get deeper as the years go on. They are the things you talk about at Thanksgiving, weddings, making plans for the future and things your kids tell their kids. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it.

Bottom line, get out and adventure with your family. Camp. Glamp. Take a road trip. Just get out, make crazy good memories and explore in every season of life.

The Dove Self Esteem Project Helped My Teen and I Have Hard Conversations

Speak Beautiful Dove Self Esteem Project

*The following has been shared with my daughter’s expressed permission & inspired from my experience with the Dove Self Esteem Project and #HourWithHer during Mom 2.0 Summit 2018

Friends, can I be honest with you? I often feel like I’m doing it wrong. “It” can be translated into a number of things in life. Carrer, parenting, marriage, etc, you name it. When I compare myself to the idealistic standards in my mind or on the internet,  I don’t always feel like the perfect mom, wife, or friend. Maybe you feel like that sometimes too. What helps me is being surrounded by a community of trusted mentors, friends, and colleagues that support and soundboard with me ensuring me that I am getting “it” right more times than not. They remind me of my strengths,  let me know I am valued and remind me of all the beautiful parts. As our daughters are growing up they are going through the very same things and need our encouragement. This is something we ALL need, no matter our age or stage in life. Having a mentor and being a mentor to others is so important.

Dove Self Esteem Project #HourWithHer

My Introduction To The Dove Self Esteem Project

Earlier this year at Mom 2.0 Summit, I gave an hour of my time to participate in a Dove workshop as a mentor to teen girls. At first glance, I could tell some of these girls didn’t think we had much in common. As we talked over the next sixty minutes about transformational life moments and instances that had negatively impacted my self-esteem at their age, I could see their demeanor change. They began to share their similar experiences and we talked about ways to reframe those situations. You could see in their smiles that they felt more confident and beautiful. It was proof that sharing our stories connects and uplifts us.

Encouraging authentic storytelling and uplifting the next generation to reshape how they see themselves are actinos that are relevant to our community now more than ever.

That hour showed me just how important it is to be intentional with our time and experiences. Having a teen daughter of my own entering high school this fall, I made a decision to implement the Dove #HourWithHer philosophy at home this summer having intentional conversations. It wasn’t awkward or weird. It was time that strengthened our relationship with such a small amount of effort.

Spending just one hour talking with a girl in your life about beauty, confidence, and self-esteem can make such a difference in her future development.

Some of the conversations we had were light and we laughed until our sides ached. Other conversations were harder. There were a few topics I may have otherwise avoided in an effort to shield her from hard things I’d experienced. What I realized is that as girls are forming into more mature, complete people it is important that they have a good picture of who we are as their parents and mentors. It’s important that they know we are human, imperfect, talented, and yet, still growing too.

Kaitlyn Dove Self Esteem Project

You Don’t Have To Be Perfect

Want to know something that pretty freeing? You don’t have to be perfect to be a role model or mentor. You don’t have to feel like you always have to have the right answers. In fact, as our daughters and young girls are looking up to us if we project this image of perfection it gives them an unrealistic guide to measure themselves against. Perfection isn’t the goal, confidence is. They just need our time and the knowledge that their body, personality, height, weight, hair, and heart is just exactly the correct way as long as they feel confident in it.

The hours I spent with my daughter this summer gave her an open door to ask questions about me when I was her age and other topics that she may not have known how to approach or introduce otherwise. There were several topics and stories I wouldn’t have thought to share. This time helped us see each other in a new way and we both left more uplifted and with more confidence.

About the Dove Self Esteem Project

Dove understands it can feel daunting to introduce new conversations like this and they have solutions to help you get started. They have even categorized guides to the discussions for Parents & Mentors, Teachers, and Youth Leaders. You can search for specific topics on the site as well. For those that need a different way to spend time with these topics, you’ll find other helpful resources like the short video below that you can watch together to softly introduce discussions.

Dove Real Beauty Productions recently produced this short film, directed by Debbie Allen, to show the impact just one hour with a girl can make.

Learn more about the Dove Self Esteem project on the website here or follow the #HourWithHer hashtag on social media.

Here We Go Again! Mamma Mia! : One MORE Tiny Human

Mamma Mia! Here we go again!

