Sunday, October 28, 2018

Getting the Property Ready for the RV

      Now that the house in Temple is sold, Ron and I need to focus on getting our pad in for our new home on wheels. Scott has graciously taken in his “homeless” parents while we get the drive and pad for the RV built. Built really doesn’t seem like the right word because there is more tearing down taking place than building up.
      At this point in time, we have hired someone to do the work; however, the weather hasn’t been cooperating. The guy was out last week and started the parking area in front of Scott’s barn but had to stop after an hour. The ground was just too wet. Then on Saturday, the family all came over to help cut and burn trees to save us some time and money. We all ended up muddy messes! However, the granddaughters had a blast climbing trees, making mud pies, and building with random pieces of junk.
      We are hopeful the work can resume tomorrow. We’ve had 4 days without rain and the ground seems to be drying up on the surface. Unfortunately, it may be another story about 6 inches down.
I figured I better get some before pictures loaded onto the blog . . . Just in case!

Ron and Scott decided we needed and additional parking area.
They are going to have the dirt guy put in a gravel pad
that's large enough for 3 cars to park here. They also want to
set the car port over in this area. It was at the end of the current drive.
This was the muddy mess the dirt guy made on his first attempt. But,
he did manage to get that brute of a boulder out that the
kids fought with on our Saturday workday.
Scott rigged up a hoist to pull the stakes out of the car port. He sure is
a lot like my Dad. I guess he learned his lesson well when Grandpa was
teaching him about tools and building. This thing worked great!
Some of the stakes were about 2 feet long. Luckily, they came out easily.
When the family was here, we use Egyptian engineering to
move the carport into the front yard. Using the aluminum tubing,
we rolled the carport down the drive and into the yard.
Even the grands helped by grabbing the tubes and moving them to the front. The guys
drove the riding mowers up onto the frame; just in case we get some
strong wind before we can anchor it in the new location.
There used to be a really nice deck here. Scott built it when we put
up the above ground pool. He intends to put another pool
up on the west end of the property but will build a new
I helped him tear down the deck and put the boards that are in good shape
down on the west end. He is going to repurpose them as a loafing shed
for the mowers, tools, chicken feed, and coop bedding.
I had to add a picture of my girls.
Such pretty birds! But, man is their run a muddy mess!
This is the area where we will park the RVs. It is already
nice and level because it is where the pool used to be. The loop of the
drive will be in the grassy area beyond the 2 trees.
This end of the driveway will most certainly come out. The
new drive will go back into the cedars. The dirt guy has
some sort of attachment to cut the cedar down.
He'll then move them to the west end where the burn area is.
This is our burn area on the west side of the property.
Eventually, Scott wants to put in a fire pit, grilling
area, tables with benches and swings.
The pool will be here as well. I think I'm going to
get the grands a trampoline for Christmas and put
it down here somewhere.
Scott tried his hand at making rusting benches out of
the trees they cut down. They are perfect for the grands to roast
hot dogs and make Smore's.

Hopefully, the next post on the blog will have some "during" pictures. I'm not looking forward to the mud and mess of construction. I'm also not looking forward to keeping the two crazy dogs cooped up while the guy is working. But, hopefully, he will be ready for gravel to be brought in by Wednesday. Fingers crossed!!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A Literary Blast from the Past

While cleaning out papers, I ran across a short story that was written by my daughters and nieces. Evidently, the girls got together one day, typed up a story, and printed it on a dot matrix printer. (Man! Hasn't technology improved!?!?) The girls each signed the story once it was printed, some at the end of specific paragraphs, leading me to believe that they were the author of the paragraph that they signed. Some of the paragraphs don't have a specific author, so maybe the girls will remember who wrote what. What's even stranger is, I signed it! I guess I was in on the writing session... who knows! Although Alisha didn't sign the paper, I can't imagine her not being in on this so I'm giving her credit as well.

Because I'm not adept at using Ron's scanner, I took a pic of the original and have re-typed it below. I tried to stay true to their original grammar, punctuation, and spelling; but, today's computers make it hard to misspell words. Enjoy!

