A Lot of Knowledge

In this video.

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Cruising, Anniversary and Autism

Several years ago, hubby and I joined hubby’s sister and her significant other  (now husband), on a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean.  It was by far, one of the most memorable trips we have ever taken.  We danced, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we visited some amazing places, we shopped and at the end of the cruise, we were sad it was over.  Sadness at the end of a trip is a good indicator that it was an awesome vacation.

About 1 1/2 years later, we brought Lili home and two years later we brought Naomi home.  However, the dream of another cruise stayed with us and in January, 2011 we boarded our second cruise.  It was a short cruise to the Bahamas and while still memorable, we did not replicate our first cruise experience.  The ship was older.  For a matter-of-fact, it’s no longer part of the Royal Caribbean fleet.  The service was not comparable to our first cruise experience and quite honestly, we just weren’t that impressed with the Bahamas.  Although we did enjoy Coco Cay – Royal Caribbean’s eco-friendly private island.

Despite not having a time-of-our-lives second cruise, we weren’t willing to give up on cruising altogether.

This year we celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  Our girls are older which means they are able to enjoy the kid-friendly activities offered by the cruise line.  The girls go to their activities, while mom and dad spend some adult time enjoying each other’s company.  It’s a win-win kind of vacation :-)

So this January we will board our third Royal Caribbean cruise.  Instead of winter weather in Central Illinois, we’ll spend a week of fun, sun, exploration and relaxation in the Caribbean.  Ahhh!!!!!

This afternoon I was looking for some information on Royal Caribbean’s website and stumbled across this . . . .

Autism friendly Adventure Ocean program

Royal Caribbean International was named by Autism on the SeasTM as the first certified Autism Friendly Cruise Line in February 2014. Autism Friendly Certification is awarded to cruise lines for their efforts to ensure their products and services are accessible for inclusion and participation by the autism and developmental disability community.

I am the parent of a son with autism.  Although my son no longer lives with us and won’t be going on this cruise, I was thrilled to discover that Royal Caribbean has worked to create an environment that is more autism friendly.  It makes me even happier that we’ve chosen Royal Caribbean for each of our cruises.

For those who are interested in learning more, you can read all the information on their website here.

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Trying Out Campgrounds

Since returning from our trip to North Carolina, we’ve been able to check out some other campgrounds.

Like Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground at Pine Lakes.

It has a nice lake for fishing and swimming, including water inflatables.  The swimming pool was the highlight for us though.  Of the campgrounds we’ve visited so far, it was by far the nicest.

The playground has obviously been updated and was a hit with the kids, as was the jumping pillow.

The roads thru the campground are in desperate need of work.  They are very uneven with tons of ruts and potholes.  The campsites, while nice, are narrow which makes it difficult for larger RV’s.  We had to ask the neighbor across the road to move his truck so we could get into our space and he had to move again so we could get out.  Not convenient for anyone.  However, the spaces have nice shade, with picnic tables and fire pits.

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Also, it’s a hike to get to the office/store.  Since they didn’t offer delivery of any supplies, having some form of transportation to carry needed supplies back to the campsite should be considered by anyone staying there.  Unless you get one of the pull-thru sites near the entrance.

Our space was a short walk to the dog park, which was a nice treat for our dogs

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and the large grassy area behind our campsite is nice for playing Frisbee, catch, or giving kids a place to run off some energy.

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We introduced the girls to Jiffy Pop.

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I highly recommended having fun glow sticks on hand.  They are quite entertaining before turning in for the night.

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Jellystone at Pine Lakes will stay on our list of places to camp in the future

Last weekend we headed to the Richmond, IN KOA.  We were invited by a fellow Guat adoptive family who were going to be there with a camping group.  Unfortunately, the other family had to cancel due to some significant storm damage to their RV during a previous camping trip.  Since we want to check out different locations, we kept our reservation and headed east.

We had read reviews of the campground before the trip and found the #1 complaint was the noise from I-70.

Yes, you could certainly hear the traffic on the Interstate, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as we had anticipated.  While it was part of the background noise, it wasn’t distracting for us.  Unless, you were playing miniature golf.  The little golf course is at the campground entrance and when hubby and the girls returned from their game, I was informed that they needed to yell so they could hear each other over the traffic noise.  Still, they had fun.

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The campsites were nice and most were pull-thrus, which I love.

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The pool at the campground was small, but in the opinion of my children, any pool that is usable is a good pool.

There is a pond for fishing and a big sand pit for the kids to play in.  However, the majority of the time they spent playing at the playground.  It was a short walk and we could easily see them from our campsite.

While we wouldn’t specifically make a drive to stay at the Richmond KOA, we would certainly return with a group or as a stop-over.

 

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Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 9 & 10

We were in for a looonnngggg drive after leaving the Greensboro Campground, but we didn’t know just how beautiful of a drive lay before us.

Our trip took us north thru North Carolina, into Virginia, West Virginia and on into Ohio.

