2017: The #YearofResortLiving, #Meet and #JensQuestions

One year ago, I could not have imagined how 2017 would play out, but I knew it would be different.

This is from my blog post on December 31, 2016.

I know that the year ahead will bring even more change. We are going to have to decide where to live after our year of resort living ends.  We want to travel and expose our kids to new places, new people, new cultures and new food.  We want to get a handle on our finances.  We want to grow our Rodan + Fields business.  I’d really like to get my body back.

It all feels very grown up.

And that is good.

For me, the year ahead is filled with wide open possibility. I know that when it is behind me, things will look very differently than they do now.

Boy, oh boy, did I know what I was talking about or what?

For the first few months of 2017, we embraced our year in the 1300 SF apartment and scoured the city looking for a place to call home.

And then we found it. (Her. #Dorothy)


We did expose our kids to new places, new people, new cultures and new food, thanks in large part to a terrific opportunity at my job. #Dublin


(Although I never blogged about our trips to Texas and Ireland , I did post some pics.  If you want to check them out, my Instagram account has plenty.)


We did focus on our finances and my Rodan + Fields business, and both are in much better shape.  (And my eyelashes are on point! #Lashboost)

And as for my body… well, 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.  (I mean, who actually loses weight when at a resort anyhow? As I wrote about the other day, in 2018, that number on the scale is going down – literally and figuratively! #GoalsSquad)

In addition to all of that, 2017 brought wonderful ways to connect through #Meet and #JensQuestions.

#Meet /  #MeetJax was a networking experiment that went full tilt in January.  I introduced nearly 225 people for hundreds of coffees over many months. and through it all, new relationships and friendships were made and one person even a new job found!  However, in September, I realized that the time it takes to manage the scheduling (or rescheduling) was just too much for me.  For the time being, #Meet / #MeetJax is on hiatus as a regular thing – although I hope I still can connect folks on an ad-hoc basis.

#JensQuestions: Since the summer of 2016, I have also asked hundreds of questions every Monday through Friday (excluding holidays!) about everything from your favorite condiment choices to your preference for pumpkin spice to more serious inquiries about bravery, fear and dreams.  #JensQuestions has been a terrific way to learn about friends near and far.  However, in 2018, I am also taking a break from a daily question to make room for new pursuits. (See weight loss above.)

In the coming weeks, they’ll be new neighbors to meet, new noises to learn and new rooms to get settled in.  We’ll have new routes to school and work, and we’ll be shopping for groceries and dropping the dry-cleaning in new locations.  I want to start new habits, and try new recipes – and wear clothes that seem like new since it will have been a long time since I could fit into them!

Most of all, we hope to have new visitors, the family and friends who have been rooting for us on this crazy journey through the  #yearofresortliving #YearAndaHalfofResortLiving.

Until then, may your new year’s celebration be lively, may you return home safe and may your 2018 be the best year yet.

With love and gratitude,

Jennifer and the Happy Chappies

PS – This is posted in loving memory to our dog, Dash.  Losing him was the worst thing about 2017, and we will be planting a tree in our new yard in his memory.  We miss you, Dashy-dash. 








Shopping for a new house.

Now that we have narrowed the geographic search for our next home, we have turned our attention to the house itself.  Like most shoppers, we have the typical set of criteria.

  • Number of bedrooms – 4 bedrooms – one for each of the boys and a master bedroom
  • Number of bathrooms – at least 2, but we’d prefer an additional half bath or 3rd bath if possible
  • Square footage: between 1,800 and 2,300 SF.  We want a house that is large enough to have friends and family over in comfort, but not so large it would take a full day to clean it every weekend
  • The price: Our budget is actually smaller than we spent on our last house, even if you take into account the market correction.  Our goal was to have a mortgage, including any homeowner’s association fees, taxes and insurance, that we could realistically pay off in 15 years or less, so that we could have it off our plate well before retirement age.

But that’s just the beginning.

