Thursday, February 26, 2009

The cost of a kidney stone...

Remember that little kidney stone incident – way back in Nashville – in November? The night we spent two hours in the ER. Does anyone want to guess how much it costs to find out you have a kidney stone? Well, we finally got the bill and we are still trying figure out how it could possible cost $5,965.84 for a CT scan and a couple shots of morphine!

Perhaps the hospital was erroneously informed that we still have insurance that pays such ridiculous sums – and that we don’t pay any attention to the numbers because somebody else is paying for it. Unfortunately that’s not the case. We now have a $10,000 deductible which means we’ll be footing the bill. Which is really just fine – if it didn’t seem like highway robbery. We took out a high deductible policy because we rarely go to a doctor and didn’t want to pay high premiums for something we rarely use. We figured if we ever did need to see a doctor, the money we saved on premiums would cover the cost. And it would, I think, as long as you don’t get any pictures taken. The CT scan alone was $5,156.75.

The interesting thing is…the guy sitting at the front desk knew it was a kidney stone the minute he saw Rich doing the “kidney stone shuffle” on the way in the door. But, one does not question things when in a state of excruciating pain. If someone says you need a CT scan, then a CT scan it is.

I wonder, however, what would have happened if they’d given Rich the morphine and then shown us a menu of options – with the prices included. Perhaps front desk guy could have thrown his 2 cents into the mix and we could have saved ourselves enough money to pay for all the gas for our entire trip – twice!

Live and learn…

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gulf Shores, AL

Hello from Gulf Shores, Alabama! We spent two weeks at a brand new RV resort called Bella Terra just north of Gulf Shores near Foley, AL. The RV resort is a place like we stayed at in Hilton Head and Naples where people buy the individual lots. This is a brand new place and it is really going to be beautiful in a few years once the landscaping is established and has time to grow. Right now, it's a bit of a parking lot, but nevertheless we enjoyed our time here. The people here are absolutely wonderful and the clubhouse and facilities are top notch.

What have we been doing? Well, not much - at least not much that can be put into pictures. On the other hand, there has been alot going on at a deeper level. We had some opportunities last week to really pull together as a family. It felt like something very significant was happening to unite us together. We are really grateful for this development.

Rich spent this past week in Seattle on business so it was just the kids and I for a week. I'm noticing that we are all content most of the time to just do life right here in the RV. We did, however, drive to Pensacola, FL (about 50 minutes) to the
National Naval Aviation Museum. It's a free museum on the Naval base and filled with so many airplanes from WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. We had an incredible tour guide who shared the stories behind the aircraft and made it all come to life.

We also saw two IMAX movies - one called
The Magic of Flight where we learned about the history of flight and about the Blue Angels which are a group of Navy pilots who travel the country doing air shows. The other movie was Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk . This movie highlighted the water shortage that is a growing concern especially in the southwest. The water levels in the Colorado River, as well as Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are not what they once were. There was an important message about water conservation woven into the amazing scenery of the Grand Canyon and a trip down the Colorado River.

We are learning to bake bread from a new book called
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and our wheatgrass experiment continues. Our second tray looks better than our first attempt, but its still not looking like the trays the smoothie guy had in Charleston. We use the same seed - wheatberries - to either grind into flour to make bread or to sprout into wheatgrass. I grind the wheatberries in our Vita-Mix to make the flour. We can whip up banana bread (click here for recipe) from freshly ground wheatberries in no time. We're still perfecting our bread recipe. It doesn't rise high enough for sandwhichs, but this crusty whole wheat loaf is absolutely delicious. And we found a way to use our new wheatgrass juicer until such time as we actually have wheatgrass to juice. We ran frozen strawberries and frozen bananas through it and it came out like softserve ice cream! It was a fun treat and the kids enjoyed cranking the handle of the juicer.

All through the south we keep seeing these little tiny restaurants called Waffle House. You might remember the night of the kidney stone we stopped there to ask directions. After we picked up Rich at the Pensacola airport on Friday, we decided to see what the deal is with all these Waffle Houses so we stopped. They are little diners with a counter and cook and a couple waitresses that serve, you guessed it - waffles...and eggs and hashbrowns - and grits...we're in the south you know! No...we didn't try the grits, but the waffles were pretty good. And you can't beat the price...Jake had a waffle for $1.

We are really happy to have Rich back home and looking forward to continuing the journey as we head further west...Texas, here we come!




Saturday, February 7, 2009

Destin, FL

Hello from the Florida panhandle! After a month in Naples, we headed 10 hours north. We stopped half way for an overnight at the Traveler's Campground before arriving at Topsail Hill State Park near Destin, FL. Wow! What a beautiful place. It's the nicest state park in Florida (according to our neighbor who seems to know). It was a private RV resort at one time. The campground has 3.2 miles of white sand beaches and at this time of the year (off season) we had the beach to ourselves. There are full hook-ups (rare in a state park) and paved roads with concrete pads (the place you park the RV).

The highlight of our stay was having our dear friend Molly Morton and her two girls fly down and spend five glorious days with us. As it turned out, Rich had to fly to Minneapolis for a business meeting so we dropped Rich off at the airport the same day we picked up the Mortons. The kids had a blast building sand castles and letting the waves get them way too wet for 55 degree weather. We hiked through sand dunes and took a 6+mile bike ride along the coast on a path that goes for over 20 miles. And of course, we indoctrinated our friends into the RV lifestyle by watching the Robin Williams movie -
RV. If you havn't seen it, think about renting it next time you need a good laugh. It actually has a redeeming message too.