No matter your feelings on ABBA, there is a MUCH bigger announcement to come in this post than just a movie release. When I heard that Mamma Mia! was making a sequel I was honestly pretty excited. Our at home Friday night dance parties admittedly have a pretty eclectic playlist. ABBA’s Dancing Queen is definitely in the mix from time to time. Of course, there is another reason Mamma Mia!  became a favorite of ours recently.

ABBA

One Tiny Human

If you were following us right before One Tiny Human arrived, we were trying to select our parenting 2.0 names– because there was zero chance were we going use the “grandparent” term. I am WAYYYYY too young for that. For the record, we still don’t use the g-word. On occasion, it will slip out for the sake of simplicity when trying to explain the relationship.

We finally decided on Mia and Abba for a number of reasons ( you can read about that here).

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! at Mom 2.0

I was at Mom 2.0 back in May when I learned of the Mamma Mia! sequel and storyline. I picked up a few promo items, a couple of movie passes to see it opening weekend and made an absolutely terrible boomerang gif that I briefly thought about including here since it was branded with the movie. I reconsidered that because it was so terrible that my friend Vikki would unfriend me if it was ever leaked- yes, it is THAT awful.

In full disclosure, it was also that AWESOME that I still have a printed picture from the aforementioned attempted boomerang tucked away in my dresser that I pull out anytime I need a good laugh. Instead, I wore the tshirt we received as a consolation prize while I typed this post.

Mamma Mia! Here we go again! take 2

I tend to get exciting news at or around Mom 2.0. It’s where I first received the news of One Tiny Human, so it seemed fitting to receive this news the week after getting this year as well. I guess I really should have taken the movie title as a sign.

At the parent’s request, I have had to keep this a secret for a few reasons but I can finally tell you all!!

Are you ready???

Here’s the news… One Tiny Human is going to be a big sister!!

Paul & Sydney are having another baby!

There is going to be one MORE tiny human coming November 2018!!!

  • One MORE tiny human
  • Arrival estimated November 2018
  • SO EXCITED!!!

Here we go again 🙂

The Bitter and Sweet of 16 Years Together #Sweet16

Sweet 16 anniversary cake

Sometimes happiness is best celebrated with a shared cupcake, glass of rose, next to a coffee table of laptops and summer board games. ( Not pictured a.m. mimosas, dinner at III Forks, a gifted emerald necklace and a flower filled tub by candlelight.)

June 21st Randall and I celebrated sixteen years together. SIXTEEN, Sixteen seemed monumental for some reason. I mean,while that length of time is certainly a great track record it wasn’t a golden or silver anniversary. More like a coming of age, I suppose, and well let’s just say I’ve had feelings about it for months. I’ve shared those feelings with a few friends and my husband obviously. BLESS. HIS. HEART. He has endured all the feelings about it. Since I’ve made a commitment to always be transparent with all of you, not just sharing the idyllic picture perfect parts, this felt like one of those real stories to be documented here too.

sweet 16 anniversary

We are happy.

Now before you get worried things are in some sort of downward spiral and the entire internet is a lie, WE ARE FINE. More than fine honestly, we are happy. Like really happy and somehow THAT is the thing that got me worried.

Huh? Being happy is what made you worried something was wrong??

I know, I know. Just follow me on this one. Back in March, a friend and I were reflecting on the past few years and we asked each other if we were happy. We talked about where we were in our careers, our family, and our lives. It was an honest conversation, with no expectation attached. No one’s life is perfect and there is always room for growth but I could honestly say without any hesitation I was very happy with my life and my relationship.

In the weeks that followed, I began to think more about that conversation. I have been known to over analyze – shocker, I know- this trait is both blessing and a burden. I thought about all the couples we’d known, parents, friends, people who got married around the same time we had, people who had gotten married since. How many of them were still married? How many had divorced? How many are living complacent and co-existing? It was exhausting and there were very few relationships that had a lifespan equal to or longer than ours. There were even fewer that I would consider emulating.

Behind the Scenes: Real Relationship Talk

This is where I began to panic. And because panic loves to party, I shared my concerns with Randall immediately. It sounded something like this :

Me: “Heyyyyy, so, we’re happy, right? Like REALLLLy happy? ” 

Him: “Yeah. I’m happy. Are you happy?”

Me: “Definitely. I was just checking because I was thinking that I don’t know if I know anyone as happy as we are and what if everything is suddenly about to fall apart and we aren’t prepared……”

Him: ( insert head tilt, adorable gaze, and light chuckle) “Why do you do this to yourself?” 