With our last home, we made decisions based on resale value. While some of our choices were personal, the vast majority were “safe.”   By contrast, this next house will be a personal reflection of us.  We are looking for a house that will create the backdrop for the next stage in our lives.   It would be more than a place to call home at the end of the day.  It had to be a place we can really LIVE.

1.) The location of the master bedroom:  For the last 10 years, our master bedroom has been 10 feet from the nearest kid’s bedroom.  That was…ahem….too close.  We want our next home to have a first floor master or a split floor plan so that we have some privacy. Also, we intend to keep this house for a LONG time.  We want to be able to stay here into our old age, which means having a single story house, or at the very least, a first floor master suite.

2.)  A bathtub the master bath: During our #yearofresortliving in the apartment, I have indulged in baths on a regular basis.  They are a highlight in my day and I am bent on finding a home with a tub in the master.  It doesn’t have to be jet-powered or even that large, but it has to be mine, free of kids’ toys or left-over kid sand or soccer-funk.


3.) A garage:  Josh’s business has been in high gear in the last year and the number of tools we now own is considerable.  While we don’t feel the need to pull a car into a garage nightly, we do need a place for him to work.   Plus, our boys’ toys have shifted from big wheels to scooters and will soon be followed by mopeds and mountain bikes.  We need a place to park all of it.

4.) High ceilings and lots of light in the common areas:  I don’t mind old houses, but I don’t want to ever have low ceilings again.  The kitchen in our last house had 7’6″ ceilings before our renovation and it felt like we were cooking in a cellar.  I want windows and French doors and rooms that, even if they are not huge, have vertical heft.  I want to want to cook and be with people, and having an open inviting space is key to that.

Surprisingly, here are things we either didn’t consider or would simply be a nice to have, but are not deal-breakers.

An office or 5th bedroom: As Leslie commented in my last post, our kids will be gone in less than a decade.  While I would love to have a dedicated office, it is not a deal-breaker.  We can always convert one of their bedrooms to an office after they leave.  In the meantime, it would also be another space to furnish…and clean.  If needed, I can work at the kitchen table, and we can sort out what to do with the rare overnight guest when they are here.

Lots of closet space: Don’t get me wrong….we still have too much stuff.  But the lessons of the last year, where we voluntarily shrunk our living space by nearly half, are clear.  Less is more and we need to keep our things in check. That starts with not packing super deep closets with boxes and bags of stuff we never use.

A community pool: We LOVE having access to a neighborhood pool, but as families go, the Chapmans are a bit crazy.  I have stopped trying to deny it, or even explain it.  The boys run, wrestle and cannon-ball ALL. DAY. LONG. We know that we can be annoying to others who are there.   In our next home, we’d like to have a pool in the backyard so that we can let the boys be.    If the pool is not already in the backyard, we’d like the room to install one ourselves.  A community pool is a bonus.

A formal living or dining room: We try to eat dinner as a family most week nights, but we are not formal people. While a large-enough dining space is important, we don’t need two areas for dining, one for formal meals and a second for casual.   Similarly, I don’t own any furniture that would even belong in a formal living room.

With this list in mind, we have been scouring Zillow and Redfin, and touring homes, hoping to find the one for us.   The search has lead us to an expected find and I cannot wait to tell you more about it.

What are your must haves for your next home?







Four questions to ask yourself before your next move.

Are you moving? Here are the first 4 questions you need to answer before you start shopping for new digs.


I have had a lot of time to think about things these last few months.  With no yard work or home improvement projects, no staging the house or cleaning up for showings, my calendar has opened up considerably.  Combine that with the fact that the boys can play  with any of the 2 dozen kids that live in the complex, and I’ve had plenty of time for day-dreaming.

While my thoughts have ranged from “maybe I should try surfing” to “I wonder if we could run away in an RV next year”, I kept coming back to the thought that the decision we make about how and where to live next will create the backdrop for some of the most vivid memories in our boys’ lives.  The next 5 to 10 years are the ones where they’ll be learning how to be members of society, and determining what kind of person they want to become. I find myself using this “backdrop” image as the starting point for where we go in the next stage of our lives and I have come up with a list of questions that helped me figure it all out.

