I’ve already told you how this recent PCS was the easiest one ever, but now I want to share some of the fun we had along the way. We had some incredible family time enjoying God’s creation in many different ways.
Our First Stop was Luray, VA
We chose Luray because we wanted to see the caverns the area is famous for, and we were not disappointed! Absolutely beautiful. We stayed at Outlanders River Camp, right on the Shenandoah River. What a breathtaking view we had! Sunrises & sunsets were magnificent from this spot. I’m not sure I’d want to be there much in the middle of summer with no trees for shade, but I guess with the river nearby you could just spend all day in the water and it wouldn’t be an issue!
The view from our campsite
Our camper at sunset
A panoramic view
While we were there, we spent some time hiking on the Appalachian Trail. We plan to through-hike the entire trail one day after Rob retires, so we just really enjoy any chance we get to set foot on any part of it. We also spent a few hours driving and exploring the views along Skyline Drive – a 105-mile road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service’s Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, generally along the ridge of the mountains. I highly recommend visiting this area! By the way, we drove on Skyline Drive in just our truck….not pulling our camper.
Along Skyline Drive
And of course, a visit to the Shenandoah River is not complete unless you play in it – so we did!
Our second stop was in Fancy Gap, VA for just a quick overnight stop before heading to our third stop in Chapel Hill, NC. We stayed at Spring Hill RV Park and we chose this campground because it was close to our destination – Carolina Tiger Rescue. Our daughter’s favorite animal is a tiger and she loves all cats, so we couldn’t resist stopping to see some big wild cats up close. We were all very glad we stopped here. We went on a tour and saw lions, tigers, ocelots, servals, and many more. This is a great organization that really cares about its animals. They rescue and take care of animals that have been mistreated or surrendered by owners that finally realized they had no business trying to keep one of these wild animals as a pet.
Our campsite at Spring Hill RV Park
Our fourth stop landed us in Charleston, SC. We had a great campsite at James Island County Park. We didn’t get to stay long, but there is a LOT to do in this area. We were there long enough for a fun Water Taxi boat tour, and to eat at the Early Bird Diner. The diner was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri and it definitely lived up to the hype! We at there for dinner one night and liked it so much we went back the next day. For a family that rarely eats out, that’s saying something! I recommend it as a “must do” if you are ever in Charleston.
The Water Taxi ride – very relaxing!
The Early Bird Diner
Our last stop (or so we thought) brought us to Townsend, GA where we settled in at Lake Harmony RV Park. This is a nice little campground in a super small town set on a beautiful spring fed lake that is good for swimming. I recommend it if you are passing through or if you want to be settled in a small town away from it all.
It was a really great vacation in the middle of our Best PCS Ever, and I’m so thankful for all the amazing family time we had together.
We thought we were going to stay there in Townsend, but a couple weeks later – The Hurricane Happened. Go read that post to see where we ended up.
We recently completed our first Army PCS since moving full-time into our RV 6 months ago! PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station, but it’s never permanent. In fact, we were at our last duty station in Maryland for just 9 months before the Army decided to move my husband’s unit away from that post, resulting in his orders assigning us to Fort Stewart, Georgia. This was our 3rd PCS as a family and by far, this one was the easiest!! We are definitely loving our decision to simplify. Leaving MD wasn’t easy on the heart because of all the wonderful friends we had made there, but the move itself was quite painless.
Prepping to Move
Since we’d been living in our RV for almost 6 months, everything we needed for daily life was already in our RV, one of our trucks, or in our storage unit (off-season clothes, extra tools, books and things we aren’t yet ready to part with). About a week before the move, the Army movers loaded up all the boxes and belongings we had in storage into their big truck and drove them to GA for us. The Army gives us up to 90 days of free storage, so they held on to all our items until we arrived in GA and secured a storage unit in the area. Once we arrived in GA and got settled, we just called them to give them the address of our new storage unit, scheduled a day to meet them there, and sat back while they unloaded all of our belongings for us.
A few days before the big move, Hubby drove his truck down to GA and caught a flight back home so that we could all travel together in one vehicle on moving day. We were planning to take a couple weeks of vacation and do some sight seeing on our way to GA, and wanted to travel together in one vehicle.