The drive was absolutely spectacular.  One of the most scenic drives I’ve ever been on, but I have no pictures to share because I was driving.  For a matter-of-fact, once I got comfortable behind the wheel of Georgette, hubby planted himself in the passenger seat and hasn’t driven since.  Yes folks, I really do have control issues, but hubby also enjoys being the passenger more than the driver.

Next time we make that drive, I’m going to make every effort to stop and take pictures along the way.  The Great Smoky Mountains and the Appalachians are breathtaking and we were fortunate to have taken two different routes that allowed us to see both.  Although, I think the Smokies are part of the Appalachian mountain range.  Guess it’s time for us to do a little geography lesson on U.S. mountain ranges :-)

We stopped in Dayton, OH for the night at the Dayton KOA.  We got there in time for hubby and the 3 oldest to go for a swim while I stayed back to get things ready for our evening.

Although I didn’t get out to explore the campground, I’m told by hubby and Lili, that it is an awesome campground and we need to go back to visit for more than just a night.  I don’t think it will happen this year, but it sounds like we’ll be putting it on our campground list for next year.  Unfortunately, because I didn’t get out to explore, I didn’t get pictures again.  Plus, two of our dogs were having tummy problems which meant I was making more that usual trips outside with them.

Sadly, on Day 10 we headed home and as we pulled into the driveway I felt a little rush of sadness.  I suppose the end of a good vacation always brings about tinges of sadness, but having spent 10 days with Georgette felt more like saying good-bye to a good friend.  Silly I know.  Especially since she sits in our driveway :-)

Our Great Southeast Adventure had it’s fair share of challenges.  Since we don’t have perfect children . . . .  let me rephrase  . . .  since we have perfectly normal children, there was bickering, arguing and fighting from time-to-time.  Hubby and I weren’t always on our best behavior every moment either.  FS1, while appearing to have a good time on our trip, was also out-of-sorts which was stressful and yet somewhat expected.

However, despite those little stumbles along the way, we built lovely memories on our trip and in many ways we can thank Georgette.

I also learned a lot from our adventure.

– Thanks to hubby, I think I can now set everything up on my own at campsites.

– Getting from place to place in an RV just takes longer.  While we certainly saw many RV’s flying down the interstate, we kept Georgette at recommended speed limits for safety.   Allowing ourselves more time and enjoying the sites along the way will make future trips much more enjoyable.

– Traveling as a family of six with that much room is much more comfortable than sitting in a vehicle while driving across 8 states (9 if you count crossing into South Carolina several different times on this trip).

It’s really is nice being able to stop for the night without unloading luggage only to load it again the next morning.  I suppose one could argue that you still have to do some set up for the night, but an overnight stop set up is minimal and probably takes less time than hauling luggage back and forth.  Although the girls do enjoy riding on hotel luggage carts :-)  They probably consider that the downside of RV travel.

– Being able to take our dogs with us has its own set of challenges, but is better than trying to find someone to watch them or boarding them while we’re gone.  Plus, they really like going.

– Having our own beds to sleep in each night is NICE!!!!

– I really should use a set up and tear down checklist.  I know I forgot to strap the refrigerator/freezer doors at least twice on this trip.  Oops!!!!

Of everything I learned, the most prevalent was coming away from this trip with a greater understanding of how much better our lives would be if we lived smaller.  Smaller house, less stuff = more time to enjoy life.  As such, I have once again begun throwing things away and clearing out the junk in our lives.

I must admit, it’s hard.  One cannot spend this many years accumulating things they want or ‘might need one day’ and easily begin tossing without the hold habits surfacing.  And they surface often, but I’m working on it.

So thank you Georgette!  You carried us across 9 states and helped to make this trip a wonderful adventure!!

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Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 7 & 8

Our time at Camp Wilderness was done, we were packed and on the road again.  This time our stop was the Greensboro Campground in Greensboro, NC.

The campground was clean and simple, but sat right off the interstate.  While there was certainly traffic noise, it wasn’t as noticeable as I expected it would be.  The single biggest downside in my book was the size of the sites.  They were quite small and I was constantly telling the kids to get off the site next to ours.  You really couldn’t take many steps at all before you were in your neighbor’s site.

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Our friends lived a few minutes away and during the two days we were there, they came out both days to spend time with us.  It was WONDERFUL!!!!!

This stop was probably the most relaxing as we stuck around the campground visiting.  The kids did a little swimming, we played games, took dogs for walks, played games and ate very well.

The weather was nice and there was a family in a site across from ours with kids which helped keep my kids entertained and vice versa.

Another memorable stop on our Great Southeast Adventure!

 

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Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 6

It was our last day at Camp Wilderness :-(

We very much enjoyed the campground.  It was clean, well-kept and the staff was friendly and helpful.  The kids enjoyed running around, climbing, playing in the sand and simply being outdoors.

One of the reviews I had read was a complaint about being so close to the airport and the planes flying over the campground.  I really didn’t notice it much and we actually enjoyed watching the planes fly by.

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One of my favorite parts of the campground were the pine trees.  They were so fragrant and I found myself inhaling much deeper while walking thru the campground.

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Having enjoyed our visit so much, we talked about a return trip to the area to stay at Camp Wilderness.