1.) What do you want to be close to?

If you are considering a new location in the same metro area, this might be easier, but it applies to any move.  Do you want to be close to the beach or the mountains?  To be close to family or close to your dream job?  How far you are willing to commute to work?  Make a list of what is important first.  Re-order it second.

For us, family and commute times topped the list.

Family: My sisters and mother live in the next county over and I wanted to be able to visit with them without too far of a drive.  We were shooting no more than for 45 minutes by car to my mom’s place so that we have lots of opportunities for the boys to hang out with her, my sisters and all of the cousins.

Commute time: We considered how far we wanted to be to our jobs, the boys’ schools and big-city amenities and venues.  Our upper limit for any of these was 30 minutes by car, shorter if possible. We wanted more time to do things, less time getting to the things we wanted to do.

Items that made the list, but were less important were closeness to the airport, closeness to the boys’ soccer fields, or to major shopping outlets.  Also, we did not have to consider zoning for schools since the boys currently attend a magnet program, but we did noodle the proximity to their future schooling needs.

2.) What do you want to be walking-distance or biking-distance to?

This is different than the above because you can be 10 minutes from the beach by car, but the terrain might prevent you from biking there.   You need to consider what things need to be the MOST convenient.

Are you picturing walking your dog to get your morning coffee at Starbucks?  Do you want to be able to get gas or buy a gallon of milk without a long drive?  How about your favorite restaurants?  Is there a way to live close to one that you frequent?

If you are looking at neighborhoods with amenities, do you want to be really close to the community center or pool…or really NOT close.  (Maybe you don’t want people walking by your home all of the time on their way to go swimming.)

Photo by Patrick Tomasso


For us, we wanted to be able to walk with the boys to get dinner at one or two neat places, or to be able to ride our bikes to the river or to a park.

3.) What kind of weekends do you want to have?

After we moved out of our last house, we said we never again wanted to have a yard that owned us.  Our weekends were spent mowing, edging and blowing, mulching bagging and weeding.  And when we finally caved and hired someone, we had to add in the extra funds into our monthly budget to cover the service.

Untamed rural and urban homes often have little upkeep, while suburban homes have more work required and might even fine owners whose yards are not kept in good shape.  Condos and townhomes might have no upkeep required for individual owners, but you may be assessed for the costs to have a professional crew do the maintenance for common areas.

We decided our next house would have a smaller, more manageable yard; it would be big enough to kick a soccer ball around or let the dog out for exercise, but not so big we had to work on it all the time.  We ruled out suburban neighbors with big lots, as well as condos or townhomes.

4.) How close do you want to be to your neighbors, literally and figuratively?

The obvious answers to this question address proximity to the next house or unit.  Do you want to share a wall or share a fence?  Do you want to run into people as you pull into the garage, or wave by them as you drive out of the neighborhood?

It is also about lifestyle.  There are plenty of condo-dwellers who live on opposite sides of a wall who never speak to each other.  Similarly, there are many suburban, planned or rural communities that have neighborhood events where people make a point to get to know each other.

We have missed out on making friends in a neighborhood for a decade.  I envy those families who have neighbors who socialize in the street, whose kids play together, roaming in packs on bikes and passing effortlessly between houses, and who look out for each other.  We were looking for a place with a robust, intentional community-feel.

Photo by Blake Wheeler


Before we got clear on what we wanted, we were literally all over the map.  This exercise helped us come to the conclusion that we need to limit our search to the neighborhoods in and around the city center.   It has made taking the next steps in our search so much easier.

Considering moving?  Let me know if you have other variables you considered or if these helped you with narrowing your search.


What do you do?

“What do you do?”  When the lovely woman seated to my right at a luncheon asked me this question, my friend on the left chuckled out loud.

“Good luck answering that, Jennifer!”

It wasn’t because I don’t know, but because I do several things and I am never quite sure what to say.  This blog post is the result of trying to come up with an answer.


Here goes.