Oh, and we did NOT do a DITY (Do it Yourself) move, or even a partial one. Some people say when they move with an RV, they unload it, get it weighed, reload it, and weigh it again. The Army will technically pay you for whatever they would have moved, if they had done it all. They won’t pay to move your RV, but they would have paid to move all the stuff inside it. Therefore, if you get the weight of your belongings inside the RV, they will pay you whatever it would have cost them to move those things. Honestly, with the little amount of weight we have inside our camper, it wasn’t worth the hassle to pull it all out and get the weight of it. We just let the Army move what we had in storage, while we moved the RV and the belongings inside and we called it a day. The Army already pays us a Per Diem to help with food, lodging and gas along the way so that was good enough for us.
Getting the Kitty Cat Ready
We also had to prepare our kitty, Angel, for the move, especially since we were going to be on the road for 2 whole weeks. A couple weeks prior to the move, we started taking her for practice rides in the truck. Just short little ones around the campground or down the street and back. We used to travel with her in a crate, but the crate stresses her out so much (it’s bad!), that we decided to try something new. We simply carried her out to the truck and gently placed her in the backseat with her favorite girl – our daughter. We had a harness and leash on her just in case she tried to make a run for it, but she never did. She’s not really the type to bolt anywhere (she is 11 years old, after all), and she has never acted like a “crazy cat” so we weren’t too concerned about her running all over the truck or getting in our way. She’s typically very mellow and laid back. Unless, you try to put her in a crate and then she makes sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard.
She did GREAT with the rides, so that’s how we handled the big trip – just lose in the backseat with no crate. We put her litter box in the back floorboard, just in case she needed it. We never traveled for more than 4-5 hours in a day so we didn’t feed/water her during travel time. When we put her inside the truck, I always placed her into her litter box because sometimes she pees when she’s nervous and I wanted to make sure it went where it should. After the 2nd day, I don’t even think she was doing that anymore. Most days, she just calmly walked around a little, looked out the windows and mostly curled up right next to her girl, or on top of the book she was trying to read. She’d meow at us every so often to tell us she really disliked moving, but then she’d calm down again. We also gave her regular dosages of Rescue Remedy for Pets (all natural) to help her anxiety. At the end of each travel day, we’d put her back inside her home (the RV) again and she’d curl up in a favorite spot and take a nap.
Moving Day & Beyond
When the big day arrived, all we did was hitch up the camper to the truck and pull out of the campground. Here we go! We spent a couple weeks on the road, exploring and having some amazing family time. It was so nice to spend each night in our own home, in our own beds without having to live out of suitcases or in and out of hotels. We didn’t have to worry about finding pet-friendly places to stay, because we took our home with us, which also caused way less stress on our sweet kitty since she got to go back to the same place each time rather than a new place every few days. We kept our fridge and freezer stocked with food, so we were able to cook real meals each day rather than eating out, which saved a ton of money. Eating out can be fun on occasion, but it’s so expensive and we much prefer our own home cooking most of the time. Except for that one diner in South Carolina – it was so good, we ate there TWICE! (More on that and our vacation here)
One of our favorite parts was bringing our own bathroom with us!! It was so handy because anytime we needed a potty break on the road, we could just exit and pull over to use our own bathroom. We didn’t have to find nice, clean gas stations or wait for a certain exit. Just pull over and go!
Every few days, we woke up in a new place, ready to explore and have some fun. We toured caverns, explored a big cat rescue, played in a river, and did some hiking. We played hard, and slept well – each day we woke up together as a family after a good night of rest in our own beds.
Definitely the Best PCS Ever!
Our family has now been stationed in Maryland for a couple of months, and we’ve just experienced our first blizzard! We just spent the last few days snowed in due to the Big Blizzard of 2016 that just swept through this area dropping over 29” of snow and resulting in snow drifts and piles that measure much higher. This is our first experience with such a large amount of snow. We’re from Texas, where we might get an inch or two on occasion, but even then it normally turns to icy mush pretty quickly. This time we actually had to buy a snow shovel and clear out our driveway several times. That snow is heavier than it looks!