The Family Reunion
In the summer of 1993, the family of Bob and Shirley Porter gathered together for a family reunion. Their four children had families of their own, living all over the world because of job assignments. It was the first time in over five years that all of the children and grandchildren had been in one place together. (author unknown)
Little did they know that this summer would be known as the Summer of the Great Swamp Monster.  The monster had big long eyes sticking out of its head hanging on long anteneas and its face was all pinched in except for its mouth which stuck out real far so it could eat little kids next door. (Amanda Porter)
The Porter kids were known to be little brats so when the swamp monster heard about the family gathering next door, he figured it would be a great place to eat all the bratty little kids. (Sarah Porter)
After the kids had eaten dinner, the swamp monster thought it would be a great time to eat them because they would be fat a juicy. The kids would be going into the pool and their parents wouldn't be watching them. (Sarah Porter)
All of the kids were in the pool and one of them thought she heard something so she went to tell her favorite cousin.  "I think someone is looking over the fence at us." Her cousin loked but didn't see a thing. She said it was a wild imagination. (author unknown)
Suddenly the monster dived into the pool and caught the cousins by their swim suits and then began to rip out their hair because it would give the monster indigestion. (Jessica Porter)
Soon the parents came out and the swamp monster didn't have time to eat them all so he threw them into his own yard. (author unknown)
Then the children were all screaming, the parents were all crying, and the swamp monster was trying to escape with the children. Then the hero's arrived. (either Rebecca or Leslie Searls)
First to the rescue was Sheena the Bold with her golden hair flowing in the wind. Next cam Kiki the Quick with his swift, strong body. Following Kiki was O.W. the Wonder Cat; everyone wonders what he's good at. Finally, the four schnauzers arrived, singing and howling at the top of their voices with their voice coach, Sugar the Sweet trailing behind.  Jack the Nimble Two by Four, Tara the Troubling Bella, Molly the Motherly Mutt, and Missy the Messy. (Gwen Searls, although I don't remember this! And who the heck is Missy??)
The swamp monster was overcome by all of the overpowering love and devotion shown by the animal heroes so he dropped the cousins and ran for the hills never to be seen again. (either Rebecca or Leslie Searls)

I was going to add a picture of the girls, taken at the age this was written; unfortunately,  I've already given most of my photos to my kids. Maybe at some time in the future, I can get either Rebecca or Leslie to loan me some. In the mean time, I took the liberty of getting screen shot pics from their Facebook pages. Here are the authors of the short story, The Family Reunion. Beautiful inside and out.

Amanda Porter Elmer

Sarah Porter Harward

Alisha Porter

Jessica Porter Lehman

Rebecca Searls Castello

Leslie Searls Gutierrez

Monday, August 27, 2018

A New Chapter: Selling the House

We did it. We put the house on the market and within the first 2 days we had 3 offers. Over the course of 3 weeks, we had more than 20 showings.  Ron and I had decided at the beginning of this adventure that we wouldn't settle for a price less than what we felt was fair market value.  Sticking to our decision paid off in the end. One of our earliest buyers, who originally withdrew their offer because we wouldn't accept it, came back and offered full price. Our closing date is set for September 25th. 
Spending the last 11 years in this house, our neighborhood, and with our church family has been the happiest of our lives. It may seem strange that we would choose to sell; but, we have had a life-long desire to travel and see the many wonders of this great country.  It is time to stop dreaming and act.
There were several events that led us to believe this was the best time to sell.  First, my parents both passed away within 2 years of each other. They followed us here to Texas many years ago. We have felt so fortunate to have had them be a major part of our lives, the lives of our children and of our grandchildren.  They were the anchor that kept us all in this area.  Next, several of our children made moves of their own. Ryan met a special young woman, Jamie, and began his own family near Austin. Then, Leslie's family left Temple for the Ft. Worth area. Between the geographic distances and the busy lives of young families, it became more and more difficult to have weekly family dinners and spend the quality time with them that we wanted.  We have come to realize that we need to have the flexibility of traveling to their houses and spending time with them as individual family units.
Deciding to sell the house and buy an RV for full time living seems crazy to some people. But more often than not, friends have expressed how envious they are. I think the day to day grind of working to provide a home for your family, keeping the home in good order, and trying to "find time" to travel and explore is fulfilling yet burdensome.  Our rationale is; if we are going to do this, we better do it while we are relatively young and healthy. There will always be a sticks and bricks place when we've reached the point where we can't travel any longer.
So, this post is to say goodbye to a home we have work hard on, shared many happy moments in, and have loved. 
Our little house started out an ugly brown. We've freshened up the exterior with much lighter colors.

When we moved in, there was horrid paneling and nasty wall paper in
every room. 

We stripped wallpaper and replaced sheet rock to bring it up to date.

There was ugly, dull, carpet or vinyl on all of the floors. One of
the first changes we made was ceramic tile. Much more pet and grand baby friendly.