My job: I run the Florida public affairs department of a Boston-based financial services company.  I spend my time working with elected officials from around the state, local non-profits, civic organizations, and other business leaders.  On any given day, I might be talking to a State representative about a bill, arranging a team service event for a group of volunteers, attending a Chamber of Commerce meeting, visiting with a member of Congress or their staff, or communicating with our associates about something going on in our area.  I often travel around the US for meetings and conferences.  I work with some of the smartest, most dedicated folks I know and for that reason and a whole bunch more, I love this job.  In March, 2017, I will have been at it for 10 years and, in my opinion, there is no better job for me.

My “side-gig”: If you move past my full time job, the next logical answer to the “what do you do?” question is my business.  While I have had some small money-makers on the side over the years, my Rodan + Fields business is a real business that suits my life. And, I love being the skincare lady!  I sell anti-aging products and tools, as well as items for acne, sensitive skin, sun damage and, as of this week, an eyelash product called “Lash Boost” that is blowing up my business. R+F has not only provided a reliable stream of revenue for our family, but has helped me be more confident, expanded my vision for our family’s future, and grown my circle of friends. I spend between 5 and 10 hours a week on my business, usually in small chunks of time – 15 minutes putting orders in, 30 minutes chatting with a prospective consultant who is considering joining my team, an hour of training once a week, etc., and I usually do my work after the kids are in bed or while I am in the car driving to an appointment or soccer practice.  Direct selling has come a long way from the days of home parties (I don’t do them) with garages full of inventory you have to pre-order and deliver (my products are drop-shipped by the corporate office/warehouse when they are purchased).  I have found that the people who have jumped into this type of business in recent years are smart, friendly, socially and technologically savvy people who are trusted by their circle of influence. It is a fun time to be in direct sales.

#Meetjax:  This summer, I started “Meet” (which may or may not be the final name) or #Meetjax, as it has come to be called.  I score folks coffee dates with an awesome person they didn’t know they needed to know.  There are three rules:  1.) You cannot pitch or sell anything, 2.) you cannot flirt, and 3.) you cannot know who you are going to meet until you get there. The response has been thrilling! Dozens of people have signed up and most of those have either come back for more or referred their friends to do it too.   This is my night time guilty pleasure; it is what I do instead of binge watch tv. 😉  I am really excited to see where this goes next.

Family stuff: Not to be overlooked, the second largest amount of stuff I do (after my full time job) is related to being a wife, mom, daughter and sister.  HH (Handsome Hubby) and I have 3 kiddos, known here as Vader, Splash and Turtle.  I am also excited to have 2 of my sisters and their families close by, as well as my mom who just retired and moved here this summer!  It is the bee’s knees. I am sure my daily to-do list looks a lot like yours: soccer, flag football, parent teacher conferences, school fundraisers, holiday gatherings, milestone events and such.

Other: As a volunteer, I currently chair the Early Learning Coalition of Duval and participate annually as a member of the selection committee for Leadership Jacksonville’s Adult Program.  As a representative of my company, I am on the board of trustees of the Florida Chamber Foundation and serve as the co-chair of the policy committee for the Jax Chamber.  I have also invested some time into the effort to open a Sudbury School in Northeast Florida although I admit, I have moved that to the back burner as my kids are all excelling in their current school.

Other other: As my mentor Audrey told me once, “You do better when you have a couple of new projects.” This is so true.  Over the last few years and with great intention, I sunset my roles with several wonderful non-profits and set the table for some new things in my life.  HH and I moved from our suburban home to a suburban apartment closer to the kids’ school and my office.  We are trying to live a leaner, cleaner life, which equates to buying less, purging what we already have, taking advantage of shared amenities and spending less time in the car.  I am reading more, walking more, inviting people over more, and sleeping more…sometimes.  This is our #YearOfResortLiving.  