In our backyard, the wind created a huge snow drift that was easily 3 feet tall. Even now, there is still a good 2 feet of snow covering the majority of our yard. (That ruler leaning against the door is 18”)
Our poor little Texas Truck got her bed completely filled with snow!
We had some fun outside, but spent most of our time inside where it was warm.
We’ve really enjoyed all the extra family time together as we played games, watched Dallas Stars hockey & Mythbusters, and did a little early Spring cleaning. Unfortunately, Hubby had to go back to work today so our mini-vacation is over. We’ll still have snow around for quite a while I think, but I’m ready to see it melting so I can look forward to flip-flop weather!
Yes, I know it’s already autumn, but I’m catching up on posts and wanted to share some highlights of our summer with you. It feels like it just flew by in the blink of an eye. We had such a mishmash of things going on!
Here are some of my favorites…
In July, Hubby did his very first jump as the Primary Jumpmaster on the plane! He’s done lots of jumps, but now that he’s a Senior Parachutist he was eligible to perform the PJ duty. He had a great time, and landed beautifully & safely! I wasn’t able to get too close to the drop zone, but I did manage to get a picture of him on his way down.
Also in July, we had some dear friends come visit us from Texas! We adore this family so much. The mom is a dear friend of mine, Emily & her oldest daughter are the best of friends, and our hubbies get along great too. What more could you ask for? We relaxed, chatting up a storm, and enjoyed time at the beach. Emily was giddy with excitement to see her friend – it had been a year and a half!! That’s FOREVER in kid years! I loved getting to spend the time catching up with my sweet friend too – I sure do miss her.
Here are the girls (and little sister) in their “Best Friends” t-shirts I made for them – so cute!
Fun in the sun!
I didn’t get one of the husbands together – oops!
In early August, Emily went to a HORSE CAMP for a week! For several years, the grandparents have opted to give Emily a camp or membership or something along those lines as a birthday present instead of more toys. It works our wonderfully for all of us! This year she attended a local Horse Camp. I was so excited to find one nearby – only 20 minutes from the house. She spent 9-5 Monday – Friday on a farm riding horses, doing crafts, shooting BB guns, doing archery, feeding/watering the horses, and even mucking out the stalls! She had a great time! Anytime she can be outside in nature and around animals, she thrives! I used the time she was away to do some chores, run errands, and read a lot, and get a haircut. I should have spent that time writing and blogging, I know, but somehow the days just got away from me.
Emily in her cowgirl hat, bandana, and t-shirt – all souvenirs from camp!
With her horse of the week
Feeding one of the little ponies
Check out those knees after a day’s work!
Dreaming of her own farm…
Isn’t she beautiful?
Rob’s birthday is in August and this year we celebrated by attending a Strong Bonds marriage retreat. Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program designed to help strengthen the Army family. They provide (free) retreats for single soldiers, married couples, and even wives/kids of deployed soldiers. Rob, Emily and I got to stay in a really nice resort style hotel a couple hours away from home. Friday night they provided childcare while the couples sat through sessions about making our marriage better. Saturday was a free day – they provided breakfast and lunch, but families were on their own for dinner and could spend the entire day doing whatever they wanted! Go see local sights, hang out in the hotel room or at the pool – just enjoy time as a family. On Sunday there were more sessions again with provided childcare, and then we all headed home a little after noon.
We had a great time! Emily loved playing with the other kids, and Rob and I enjoyed our time together as well. Saturday we went to the Greensboro Children’s Museum that was participating in the Blue Star Family Program (so it was FREE!), then we went to Whole Foods for lunch and to wander around a bit. One thing we really miss about Texas is Whole Foods! Where we lived in TX, we had 8 of them within a 25 minute drive. Here, the closest one is an hour away and it’s tiny compared to the Texas ones! This one in Greensboro was really nice, so we just took our time looking around and picking out a few snacks. We spent Saturday afternoon/evening at the pool – mostly in the hot tub because the pool was COLD!
Celebrating Rob’s birthday at the hotel!
We have been using that same birthday banner for years and it’s become quite the tradition. We even sent it to him when he spent his last birthday in Iraq, so of course we brought it to the hotel. He got chocolate covered espresso beans, and some “Pop Chips” from Emily. One of their favorite books is “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss, so she always loves to get those for him.