After getting things cleaned up a packed away, it was time for some lunch and a siesta.  We had plans to return to Carowinds later in the afternoon.  Tickets were less expensive if going after 4 p.m. and it is cooler in the evenings as well.  So we all laid down for some rest so we could enjoy a late evening at the park.

At Carowinds, Lili was really looking forward to checking out the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit, but first wanted to take a ride on the Carolina Skytower.  The ride carries you up a 262 ft tower and slowly rotates for a view of the park and downtown Charlotte.  FS2 and I decided to stay back and wait while hubby took the other 3 kids on the ride.

As they came back down, I began feeling some sprinkles of rain.  By the time they came off the ride, the sprinkles were beginning to change over to showers, so we took off for Harmony Hall to get out of the rain.  It wasn’t far, but by the time we got there, the raindrops grew rapidly and the tiny drops that had started to fall became 10 x’s bigger.  We were quite wet and wondered if our plans to spend the evening at the park would be ruined by rain.

Since we hadn’t had any dinner and since we had a rain delay, we grabbed some snacks and drinks.  What we weren’t expecting was entertainment, but before long, one of the theme park bands took the stage and began performing.  The kids were mesmerized and thoroughly enjoying the entertainment.  It was a nice distraction from the rain, which had since stopped.  However, the kids were so enjoying the music, singing and dancing, that we had to convince them to leave.

We made our way to Dinosaur’s Alive and while I really wasn’t expecting much, I found myself very pleasantly surprised.

Upon entering the exhibit, we all stopped to have our feet photos taken while standing in dinosaur tracks.

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And this picture of little feet just because they are so cute.

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Of course I neglected to get any photos of my feet in dinosaur tracks.

Ah, the life of the photographers.

Then we entered the exhibit to find life-sized dinosaurs spread out along the path.   They moved, made sounds and at each stop we were able to get information on the dinosaur being displayed.

What I expected to be a short 10 or 15 minute visit turned out to be about 30 – 40 minutes and we all enjoyed it more than I thought we would.

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I loved the roller coaster in the background of this exhibit.  I call it, “Bringing the past into the present”.

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We left the exhibit and headed off to enjoy more rides.

Lili, having ridden her first big roller coaster a couple of days earlier, was anxious to go on the big wooden roller coaster with me.  She decided afterwards that one time was enough.

However, she did decide to up her game and we got in line for this one.

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The Carolina Cyclone!

I hadn’t been on a roller coaster like this in many years and really wasn’t sure I was up for the challenge, but we got on and off we went.

Up, up, up

Around and down

Loop-da-loop

Another drop or two

A couple of corkscrews

Then back to the beginning again.

Lili wasn’t sure she liked it, but as she saw hubby, she ran to tell him about it.  The next thing I knew, they were getting in line for her second time around.

Apparently, the second time is better, because now she was sure she enjoyed it and I was so proud of her ability to overcome her apprehension.

One more stop for Funnel Cake and it was time to head back to see Georgette.  We were heading out the next morning and while we were sad to say good-bye to Carowinds and Camp Wilderness, we were excited about our next stop.

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Georgette and the Great Southeast Adventure – Part 5

We woke up to another beautiful day and it was clear that we would be spending the majority of our day at the campground.  There was swimming to be done, but the bigger reason was LAUNDRY!  The amount of laundry six people can accumulate in 5 days is amazing.  All that laundry in approximately 300 square feet is crazy.  So I headed out in   search of the campground laundry facilities.  I walked thru the campground, over the parking lot, past the pool and found the laundry room.  Boy was I glad we still had the rental vehicle!   I had two full laundry bags that needed attention and they were heavy.  It would not have been fun dragging them to the laundry room.  It was also in that moment I decided I would invest in a collapsible wagon.

I’m quite sure there are more RV trips in our future that will require doing some laundry. Having something to haul those heavy bags in seems like a good investment and as I was doing laundry I began to think of other uses for this wagon – carrying small children, carrying pool towels and toys, loading and unloading the RV at home.  The ideas just kept coming.

But enough about my need/want/desire for a folding wagon.

After some time at the pool and with clean laundry put away, we decided to grab some dinner and pick up some needed grocery items.

We found a Mexican restaurant not too far from the campground –  La Poblanita.  It got some high ratings and having eaten there, I would agree that rating is well deserved.  Even being short staffed, they provided good service and the food was awesome!

I didn’t get many pictures of our day.  After all, no one wants to see our dirty laundry :-)  However, I did take some pictures during dinner.

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I love this picture of Lili, although she was very uncomfortable smiling and had been uncomfortable for a few days.  She had two canker sores in her mouth which caused her lips to swell quite a bit.  This made eating and drinking quite difficult.  She had never had such bad canker sores before and I felt terrible for her.  Fortunately, they started getting better the next day.

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Naomi and hubby!  She is quite a cuddle bug and especially loves cuddling with her daddy.

Our day was done and while it wasn’t necessarily an exciting day, I found myself enjoying the RV more and more each day.  Yes, Georgette got a bit crowded with 6 people and 3 dogs, but she was comfortable and cozy.  She felt like home and I went to bed loving our traveling home.

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