I also realized that I wanted to connect more with the people I know.  #Jensquestions is result.  Monday through Friday, I post a different question on my Facebook page (Twitter is lagging, but I keep trying).  The answers delight, amaze and inform me about the marvelous people in my circle in a way that is just not possible in the limited amount of time we have to interact in person.  (The questions are always set to “public” on Facebook, so even if we don’t know each other personally, I welcome your replies too!)

That’s what I do. 🙂

Thanks for reading.


Spanish Cove…Happy Trails

One happy day in the Spring of 2007, HH and I bought a 1976 traditional house in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville.  It was decorated in the style of “Early Ugly”, the previous owners having built the place 31 years prior, choosing decorator finishes that were all the rage in the 70’s (a green toilet, shag carpet, popcorn ceiling, foiled wallpaper and such.)  Decor aside, it was on a half acre lot with Spanish moss-covered oak trees, and it was the perfect location for the next stage in our lives.  We planned, as so many did in the early 2000’s, to renovate it, then host regular weekend parties, maybe grow our family in it, and then sell it a few years later for a hefty profit, a mere stepping stone to bigger and better real estate in the booming Florida market.

It is cliche to even say it, but my friends, life often doesn’t go as planned. One recession, one job eliminated, and two new babies later, we realized that we were going to live in this house for a long….long….long time.

Chapman Twins New Years

About 2 years in, I asked HH what his favorite spot was in the backyard.   He was puzzled until I explained that I was convinced we were going to die in this house and, should he go before me, I wanted to know where he’d like to be laid to rest.  It was that bad.

In 2012, things started to look up.  With the early success of my Rodan + Fields business and other strokes of good fortune, HH began the process of renovating our ugly home. Like most people who choose to renovate their home while they live in it, it goes incredibly slow and is horribly disruptive.


I went nearly 2 full years without kitchen counters, choosing to use discarded remnants of other people’s kitchen counters rested atop our cabinets until we could afford the Quartz we wanted.  The wood flooring we laid in 2014 did not match the kind we laid in 2012, so it had to be done again. We never once had a car parked in the garage because it held tools, flooring, tile, grout, base boards, lighting fixtures, crown molding, faucets, and more, not to mention the stuff that comes with 3 babies/boys.

House photos 004

Even with the improvements, we were stuck.  The house was all-consuming, leaving little time for family fun, no place for entertaining, and no extra money for anything.

Fast forward to this Spring, when the last bathroom had been gutted, tossing out mustard yellow tile and a Formica vanity to make way for a white subway surround and gorgeous modern double sinks.

When the last coat of paint dried, we realized the house was not only done, it was sell-able. And unless we wanted to re-do everything again (as realists, we know that with time comes a few broken windows, some school-age graffiti and general boy-life damage), we’d better hop to it.


So we sold it.

This was the house that my twins came home to, where two of my kids learned to walk and all three learned to ride a bike, where we held bouncy house birthday parties for Vader’s 3rd and 10th birthday (and my 40th!).  It was the place where my marriage was tested and not only survived, but thrived.

This was also a house that weighed on us like a ton of bricks, that kept us up many late nights whether in heated discussions about what we could afford to do next or quietly working away, covered in dust/paint/caulk/dirt from demolition or sanding or whatever was the project of the month.

And now, another family will get to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

What lies ahead for the Chapman family is a total departure from the last 9 and a half years. We have swapped our 2500 SF traditional and big yard for a 1350 SF apartment with a screened-in porch that is one-third the size of a decent parking space.

I am psyched.

I have the declared the next 12 months as the #YearOfResortLiving.  We will swim in the pool, workout in the gym, and play in the game room.  We will spend less time working on the upkeep of our place and more time exploring our city and hanging out with friends. And if you took the time to read this all the way through, my friends, that means YOU.  I may not have a guest room for weekend visits, but I do have a ridiculously strong desire to invite you over for a cold beer and a swim before the weather turns cool, or for a cookout in the fall using the shared grill and fire pit area.

Consider yourself invited – let’s do it soon.


Beyond that, who knows.  HH and I have talked about so many possiblities and the fact that we have options is fun, all by itself.  There is no hurry to get to a decision any time soon.

