Oklahoma Land Run Monument

Most homeschooling parents will admit that it can sometimes take a few years to get the "school" out of us and simply bask in the enjoyment of learning with our children.  The experience of traveling has certainly kicked us over the edge into this new found freedom, out of the textbooks and interacting with the real world.  It seems whereever we go, we can find these wonderful treasures of history, geology, science and nature.  Interestingly enough, it's usually those things that don't cost anything that we find the most interesting.  

In the heart of Oklahoma City (Stringtown to be exact), we discovered these huge, yet very realistic statues and stopped for a bit to marvel at them.  

These statues represent the Oklahoma land run of 1893, which is also called the Cherokee Strip Land Run.  At exactly noon, on September 16, 1893, the canons went off and around 100,000 settlers rushed to claim land to homestead on. Only 42,000 plots of land were available though.   Some were on horseback, some in covered wagons, some in trains and some just ran.  There had been other land rushes in OK history but this was the biggest.  

In 1828 congress gave the land of Oklahoma to five Native American tribes.  These tribes assisted the south in the civil war, but when the south was defeated, the government opened up this Indian promised land to the white settlers out of animosity.  The first Oklahoma land rush was in 1885.

 

By 1893, America was in its worst depression it had ever been in and hopes were high among the people hoping to claim land.  However, many of the "boomers" (the ones who waited for the canons to go off), were disappointed to find that the "sooners" (those who snuck in and hid in ditches and trees before it was time) got to many of the plots of land ahead of time. Now we know where the University of OK got it's name, "Sooners".  

In this one day, the landscape of Oklahoma was changed.  

Bugs in Texas by Philip

We have seen a lot of extremely cool things on this adventure so far. 

This is one of my favorite pictures that I have taken on this trip.  I found this butterfly near Lake Whitney, TX. 

I found a spider too! The little ones had heard stories about Black Widow Spiders in Texas and every night they were sure there was one in our RV.  

Johnny is always talking about Black Widow Spiders, like he wants to see one, but he really doesn't We keep telling him that they are scared of humans.  This spider is carrying some sort of an egg sac.  Spring is making Texas come alive!

Fossil Country and Goodbye to Lake Whitney

We've all spent most of our lives in the midwest.  When the children would discover a fossil among the crushed rock on the roads, it has always been a BIG DEAL.  Something to cherish in the nature box.  Imagine the excitement on their faces as we started exporing Lake Whitney, TX and they discovered their first fossil, then another, then another and soon realized it was nearly impossible to take a step and NOT step on a fossil.  

Texas, like the rest of the country has been affected by drought, which means the water levels have been low in the lake, exposing things that have not been seen for thousands of years.  Apparently many ancient indian artifacts have been recently discovered there (not by us though). 

I asked Jay to do some research on how fossils are formed and here is what he came up with: 

 

When my two year old brother drinks from a cup with food in his mouth, none of the rest of us are thirsty enough to share the cup with him anymore.  We let him go last if we have to share.  Why?  Because of the sediments.  Sediments are mud or sand (or chewed up food) that settle at the bottom of water, like in ponds, lakes, oceans, rivers etc.. . This is where rocks and fossils are made.  Sedimentary rocks make up most of the rocks in the world.  They are made from these sediments in the water or in ice. Fossils are plants and animals that are quickly buried (possibly due to violent flood waters) in this sand or mud. More layers of material stack on top of other layers of sediments. Over time, the upper layers squeeze down to compact the layers. Water brings mineral cement around these formations to harden them into rocks with the fossils in them. If we were to make a fossil in my brother's drink, years from now, someone might see that we ate hamburger during this time period.  

 

Thank you, Jay..... 

There were huge fossily rocks all around the lake.  We spent some time singing worship songs and praying together as a family by the lake as the sun went down.  

The Long, Long Trail

The first day at Lake Whitney, we were eager explorers as the day was gorgeous.   While James was doing work from the RV, I set out with the six to find the trail which looked so short on the map.  Thought we wouldn't be gone longer than a half hour or so but it seemed like most of the afternoon before we got back.    

 

Without water, snacks or any provisions except a toddler who wished to be carried the whole way, we found the LONG LONG ROCKY  trail.  I realized what troopers those kids are!. We had some difficulty finding our way back to the campsite, but eventually made it, much to the kid's dismay.  They wanted to keep going.   

  We didn't know this on our walk (thankfully) but there happen to be bobcats and not very nice snakes in this part.  We found lots in interesting plants and bugs that we are not used to seeing where we are from.  The trees are very gnarly. Lots of fossils on the path!   

Lake Texoma Beach

For those of you who, like me, have never been to this beautiful area of the country before, you might be interested to know that Lake Texoma is half in Texas and half in Oklahoma- hence the name.  A warm beach was a welcome sight after the cold trip down to here.  The lake is huge.  We stayed at a Thousand Trails resort here.  Thousand trails is a great deal for anyone who frequently travels RV style.  Worth looking into.  

Of course, everywhere we go, we find little treasures in nature that we are not used to seeing in the midwest.  When we have done nature walks in the past, the children have learned to respect nature.  Admire and study it where it is, take a picture, sketch it, do some research, write a report etc...  We have learned much more on nature walks than through any science text book.  Occasionally though, there might be an item or two (like these shells) that just "beg" to go along for the ride.  So, we've started a nature box- a clear plastic box kept in the car for select items from certain areas of the country.  

We also found quite a few fish and animals bones on the beach.  Those didn't make the cut for the box.  

Stephen's pockets are stuffed with rocks.  