I have no idea why he’s holding a banana. That wasn’t part of the present. Maybe we just returned from breakfast?
Emily is getting better at taking pictures. A little blurry, but still cute.
At the Children’s Museum…
Making memories & loving life!
My beloved has been away for a week now, and while I know I shouldn’t complain lest any of my readers who have deployed spouses may hunt me down and tie me up with Duct Tape and 550 cord – I miss him!
I know, it’s only been a week. I survived a deployment with him on the other side of the world, and now I miss him after only a week.
What does that say about me?
I think it says I have a rocking marriage! That I adore my husband and miss cuddling with him every night while we veg out watching NCIS. That I miss having my adult sous chef in the kitchen (although, my half-sized sous chef is pretty awesome too!). That I miss seeing my soldier walk through the door each evening while hearing squeals of “Daddy’s home!!” coming from down the hall. I miss my best friend.
On the other hand, we are doing A-OK around here. Praise the Lord for technology because I’ve actually been able to talk to him every night so far. In fact, we laughed when we sorta ran out of things to talk about one day because we had lots of time to get caught up, but not enough time to dive into anything deep. He’s even been able to call at bedtime to give Emily her “noggin, nose cheek, kiss & hug” over the phone. That will change soon as they get busy “in the box”, but I’m oh-so-thankful that we’ve been able to communicate so far. It definitely made the transition for Emily a hundred times better.
Actually the time is going by pretty quickly. We’ve been passing the time this week with doctor’s appointments, a vet appointment, getting our hair cut, going to PWOC & church, and of course homeschooling & chores. We’ve also made sure to throw in a little bit of laziness when we were both feeling a little out of sorts yesterday.
All in all, things are really going well. I do of course miss my awesome hubby as I do anytime he’s away, but it’s also nice to know that Emily and I work well together as a team and can handle these times apart. God is so great to us and keeps our family strong even when we are apart. He has done some amazing work in Emily’s life to and she is handling these changes like a champ! Now, excuse me, I have to get dinner ready and play a couple games with my daughter before we call it a night.
Yesterday at O-Dark-Thirty, I woke Emily up out of a deep sleep so we could buckle her in the car, take Rob to work and say goodbye for the next month. He’s off to JRTC again.
My husband is the King of Packing! Seriously. When we go camping, he always amazes me with his ability to make everything fit in the truck, but packing for his military trips just bring it all to another level.
Somehow he managed to get all of this (and even more stuff not shown)…
That’s for an entire MONTH, folks!
This time, we don’t have a scheduled deployment planned, but his brigade will take on the role of the Global Response Force (GRF) starting December 1 so they are preparing as though they are deploying. The Global Response Force is a military force in readiness, able to deploy at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world for a variety of missions including defense and humanitarian. In civilian terms, his brigade is “on call” for an entire year should they be needed anywhere to do anything. The brigades rotate this responsibility and it’s their turn.
We’ve known this was coming for quite some time so we’ve been able to prepare. Besides, after dealing with the deployment the thought of him going away for “only” a month seems pretty easy. I know the time will pass quickly. After all, it’s fall – my favorite season ever – so we’ll be spending lots of time outside enjoying the cooler weather.
The departure was a little hard on Emily of course, but overall she is incredibly brave and her faith in God keeps her strong. She is truly an amazing little girl! She is super proud of her Daddy and totally understands that he is doing his job. She also knows that God didn’t just call her Daddy to this life – He called our family. That means we work together as a team to support each other.
The night before Rob left, Emily had trouble going off to sleep. She needed extra hugs, songs, and cuddles from Daddy. She finally went off to sleep with her Daddy Doll in one arm, and her favorite stuffed elephant in the other. Isn’t she precious?
(Yes, I am well aware we need to update the Daddy Doll! Emily tells me often that we need one with an Airborne beret. Working on it!)
Before we said goodbye, our family gathered around and we all prayed together for our family during this upcoming month. We continue to say, “Here we are, Lord!” and we pray that we will see opportunities to serve Him and give Him glory even during these times apart.
On the way home I played one of Emily’s favorite songs – “Stronger” by Mandisa and we belted out the words together.
Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain’t right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you’re asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather
Oh, don’t hang your head
It’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even if it’s hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
This is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you Stronger
Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even when you just can’t feel Him
I promise you that He still cares
‘Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I’m sure that He’s gonna help you get through this
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
In time it’s gonna get better
This is gonna make you stronger
When we got home, Emily and I crawled into my bed and just held each other as we fell back to sleep for a while. When I woke up she was next to me just reading and she said, “I feel much better now that we got some more rest and I got Mommy cuddles!”.
God is good!
We are committed as a family to making the best out of this next month. I know that God will grow each of us in His own way and that through this we will draw closer to Him and closer as a family as the Lord prepares us for whatever is next. We already know the next several months are going to be a whirlwind of coming and going as Rob attends some schools, so we look forward to watching our family grow and thrive in this military life.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I was nominated for the Circle of Moms Top 25 blogs by military families again this year! Last year I made it to #19 with your support – I think we can beat that!
Would you mind taking the time to vote for me again this year?
You can vote once a day, each day, until August 16th! I won’t bug you daily, but I might remind you a little if that’s ok. It would be such an honor and I can only do it with your support!
Just follow this link, and vote for Midlife Army Wife!
Earlier last month, Emily and I got a chance to spend an evening watching several planes of 82nd Airborne paratroopers (hubby included) do a night jump. If you ever have the chance to go see a jump – you should go! It is the most amazing sight! I got some decent pictures, but it sure did make me wish for a serious zoom lens for my camera so I could get some better shots. I *thought* I got one picture that had Rob in it, because I knew he was acting as a jumpmaster for this jump, but it turned out he was on a different plane than originally scheduled, so I was watching the wrong one. That’s ok! It was still fun to watch as these paratroopers floated down from the sky. These soldiers jump from only 800 feet above the ground, so they aren’t in the air long – gotta snap those photos fast!
Emily enjoying her time in the front seat while waiting for the show
Hanging out in the back of the truck waiting for the planes
Here it comes!
There they go!
82nd Airborne Song
Put on your boots, boots, boots
We’re going up, up, up
And coming down, down, down
We’re all American and proud to be
for we’re the soldiers of liberty.
Some ride their gliders to the enemy.
Others are sky paratroopers.
We’re All American and fight we will,
‘Til all the guns of the foe are still.
Airborne from skies of blue,
We’re coming through, Let’s Go!
Put on your boots, your parachutes,
Get all those gliders ready to attack today.
For we’ll be gone into the dawn,
To fight them all the 82d way, hey!
I know I’m really late posting about this, but I wanted to share a few pictures from our recent military ball. It’s my 2nd one in just over a year, and we enjoyed the chance to get dressed up and go out for a fancy date. Emily even had a great time that night because she got to have her 2nd sleepover ever (read about her first one here) with some great friends that night.
I got the most incredible dress from my dear friend and bridal/formal wear shop owner – Unforgettable You. This is the second time she’s managed to help me pick a perfect dress based only on my (self-measured) measurements and sent me the dress through the mail all the way from Canada to North Carolina! I wonder how many formal gowns I’m going to end up with in my closet when Rob finally retires from the Army?
We had a great time at the ball chatting with friends, watching people strut their stuff on the dance floor, and enjoying the traditions of the Calvary.
One of the traditions is the Punch Bowl Ceremony and includes filling up this trough with a variety of alcoholic beverages.
Here is a description I found on this tradition:
The history of the “Punch Bowl” ceremony has become obscured with time. It is thought that during the years of the west ward expansion, Cavalry Troopers would share their spirits with one another thereby insuring that all fellow troopers had something. The alcoholic spirits usually consisted of what ever an individual trooper’s taste was, and that when mixed with other alcohol created a powerful drink known as “GROG”.
The comradeship developed over the decades and through the various wars and campaigns usually entailed the rare opportunity to share “liberated” spirits with each other.
Today’s “GROG” or punch bowl ceremony is more symbolic. It encompasses the age old custom of sharing with the history of a unit.
I think my favorite part (besides admiring my very handsome hubby in his uniform!) is the “photo booth” they set up for us to take free pictures using funny props. In the first one we were trying to do our “serious face” because I’m always teasing Rob about how the soldiers aren’t allowed to smile in pictures.