In the meantime, happy trails, Spanish Cove.  If you need me, I will be by the pool.


2016 Road Trip – The Logistics

Now that it has been a week since our return, I have had a little time to get perspective on our 11 day, 4 city trip to Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City and I wanted to share my thoughts, good, bad and ugly. (But, mostly good.)

This is a quick summary of the transportation and accommodations on each of our 11 days and 10 nights.

We picked these cities because they are all poor for RV travel.  In the future, if we do a major trip around the US, I want to avoid places like DC and NYC. From tolls to traffic, bridges and tunnels to expensive parking, I have enough anxiety about driving a car, let alone a monster size towable or motor coach.  So the decision was made to fly into DCA, and after sightseeing in the nation’s capitol, rent a car and drive the days in between, before dropping the car in NYC.   This way, we get to see these important and interesting places, without the dread of having to drive and park an RV.

To kick things off, we chose to fly. Jet Blue was super affordable and made traveling with kids easy, as each kid gets their own TV and choice of snacks.  Our flights left on time out of JAX airport and arrive in DC without incident.


Upon arrival at Reagan National Airport, we took the Metro to our hotel.  The Metro is really cheap and clean and we never had to wait more than a few minutes for a train. Truly, there is no need to rent a car to get around to see the sites in Washington DC.  Besides the subway, you can walk, rent a bike, or take a cab or Uber.  Parking is really expensive if you do have a car, so I recommend avoiding it.  (Our hotel garage was $30 per night!)

For lodging the DC, we chose the Embassy Suites in Alexandria, VA, perfectly located across the street from the Metro Station at King Street Station.   If you choose this hotel, you’ll also want to take advantage of sightseeing nearby in Olde Town. For that, the city of Alexandria provides a free round trip shuttle which also picks up in front of the hotel.  More on that later…  The hotel offers free breakfast and a happy hour with complementary snacks and drinks (including adult beverages!)  There is an indoor swimming pool, a fitness center and a very friendly staff.  We were there three nights.

After 4 days in DC,  HH picked up the car from Avis at DCA (again, using the Metro to get from our hotel to the airport.)   We loaded up the car, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Baltimore, a quick 1 hour drive from our place in VA.

In Baltimore, we wanted to experience the waterfront.  We decided to stay on a boat by booking a place through AirBnB.  It was a crazy thing to do with three boys, but I am glad we did it.  Not only was a famous Maryland crab restaurant just a few steps from where we were moored, but we were only a 20 minute walk to the Inner Harbor.  There was free overnight parking in the marina and the cost of the AirBnB was less than a hotel in the downtown corridor, with the added benefit of a waterfront sunrise.  If you can find an option like this, I recommend it.  No one in our family took showers on the boat, but for one night, who cares.

From MD to PA was another relatively short drive.  We found our Embassy Suites hotel on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with ease.  Having not been in Philadelphia in years, I learned that there are two central areas that are good for tourists to stay. The Parkway puts you close to the Franklin Institute (more on that later), the Art Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Free Library, and more.   If you want to be close to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and other spots more closely aligned to the start of our nation’s history,  you’ll want to choose another hotel.  To get to these other sites, we took Uber rather than drive the car and fuss with parking.  It was only $6 each way, but it was an added step that we would have avoided if we picked a hotel in that part of Philly.  We also walked a lot.  Philly is a great city to walk around it.  I loved seeing the signs to not “Block the Box” at every intersection, reminding drivers to stay out of the pedestrian cross walks and give them the right of way.

Once again, we drove from PA to NYC.  The drive was the longest of our three jounts, but still less then 2 hours, with “exciting” moments as we crossed through Delaware and New Jersey.  We used the Holland Tunnel and popped up into the city on our 7th day.

For New York, we went bold with our NYC lodging.  Originally, we had planned a hotel in the middle of Times Square.  With no car, (HH returned it soon after we arrived), we thought it would be easy to get to the sites and be exciting for the boys. However, at the last-minute, I changed course.  Several friends had suggested the Times Square was akin to Disney World, with noise and crowds waiting for you at the entrance to every hotel and that stressed me out.  Instead, I went the AirBnB route again, choosing a spot in the East Village with a park across the street and a washer and dryer, along with a chance to pretend I lived in NYC for a few days.