Saying goodbye to this table will be hard. It was the first piece
of furniture I bought when I finally had a dining room big enough
for family dinners.

The cabinets in the laundry room were the first ones I painted.
I wanted to make sure they turned out okay before I painted
those in the kitchen.

The house has 2 full bathrooms and our sweet little WC.

One of the main reasons I wanted this house was this room.
It may not look like it, but, it is large enough that I could put my quilting machine in it.

The master is much smaller than our bedroom at our yellow house .
But, putting the bed in the corner opened up a lot of floor space.

The master bath isn't updated. However, I believe in the saying,  "Fix it up, wear it out. Make it do,
or, do without." So, we made do by painting the dark walls and keeping everything clean and bright.

The hallway bathroom is also out of day but well built.

This room alternated between guest room and office. 

The enclosed porch was used as a play room for the grandchildren.
Not my favorite room in the house. Hot, dusty, and oddly shaped.

The shed in the back was so convenient! Lots of space for tools and
assorted home owner's essentials.

The back deck has been one of my favorite features. I've spent many
hours sitting under the trees and enjoying the shade.

Back view of the house.

Assuming the sale proceeds as expected, we will pass the keys on to the new owners. They are an older couple and their single daughter. Evidently, the couple will retire within the next 2 years and move into the house. In the meantime, their daughter, who recently graduated from nursing school and got a job at Scott and White, will live in the house.  I'm sure they will love the place and I'm as excited for them as I am for us.  

Goodbye 4201 Eagle Road. You have truly been home sweet home.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Searls Family Road Trip 2018

It All Started with Every Kid in a Park Pass

Two years ago, Leslie, Scott, and I took Seth, Maggie, and Sophie on a crazy road trip that looped through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  We took 2 cars and a bunch of luggage. The ride itself wasn't bad; but, checking in and out of hotels and finding inexpensive and relatively healthy food made it a pretty exhausting adventure.  Not to mention the expense!  We started talking about buying an RV on that trip. We came home and started looking; eventually buying Miss Lippy.  This year we finally had all the remodeling done on her. Sophie was in 4th grade and could get the Every Kid in a Park Pass; so, we decided it was time for our second road trip.

Originally, we had planned to go to the Grand Canyon and up through Colorado into Yellowstone.  But, a series of unexpected events kept us from ever getting the trip planned. We finally decided to take a loop through Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee to see what few National Parks there are in those states. We also planned to visit historical Civil War sites.  As a teacher, I'm appalled at how quickly events such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and pioneer advancement are skimmed over in school these days.  It was important to me that my own grandchildren see and experience the atmosphere in those sacred sites so they fully understand the sacrifices that were made to establish this great nation.
On July 22, with Seth camping out at Scott's house to do doggie day care and watch over the chickens, Ron, Scott, Leslie, Maggie, Sophie and I took off in Miss Lippy with Thor as our chase car.

We stayed in KOA campgrounds along our trip because we wanted full hook-up, easy in and out parking, a pool, and laundry facilities.  The sites we chose are listed below with a 1 to 5 star rating; 1 being barely acceptable and 5 being we would gladly go there again.
Hot Springs KOA, Hot Springs, AR - 5
Prizer Point KOA - Land Between the Lakes Area, Cadiz KY - 1
KOA Journey - Corbin KY - 4
KOA Hurricane Mills - Hurricane Mills, TN - 3
KOA Journey - Little Rock, TN - 5
KOA Texarkana - Texarkana, TX  - 4

Our intention was to find a camp ground that was centrally located and use it as a home base. Once we got to the chosen sites, we realized there were way too many things to do in 2-3 days.  At the half way point, Scott mentioned it would be easier to travel with Miss Lippy in shorter bursts of time by driving to destinations that had parking large enough for an RV, visit as long as we wanted then eat lunch before heading to our next camp ground. We changed some of our reservations and the plan worked out great.  It made it possible to have shorter times in the vehicles, and we weren't spending so much time driving from centrally located campgrounds. Scott is planning the next trip and will keep that discovery in mind.  Leslie put it best when she said, "We learned a lot from our first RV camping trip, and we just keep learning with each trip." 

Here is a collection of pictures we took before and during our 2018 Searls Family Road trip. 

Two of the bunk quilts I made from scraps of the curtain fabric.

...2 more bunk quilts

a few of the road trip shirts

Day 1: departure!

I started out with the best of intention regarding pictures of me... ha!