It's been cooler here the last few days - like 40's. You would have thought it was 40 below watching the Florida state park workers go about their chores wearing full face ski masks! Perhaps they had the last laugh, however, when our furnace went out that night and we woke up to 30 degree temperatures - inside! Have no fear, we have plenty of blankets, the weather is warming up - and Target has space heaters on clearance:-)

We spent our last day in Destin enjoying that beautiful beach and then headed out for dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill where we got to sit at the kitchen counter. It was an opportunity for the kids to witness first hand how hard restaurant cooks work. While we sat enjoying a nice meal, they were working at full speed the entire time. I think we all learned to appreciate what goes on in a busy restaurant kitchen.

Wheatgrass update: Well...it's definitly not as easy to grow wheatgrass as the smoothie guy made it look. Soaking and sprouting went great...but it was downhill from there. After I covered the tray, the sprouts just never really took off. The extra seeds sitting in the colander on the counter, however, did shoot up nice and green...so...back to the drawing board. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. Maybe Alabama will be more condusive to wheatgrass growing. Stay tuned...


Thursday, February 5, 2009

FAQs

We've had a few "Frequently Asked Questions" lately, so here are some answers...if you have more questions, just let us know!

How do you earn a living?
We are very fortunate that Rich can work from anywhere. He is a software developer and computer consultant with clients all over the U.S. All he needs is a laptop and a Verizon Aircard and he's ready to roll. He recently developed a software product that aids financial reporting and analysis for Lawson ERP. You can read more about Dashboard Gear on his website at:
www.dashboardgear.com/

What is your typical day/week like?
Establishing a healthy ryhthm of life is something we have been seeking long before we took off in an RV. It is still a work in progress and no two weeks are the same, but here's a taste of what life looks like for now:

Monday through Wednesday we usually stay around the RV park. Rich works and we go about our lifestyle of learning which means school-type stuff like reading, writing, and math, but it also means doing laundry, working out arguments, soaking in God's word, exploring creation, caring for Macie (our dog), pursuing what interests us, and taking advantage of whatever opportunities are set before us.

Thursday is our field trip day where we head out together as a family to investigate the area we are in. Friday we tidy up the RV, get groceries, and make challah bread for our Friday night sabbath dinner. Saturday we connect with our "church" via conference call and enjoy a day of rest - reading, biking, playing games, etc.

Sunday is our driving/relocation day. It's a great day to be on the road because there is less traffic.

How do you survive in such a small space?
I never would have believed it, but I can honestly say we are loving this small space! We have everything we need in the RV. I don't feel like we are merely surviving - I feel like we are thriving! We feel blessed to be free from the responsibilities that come with a large house and from all the unnecessary stuff that inevitably has to be cleaned, organized, maintained, etc. We are embracing this season of small space.

How do you cook in that tiny kitchen?
Well, I admit it would be nice to have a couple more feet of counter space, but it works. We had three friends stay with us for five days. We ate every meal in the RV except one and never had to run to the grocery store for anything. There is plenty of space for food,
Vita-Mix, food processor, crockpot, rice cooker, air popper, utensils, etc. We have a three burner propane stove and a combination microwave/convection oven. We don't use the microwave (not healthy), but the oven works great...we make pizza, bake bread, make cookies - all in that small oven.

How do you do school on the road?
Education is a subject I have been contemplating deeply for a couple of years. Suffice to say, my thoughts about what it means to be educated have been radically transformed as of late. The RV trip has been the perfect opportunity to put these new ideas into practice. The world is our classroom and we are enjoying a plethora of experiences that God has provided for us. What could be more educational than that?

Do the kids get bored?
No more than they did at home - which is not very often. There is always something to do. I think they are a lot more creative out here with less stuff. Jake has built some incredible Lego creations; Ashley designed and sewed a saddle. They both made bows and arrows out of hangers, straws, paperclips, paper, rubberbands, and whatever else we happened to have. We play a lot more games as a family and both kids are reading like crazy.

Do the kids miss their friends?
Yes - of course! And so do we. Thankfully we have email, a cell phone, and paper/pen to keep in touch.

When are you coming home?
Well, we think it will be April/May, but we are committed to following the Lord so we'll see if our timing matches His!

How do you get any work done?
Thankfully, Rich has an amazing ability to work in the midst of life going on around him. Sometimes he heads to a coffee shop, or sometimes the kids and I go out and about and leave Rich at home - but more often than not we are one big happy family living, learning, and working together in our little abode.

Don’t you need any time to yourself?
Yes...I think we all do. But it's a lot less than we used to need for some reason. Either God is giving us an extra measure of grace to be able to survive with less alone time - or we just need less than we used to for some reason.

How do you get time together as a couple without the kids?
This is something we probably need to be more intentional about. Our time is usually after the kids go to bed. Even though the RV is small, it still has three areas separated by pocket doors...the main living area, the bunk area, and our bedroom.

How do you get your mail?
Our mail still goes to our house. My mom picks it up every day, throws it in a box, and sends it to us every week or two. I have to say it is really nice having her recycle all that junk mail before it gets to us. Thanks, Mom!