It was a risky choice, and for the most part, it paid off.  We liked the coffee shops and pizza places nearby.  As predicted, there was less noise and fewer crowds and we had more room than a hotel, with less hidden fees and more reasonable prices for things like meals, snacks and souvenirs. However, we went a little too far off the path of convenience.  The 5 block walk from the subway after a full day of sightseeing was a slog for me, let alone for my 8 and 11 year olds.

As for getting around in the city, we hardly spent anything.  The subway was REALLY cheap and the only time we didn’t use it was when we had a tour that started at a specific time and we were running late. I guess they have to make something affordable in NYC and public transit is it.

For the return flights, were went with Jet Blue again and chose to leave out of JFK.  Our subway trip to the airport was long, but manageable.  The Jet Blue terminal was well-appointed and cheerful, but that was forgotten when we sat on the runway for over an hour and a half waiting our turn to depart.  JFK is a very crowded airport and unbeknownst to me, they often have delays on the tarmac.  Lesson learned.

We got home 11 days later, poorer in the pocket, but rich with memories and experience.

Travel because you can and be well.




Obsessed with RV life

Two places on the inter-web have been my obsession this week.

Full Time Families (FTF): This resources is for those who are curious about family life on the road or have already make RV living a reality. The Facebook page for the group has tons of information about the practical realities of RVing with kiddos and the membership is very active.

Rand McNally’s Trip Maker – Don’t get me wrong; I am a card-carrying member of the AAA, but this website is so user-friendly.  I was able to plot up to 25 cities on the travel plan, get mileage, estimated driving time and gas costs and even poke around for other stops in the area that might be interesting.   I have already designed 4 (more) iterations of our trip.

In addition, I have bulked up my Pinterest page with lots more content about RV renovations, stuff to do with kids in cities I think we’ll eventually visit, tips for how to handle life on the road, and more.


The biggest “ah-ha” moment for me is how many people seem to be considering this every day? ! There are 5 or 10 new members of the FTF FB group page every time I log on and I am finding tons of blogs from couples with children of all ages who are already on the road.

While I have NO idea when we’ll do this, it is motivating to see others get going.  Are you on the road?  How long did it take you from idea to launch?  Any words of wisdom for me?

Insomnia is a tell-tale sign

I barely slept for the last two nights.

In between sending messages to my clients and business partners for my skin-care business, I read. I pinned.  I planned.  I tried to go to bed, but that didn’t work.

So then I read some more.  And pinned more.  I planned some more.  I need sleep, but my brain disagrees.

I learned about “boon-docking” and the websites that allow you to do that with other RV enthusiasts.

I read about converting old school buses into RVs.  And that those are called “Skoolies”. And you can convert coaches and city buses too.

I followed families on Facebook and Twitter who either completed journeys long ago and wrote books about it, or who are on the road now.

I thought about sleeping patterns, and how we’d get a space that everyone felt accommodated their needs (and did not force anyone to sleep next to Turtle, for fear of injury.)

I already changed the route.

Then I saw this…And then I changed it again.

I drafted a sample budget, determining what we might need to have in pocket, versus income coming (Thanks to Rodan + Fields) while on the road.  I tried to remember fixed expenses that we’d continue to have regardless of the trip like life insurance premiums and FL Prepaid payments.

At about 3:45 am both nights, I went upstairs, but only because I forgot to bring down the charger for my laptop and the battery was gone.

And then, I lay in bed and willed myself to sleep, albeit with visions of boys stomping through wooded national parks, starting wide-eyed at national monuments and playing with friends and family who live near and far across this great land.

Just like riding a bike…


I will assume most of you know what this object is. And also how to use one.