*Note: by this time in our relationship he is used to me running worst-case-scenarios full speed ahead. It’s who I am. He is the hype man and I am logistics. Logistics people run these things through. Logistics people have your back. The Hype Men assure you everything is good and you are going to have the time of your life. Sometimes we switch positions. Both are vital. We make a really good team.

At least I’m not alone.

So things are good but I’m still not entirely convinced. By April, I am still sorting this through. I confide in another friend. “Here I am living this dream, with this human who I entirely believe is the best relationship partner on the face of the planet. ( FTR: Randall Chase is truly the best human I know and better than I deserve. Although, he tells me the same and I’m pretty sure I’m amazing also so let’s just say we both lucked out and call it even) So, because I don’t know anyone that has really made love last longer, why should we be the lucky ones? Is the proverbial other shoe about to drop at any moment? And am I going to be the one to screw it all up?  Because I believe he is so perfect, I’m clearly the obvious choice to do so. But howwwww?”

My friend responds : “You are speaking my worst nightmares and fears, but go on.” 

At least I know I am not alone.

Life goes on

A few more weeks go by and my panic begins to subside. Life goes on as normal. We parented together. I won an award and he was my biggest cheerleader. He was finishing his graduate program, things were busy at work and I took on more. Our autonomy is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. We had kitchen dance parties listening to Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, and some version of yacht rock that I can’t recall. We laughed, cried, loved, won and fussed in those weeks. It was the life we loved living. I decided it was okay to be happy.

Moral of the story

Just last week, I was recounting this relationship journey to yet another friend as we walked along. It seemed silly as I was telling it but it was honest. She reassured me that there really is no normal just let it be honest. Your love/relationship doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty. You don’t even have to be happy all the time. It was a good reminder that comparison is a terrible tool for relationships. Self reflection is totally different.

Moral of the story: Love still exists in many forms. It’s probably going to look a lot different each year it grows. Don’t panic. Sixteen years really is pretty sweet. If you haven’t gotten there yet, there is a lot to look forward to but enjoy the moment you are in because each of those can be pretty sweet too.

Oh, and keep good circle of trusted friends. I’ve got some of the very best.

The Stolen U-Haul Story : A Year Later

Stolen U-Haul Chase

Note: This is not actual footage of our stolen U-Haul. I just liked that it had Chase in the title.

Ah, Facebook memories. I was reminded today that it has been exactly one year since possibly the craziest story of our life happened. In some ways, it still doesn’t seem real, like maybe we all dreamed it happened. Except that the sheer number of people having the same simultaneous dream is a bit unlikely and the fact that a year later we are still asking “Where is the … Oh yeah…it was on the U-Haul truck. Whomp.” Over the last year I’ve retold this story what seems like hundreds of times as continue to encounter strangers introducing themselves with “Aren’t you the family that had your U-Haul Stolen?” Indeed we are. Fame never seems to come in the packaging you expect.

The Stolen U-Haul : A Year Later

For those of you just joining this story: 

May 28, 2017 We were finally packed up ready to move from Austin to Dallas, following a long six month separation of what I referred to as “becoming the weekend wife”. Randall had been working at his new position in Dallas coming home for about 36 hours each weekend and with the school year ending we were finally able to join him. After a final goodbye party from our neighborhood the night before, we woke up early to get coffee before heading out on the stretch of highway between Austin and Dallas. We had packed all of our belongings inside the U-Haul that we had rented with the exception of a small suitcase for each of us for immediate toiletries and clothing.

I walked out into the driveway and something felt off. You would think that I would instantly realize a ginormous moving truck was missing but no…. because who has their moving truck stolen from their driveway?? Apparently, we do.

WHO STEALS A U-HAUL????!?!!

Still not dawning on me that all our truck is actually missing, I casually yell back inside asking Randall where he moved the truck. “Ha, ha. Very funny, babe.” He thinks I’m joking with him. The neighborhood we lived in was a very safe, affluent master-planned suburban community. It was the kind of place that had always felt like living inside a movie because it was so pleasant. Our neighbors had joked the night before about not letting us leave. I wondered if they’ve played a joke on us and walk to the end of the driveway looking up and down the street to see if I can see anything…… you know, like maybe a GIANT truck with all our earthly possessions.

Nope. Now I’m starting to panic a little.