Our first stop was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. I can't tell you how many times we have driven past this park on trips to and from Ohio to visit family.  I'm so glad we finally made it a point to stop! It is simply beautiful! The RV park was small, well shaded, easy to access, and had a wonderfully welcoming staff. It is a little old but in great condition. We especially loved the ice cream truck that drove through each evening.  The town of Hot Springs is in a wonderful location, nestled between tall, tree covered hills. The streets are lined with quaint shops filled with bath salts, oils, and assorted gift items.  There was also a wonderful, hand-on science center in Hot Springs. It is called Mid-America Science Museum.  The outdoor exhibit is outstanding, with a suspension bridge and dino trek. 

Part of the suspension walk at the science center

one of the statue on the dino trek

one of several odd, mechanical displays

Poppy's first road trip!

The perfect shot... mid sentence.

What's up with that belly!?!?! Love the ice cream truck!

Family shot in the hills on Pinnacle drive

Mimi, Poppi, Maggie, and Sophie

Uncle Scott

One of the many active bath houses

entrance to a beautiful walking path behind the bath houses

one of several hot spring fountains in town

The girls really didn't like the hot water!

Our second stop was at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation area in western Kentucky. Boy was Prizer Point RV park a disappointment! When I made the reservations, it listed "spacious pull through sites with lake views, game room, lending library, bouncing pillow, pedal carts, boat rentals, corn hole, volley ball, basketball, laundry facilities, 2 pools, all in a beautiful setting."  It was poorly cared for, run down, bug riddled, over priced, and the personnel were incompetent! At this point I was starting to feel a little concerned about the rest of the trip! Fortunately, we didn't spend much time at RV park so that helped.  We visited Patti's 1860 Homestead and Settlement, the bison and elk reserve in the Land Between the Lakes recreation area, Ft. Donelson Civil War site, and took the driving tour. It was very well done! You drive to sites in numerical order, enter a number on your smart phone, and listen to a description of the location. Much more enjoyable that reading it aloud your self. We ended this leg of the journey with a stop at the National Corvette Museum.  The sink hole display was fascinating and frightening at the same time!

At Patti's 1860 Settlement
Sophie and the static hair slide...

Maggie & Sophie 

Uncle Scott checking out a future wood shop project...

LOVE this furniture! Seth needs to take welding next year.

Ft. Donelson

Maggie working on the Junior Ranger packet

We could just see the elk sticking to the shade; it was so hot!!!

A couple of mother & calf bison, also trying to stay cool in the shade.

The Dover Hotel, a river boat stop near Ft. Donelson

Ft. Donelson National Historic Site

location of one of the first iron clad battles

overlooking the Cumberland River

the family

It was fascinating to learn how they built the battlements of earth, overlooking the river. 

Civil War/Veteran's Cemetery, Ft. Donelson

Ron and Scott

Leslie and the girls

A collection of cars that were destroyed in the sink hole

outside the Corvette Museum

Miss Lippy was the cheapest and healthiest restaurant! 

Our second leg of the road trip was in Eastern Kentucky. Our intention was to go to Mammoth Caves National Park on Friday, Ft. Boonesboro and Cumberland Falls State park on Saturday, then Cumberland Gap National Park on Sunday. We had to change things around because my brother and his wife wanted to meet up somewhere in Kentucky. They live across the river from Louisville, Kentucky and the site closest to them was Ft. Boonesboro. So, we ended up going there on Friday. It was a bit of a disappointment because the weekend is when they have all their tradesmen and demonstrations. However, we did get to visit the fort without a crowd, and there were a couple of demos going on; candle making and the smithy. It was good to see Larry, Kathy, and their daughter Hannah, so the missed opportunity was worth it. 
The decision to switch days also made our trip to Mammoth Caves a huge disappointment. It was so crowded on Saturday and the best tours were already filled by the time we got there. We did go on a self guided tour of one of the caves and had a nice picnic lunch at the park.  Of course, Ron (The Mayor, as our kids used to call him) made lots of new friends as he sat on benches and chatted with complete strangers.  Our trip wasn't a total bust; and, we learned another important lesson about popular National Parks in peak season... don't go.
My favorite place was Cumberland Gap National Park... and I didn't take any pictures!!! It was amazing to reacquaint ourselves with the stories of the early settlers that crossed such rugged territory to establish new territory.  Seeing Ft. Boonesboro, and then watching the informational video about the Cumberland Gap and it's exploration was perfectly meshed.  I think it helped the grands have a clearer understanding of the sacrifices our ancestors made. We enjoyed the wonderfully cool days and crisp evenings; the lush, green Cumberland Mountains, and the warm, friendly people. I simply didn't want to leave. Of course, while we were in the area, we couldn't pass up visiting the site of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and enjoying a meal. It was so quaint and nostalgic and made it easy for us to break our "no fast food" rule. On a side note, there is a difference between the Cumberland Gap National Park and the state park. At the state park, you can see the famous Moonbow. It's a bit crowded but worth the effort to go. 