At some point in life, you were given access to a bike or owned one yourself. If you had one, you probably decided on your own when you wanted to learn how to ride it. Once you learned, you never had to re-learn. Riding a bike just sticks with you. So cliché, I know.

All three of my boys have learned to ride a bike.

Vader was the first to receive a bike and he was excited to get outside to try it.  My husband and I did our best to explain how to ride a bike. It was our first time teaching this skill. There was a period of demonstrating before he had to do it for himself, but because there were no other kids to copy, he was on his own after that.  He picked it up eventually, and once he did, his horizons expanded well beyond the end of the driveway.

Vader's first "bike"
Vader’s first “bike”

Splash and Turtle received bikes a year later and were eager to join their older brother on two wheels. Splash leaned heavily on my husband and me, figuratively and literally. He was armed with a helmet, knee pads, AND elbow pads. He went slowly, even with the training wheels. He took his time. He wanted us to walk next to him, help him to steer and stop. Then, with each pass down the road, he picked up steam, and started to ride on his own.

Splash is not so sure.

Turtle, despite his nickname on this blog, tried a different tact. He skipped the safety gear. He hated the training wheels. He almost hit parked cars. He fell. And fell. But he learned to ride. He was (and is now) fearless on two wheels.

Turtle says, “Bring it on!”

Think about your own experience. If you used training wheels, you probably do not consider yourself a sub-par rider because of it. I am guessing you probably forgot about most of the falling down and while it did not feel that way at the time, no one (probably) counted the number of falls.

There was no pre bike-riding assessment or post-riding recap. There was (and still is) no right way to learn or wrong way to learn how to ride a bike, other than various kinds of trial and error…and a little courage.

The adults wanted you to succeed because they loved you and supported your interest in learning. The other kids wanted you to learn so that you could join in on the fun. No one really cared how long it took to become proficient, except maybe you.

You learned it because you wanted to. And you learned the way that worked for you.

That is how I want my children to learn. I want them to want it. I want them to embrace it. I know that they’ll probably fall down, but because they want to learn, they’ll get up and try again.

With this kind of learning, the freedom that comes with reaching the goal is immensely gratifying. And like riding a bike, it opens up a whole new world to explore.

One year tomorrow

Three hundred and sixty four days.

One year ago tomorrow, my dad succumbed to pneumonia, a by-product of ALS, at 9:20 am on June 6th.

For anyone that has lost someone they love, the first year is full of milestones.  It is raw and sad, awkward and off-balance.  When there are high-points, they can seem selfish. And the low points can bring out regret, or anger, or confusion.  Everyone deals with it differently, and I can see why some people get stuck in grief.

And yet even with all that…

I am OK.

Don’t get me wrong.  I miss my dad like hell.  I want to call him each morning on the way to work to say good morning and allow the chorus of little boys in the car to say, “Hey Papa!”  I want to share and celebrate my successes with him and ask for his input on important decisions.  I know that he’d be proud of the work I was doing, and of the business I was growing, and of the way my children were turning out.  I wish he could meet Dash and take him for long walks when he was able to visit.   I want to send him silly greeting cards and have him tell me jokes.  I wish he could do the tickle monster with my boys.  I wish he could mail me articles about St. Thomas Aquinas’s latest sports victories, even though I never played sports while I was there.

I wish he was with my mom, and they were able to continue the adventure they were on for more than 40 years. That is probably what I wish most of all.

But then I realize how lucky I was to have had a dad who lived 76 amazing years, who left such a positive impression on me and my sisters and my kids and everyone he met.  While I know that he would have made the most of every extra minute on this planet, I am so happy that he was here as long as he was and so grateful that the illness that took his life did not take his dignity or systematically wreck his body for two or three or more years, an end of life torture that many with ALS often endure.

No, he did not want to go, but I suppose that if he had to go this way, this way was the best way he could.

My dad was awesome.  And I miss him.

And tomorrow, as I take my boys to school for the last day before summer break, I will mentally dial the phone to say, “Hey Dad!  It’s the fellas and me!  We miss you and we hope you have a great day! We love you!”

And we do.Me_and_mydad