As it turned out, the U-Haul really WAS stolen with everything we owned safely packed up inside. We were living a real life version of the Grinch that stole Christmas.  So many thoughts raced through our minds in the hours that followed. The toughest one was how would we wake up our children and tell them every thing they owned was gone. It was going to be a tough move for them leaving their friends and a city they loved already. We had done everything to make the move as comfortable as possible and yet through all our best laid plans, here we were. Literally starting over from zero. We had already begun to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle but this was quite a bit more minimalist that we were intending.

We posted a status update with description of the truck on Facebook in case anyone in the community happened to see it on the highway or surrounding areas. Then we went to console our children, call the police, and figure out what you do when someone steals your U-Haul. Again, WHO STEALS A U-HAUL??? That Facebook post was probably the most viral piece of social content we’ve ever had. You just never know when you’re gonna hit it big so always wear clean underwear kids.

The outpouring of love and concern we received from friends, family, strangers was overwhelming. Stitchfix reached out to offer my husband and I each a generous credit to rebuild our wardrobes. Both of us are still loyal Stitchfix subscribers to this day. Neighbors brought gift cards to Kaitlyn and Sebastian so they could buy new clothes and shoes, since they each literally only had the shoes they had packed to move in. We had people bringing food and desperately wanting to know how they could help. We felt blessed enough to have our family, health, roof over our heads and both of us were gainfully employed. Even when this Grinch took our things we still had everything that mattered most.

After we had done all we could do with police reports and calls to insurance offices, most of which were closed because of the holiday weekend, we sort of went on with life as best we could. Friends invited the kids over to swim and hangout so they wouldn’t be sitting in an empty house. Through the chaos we tried to decide if I would still attend work trip I had coming up the next week. There was a comfortable bed at a very nice hotel in Portland after all and currently we didn’t own anything more luxurious than an air-mattress. Sorry fam, you’re on your own. Kidding, sort of…. I was still going but they would be staying with family nearby who had extra beds.

Did They Ever Find the Stolen U-Haul?

The second most asked question is “Did They Ever Find the Stolen U-Haul?”  Eventually, yes. Every day for five days, we called to check in with the police investigator who was assigned to this. The had pulled the street cameras to see if they could figure out which direction the thieves had gone and no sign of the truck. Finally, the investigator being as honest as he could told us not to get our hopes up, there was little chance of it being returned. We were devastated over the loss of baby pictures, beloved stuffed animals, and sentimental kindergarten hand-print paintings gone forever.

On day five, Randall called me during my trip telling me he had received a call from someone who believed he had found our stolen U-Haul. He was going to verify and let me know soon. Sure enough, it was our U-Haul with a good deal of our belongings still remaining. The thieves had driven only about three miles from our neighborhood to an apartment complex where they broke the lock off the back. This is why the truck wasn’t seen on any major street cameras. Over the next three days they came back and forth to the truck sorting through what was of value to them to sell, pawn, etc. After that they abandoned it which when the apartment maintenance manager noticed the back of the U-Haul truck ajar.

We had to get another U-Haul truck to transfer what was left. If we had tried to drive that one we could have been pulled over and arrested for stealing our own things. For a few weeks after that we got calls from people all over Austin finding random boxes that the thieves had discarded in dumpsters. I guess the thieves were disappointed we didn’t have more valuable things to pawn. Either way, the people of Austin are really some of the best and went above and beyond to get as much back to us as possible.

Lessons Learned from the Stolen U-Haul

This weekend I surveyed the members of our family on what the most valuable lesson they learned from this was. A year later I’m still really impressed with the people I get to live with and call mine. Here were the responses:

Kaityln : “Take the time to appreciate the things you have and the people in your life. When that happened so many people donated things or gave us things to help. They treated us like family and there was no biological obligation to do so. It was really wonderful “

Sebastian “Always pack a second bag to keep with you.” 

Randall : “I’m definitely more cautious now. Haha. More importantly the actions of a couple bad people were overshadowed by the immense number of good people wanting to help. There really is more good in the world than bad.” 

Alice: “One of the most important keys to resiliency is having a strong community. Online and in person, we had developed a stronger community than I ever knew existed. We get through the hard times because of the people in our lives. People are always more important than things.” 

 

Have you ever known someone who has had a moving vehicle stolen? Would you be interested in knowing how to have a safer self-move experience? We’ve learned a lot about what to do. Would you be interested in a future post listing that info?