Following Clouds

I'm always amazed at how God leads us to a passage of scripture that so clearly sheds light and life into a particular situation or struggle.  Many of you know what I'm talking about.    The past year, we have been on ancient world history which has included the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and ultimately how God led them to the promised land. We even built our own tabernacles (picture). 

This [lego] guy is resting in his booth at Succoth.

The arc of the covenant (back in the holy of holies) even has mini jar of manna, Aaron's staff, and the ten commandments in it.  The items in the front room are the lampstand, the alter of incense and the alter for bread.  Each of the children made their own tabernacle complete with tents surrounding it labeled according to the position of each tribe of Israel. 

After watching younger kids play "wandering in the wilderness" for a couple of days, it was not hard to imagine being an Israelite (as a full-time RV family), completely dependent on the Lord, sometimes questioning the decision to leave civilization and all that is familiar, to step out in faith into the complete unknown and going to unfamiliar terrains. 

One night, late last fall I'm feeling rather discouraged because we've had agendas and plans and things are not happening as expected. I've since learned this happens alot in this lifestyle.  We were staying in the backyard of the church which was great, but getting cold and  WE wanted get to Texas.  We had some repair issues on the RV that were not getting resolved.   On one of those "what in the world are we doing?" wide awake nights, God gave me a very clear but unexpected word as I opened the book of Numbers (originally thinking it would be more of a counting sheep effect).   Here is what I read: 
 

Numbers 9:15-    Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire.  So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night.  Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents.  At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey,and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped.  Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not journey.....vs 23 At the command of the Lord they remained encamped and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord.... 
 


People often ask us why we are doing this. I have to remind myself as well. Our vision or direction with this was primarily to position ourselves to learn how to listen to the Lord and not be bogged down with stuff so much that we can't respond to what he asks of us.  We planned to be in Texas early winter but through circumstances beyond our control we were not. I can't tell you how many times our itinerary has changed or re-routed but we have learned to be unmoved by it because we know that we journey by the command of the Lord, not by our own decision. 

Quite often the things that we get discouraged by are meant to realign us from our will into God's will.   Most of the winter we stayed in the midwest (with RV in heated storage) and looking back (now that we are in Texas) I could name many reasons that we needed to stay during that time (relationships needing healing, opportunities to share the love of God with certain people we would not have met otherwise, chance to organize our storage unit better to make finding needed things smoother...  list could go on and on).  

James 4:13-15 says  "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, "if the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

So if you were to ask us where we are going next, I guess you might say, we are "following the Clouds".  

Does This Big Ten Camera Man Look Familiar?

From Philip:  I just bought my first camera.  It took me a year and half to save enough money.  In the same week I got my camera, I went to a  Iowa Hawkeye Basketball game in Carver Hawkeye Arena with my mom.  I was taking pictures of the video cameras more than I was taking pictures of the game.  As I was taking pictures of this cool Big Ten Network video camera, the guy running it said to me,  "come on over here... You can run it."   Through his headset microphone, he said to the guy on the ground floor that there would be a kid running the video camera for awhile.  It felt really fun to control this big video camera.  I could see myself doing this for a living someday.  Maybe. 

 

A Look Back---Reflections on Stuff

Most would find it a challenge packing for 8 people going on vacation for a week.  It often will take us several hours to prepare for a day-long family outing!

As we found, it takes an ENORMOUS amount of thought, organization  and CREATIVITY to pack everything needed for living life on the road.  And may I add...fitting it all into about 250 square feet of living space? Cooking gear and food, clothes (not too much, not too little), music gear (trumpets, guitar, portable piano), business/office needs, recreation, medicine chest, bedding and home school (now road school) books for 6 different levels.  How did we do it?  Still tweaking that one and will be for awhile I imagine. 

Going from this...

To this...

Sorting stuff. Weeding out stuff. 

Giving away stuff. Storing our stuff. 

Selling stuff! Packing up stuff!

AHHH... enjoying to freedom of LESS STUFF and more time! 

This is what went in to the RV for our first leg of the adventure...or at least some of what we put in!!!

Since our initial journey we have had another opportunity to downsize and have reduced our posessions by about 75% from a year ago.  What a freeing feeling.  Too much "stuff" leads to unnecessary weight and burden.  

First Day

Now our RV launch day comes. We plan to not go until there is a place for everything and everything is in it's place. Work schedule and campsite reservations dictate that time is up, we have to go.. 

James has worked around the clock for the past week and done an amazing job packing each section of the RV, making sure we have what we need for who knows how long.  Then I come along with my big piles of “maybe I will need” stuff that is left on the driveway which  still must get in somehow.   We pray like crazy that this will all work out and we are off..

It wasn’t the picturesque first day in the life we dreamed of for the past four years. 

Many “bumps in the road” delayed our travels to our first destination.  We ended up going down winding country roads in an intense thunderstorm through the pitch blackness of southern Wisconsin---putting us at our first destination at 11:00pm.

What should have been a four hour journey took eleven hours.  After difficulties with the car pull unit the whole way, childhood motion sickness, getting stuck in difficult parking places,  trying to find blankets, bandaids and ginger---and dealing with storm fears from the children all night until 5:00 am.  

Of course we cannot forget the "ready to play" toddler who slept most of the way to the campground who thinks night time is play and eating time!

As we started the new day there was admittedly an unspoken apprehension of “what on earth did we just do?”  

We’ve been thankful however to have been through enough trials in life to know the promise of Isaiah 40:30-31 to be true:  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;  they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”