Several of the cabins have demonstrations in them most weekends.  

Demonstrations include, candle making, weaving, calligraphy & printing, the black smith's forge, and re-enactments.

In one of the cabins, there was a video explaining the role of Daniel Boone in the settlement of Kentucky.

Maggie and Sophie

Corbin, Kentucky is home of the original Sanders Cafe.

Maggie had a kids road atlas that she read aloud from during most of the trip.
It was in her atlas that we discovered this little gem.

The weather was surprisingly cool, compare to the triple digit temps we left in Texas!

Love, love, love this place! Can't wait to go back.

working hard on yet another badge

I love how this ranger station had the backdrop for the pledge ceremony.

Sophie wasn't as excited about the "learning" part of our trip as Maggie was.

Ahhhh; breathtakingly beautiful!

Our next 2 days were actually travel days.  We had to get from Eastern Kentucky to Texas in short travel segments so we stopped the first night at a town called, Hurricane Mills, TN. It is just west of Nashville, TN. While we were there, Leslie and I took the girls into Nashville to another science museum. This one was by far the best I've ever visited! It's called, Adventure Science Center on Ft. Negley Blvd. Not in the best part of town; but, worth the trip! Leslie has a family pass to the science center in Ft. Worth and it comes with a joint membership agreement with many science centers across the nation. She is able to get free entry for their family and 2 guests. It is well worth the purchase because visiting science museums on hot afternoons is a perfect summer activity.

the ever-reading-Maggie

Beyond the Rubic's Cube was mind boggling! So many applications for a simple toy! 

Rubic's cube wall art

super fun playscape

When we left Hurricane Mills, we stopped at Shiloh National Civil War Park.  While there, we found a memorial built to Col. James Vetch, and ancestor on my mother's side. The site covers many acres and the driving tour is a little confusing, but doable in an afternoon.  Regardless of how much time a person spends there, the atmosphere is powerful. I know there is currently a lot of controversy about Confederate memorials at state and county locations; but, how can we simply erase part of our history? Men and women from both sides sacrificed so much for a cause they believed in. Whether they were north or south shouldn't discount their courage and commitment. I fervently hope and pray that future generations will protect these national parks and monuments because society learns from analyzing and reviewing the historical mistakes made; not by erasing them.

Outside the visitor center

The junior ranger program here was pretty extensive. But, who can resist dressing up
in period clothing!

Sophie in confederate dress

Maggie working on the museum scavenger hunt

Getting some help from Uncle Scott and Poppi

Veatch memoria

Each state that had soldiers in the battle erected a monument. 

Almost home! Our last stop was back in Arkansas at Crater of Diamonds park. It is a bit off the beaten path and on a pretty winding road. But, the girls both enjoyed the stop for their own reasons. Sophie loved the physical part; digging, sloshing in water, and picking through pebbles. Maggie enjoyed the educational portion and found the discovery facts fascinating. They are so different and we were lucky to find things to interest them at each stop.  Lucky for us, we got to the park early in the morning and the weather was surprisingly pleasant. There were a lot of serious diamond hunters there, decked out in work clothes with every digging implement imaginable. One sweet family gave the girls an assortment of shovels and pails as we entered the park. Leslie also rented some additional equipment for the day.  We didn't find any diamonds (sigh) but had a great time. 

view of the crater

sitting in the shade

all decked out with digging gear and ready to go

digging and sifting

sorting and hunting

sloshing and filtering

sweating and smiling

This face says it all!

As I finish up this post, I can't pass up the chance to say how thankful I am that I've had these experiences with some of the people I love most. We had several discussions about the next trip in 2020, hoping more of our family member can go with us. Miss Lippy was amazing! She chugged up and down the mountains and swerved her way around the twisting country roads without much complaint. Our only difficulty came in the final stretch as we hit rough Arkansas roads and Texas traffic. The bunk room ended the trip looking like an earthquake took place back there; and, Scott is pretty sure her tires left the road on a few bumps in Arkansas. I think it is safe to say, we are all pretty confident she will give us several more years of adventures.  Go RV!!