Thursday, December 27, 2012

Emerald Pools at Zion National Park - a fun family hike

I can't help but write more on Zion National Park in Utah.  If you have ever been there you can understand how I could write 100 posts about the NP and still not cover it all.  

Recently, we had family come to visit us here in Utah.  We all rented a time share in St. George and made a couple of trips to Zion NP.  With 8 young children total - 4 mine and 4 theirs - the hiking was wild to say the least.

While my husband and I and my brother-in-law tackled the trail to the Emerald Pools, my mother and sister-in-law and my two older children hiked from The Grotto on the Kayenta Trail to meet us at the Lower Emerald Pool.

Children seemed to be darting in every direction and on every rock and tree root.  The family from Florida had never been anywhere like this so the kids enjoyed every possible adventure on this trail.

I kept a watchful eye for mountain lions and snakes as well as attempted to keep a head count.

This was a great trail for families.  The kids have to be kept close and on the trail but there are not too many ledges and small cliffs that I couldn't bring the entire crew.

The trail begins with a beautiful bridge over the Virgin River.
The views of the canyon are stunning from the bridge.

The kids played in the small waterfall above the Emerald Pools

Gabriel slipped and fell on the wet rocks.

The Lower Emerald Pools
We arrived at the Emerald Pools and the kids enjoyed the small waterfall to play in.
The rest of the family met up with us here and we all hiked back to the car together near the Zion Lodge.
                                                                When little legs get tired - hop on pop!
Cody joined us for the hike back.

We made it back at sunset.  To our surprise a small deer was wading through the Virgin River by the bridge.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pando and Fish Lake in Utah - a must see!

Traveling through Utah brings more sights than we have time or money for.  How can a state be so full of things to do?

The National Parks alone have kept us busy yet, usually some of our favorite places are the ones that are off the beaten path; places that few go to.

Pando and Fish lake are one of those places.  

Pando is just one those words our family loves to say.  But what is the world is it?

Pando is the largest known organism in the world and among the oldest.  It is located on the shores of Fish Lake in Fish Lake National Forest.  After seeing a segment about it on the Salt Lake City news we decided we had to go.

We went after the Aspen tree leaves had fallen, which was a mistake.  Pando is a grove of Aspens that cover 106 acres and has about 47,000 stems.  If you have ever seen the Aspens change in the fall you can understand why I should have gone.  

The trees stretch up the surrounding mountains and valleys.  With Fish Lake at an elevation of 8848 feet above sea level, what seems like hills overlooking the lake is actually tops of mountains.  

We may have missed the color change but we sure didn't miss the beauty.  There were very few people there that day as our family hiked the trails among the trees and along the lake shore.
No moose but some snow - enough for a snowball fight!

We drove beyond the lake with the hopes of seeing some of the few moose that live there, but we couldn't find them.  Imagine that in a huge National Forest?

The serenity and grandness of the area made it one of my favorite locations.  I'm hoping to go ice fishing there this winter.

Our family made a video about it so check it out on -

TLDTV  - The Lemonade Digest TV at our online magazine.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Desert Big Horn Sheep at Zion National Park, Utah

The Desert Big Horn Sheep in Zion National Park were a sight that we looked forward to seeking out.  While on a hike to the Canyon Overlook Trail, we spotted the awesome beasts deep in the crevice below.  We watched them jump and climb around the cliffs and ledges.

The next trip to Zion, we were shocked to see them hiking down the road, close to that same trail.  They weren't in any hurry and seemed to enjoy stopping the traffic.  I'm not sure what Ranger taught them to pose for pictures - but he or she deserves a raise!

We have a rule in our family that if someone sees an unusual animal that we all get ice cream that night.  These Desert Big Horn Sheep were definitely unique and exciting so we all enjoyed ice cream that night!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Carolers in the Mountains of Utah

Enjoying our Advent traditions all over the country.
Traveling during the holidays brings endless choices and opportunities.  There are new Christmas programs, lights, and sights in every new town.  Last night carolers from the local Baptist church were so much fun to hear.  They drove by all bundled up on a flat bed trailer pulled by a tractor.  A car led the way and another car filled with children and a driver followed behind.

We knew they might be coming.  Another lady in the town had called us early that morning asking if we wanted to join them.  With a house full of kids with colds and a really bad flu bug, I knew we could not join in the festivities.  It was very disappointing for us all to not get to join them but then again, when we saw them pull up - half frozen - I didn't feel as bad.

They sang a couple of songs and yelled, "Merry Christmas".  Hanna made out with the cookie bowl just in time to give each caroler a cookie, even the tractor driver enjoyed one.  I heard people saying, "The cookies are still warm!"
Two little Christmas trees for fun.

Then they were on their way, through the town, to bring a smile to other neighbors and friends.

It will be interesting to see how people in the mountains of Utah celebrate the holidays.  Most of the residents are Mormon, and sad to say, I don't really know what their Christmas beliefs are.  So, we will learn about other religions this season along with celebrating the birth of our Savior.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Travel Options are Endless

I just pulled up a map of the United States on Google.  

The options are endless!  Where do we go next?  

We spent a lot of money on gas to get out to Utah.  It was about $1100 in gas for our two vehicles to tow two trailers this far from Missouri.

Now, we hope to wonder the west for a while.  Utah alone has thousands of great places.  

It is always a labor of love to choose where to go next.

We always pray first and then get the map out.

Our time in the cabin ends January 31st.  It is a cold time of year to head out.  South or  further west would be our only options so we will look in those directions.

Since Shae and I are both military veterans, we have to go to a VA appointment every year and a half or so. Will we drive all the way back to Missouri for it or should we send him on a plane?  A plane ticket would be much less than the gas money.

Oh dear.

The decision is never easy, I wish it was.  The options are endless and wonderful -

It Sure Is A Nice Problem To Have!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent on the Road - our favorite holiday tradition

One of our favorite holiday traditions is Advent.

"What is Advent?"

Advent means coming.  It is a time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas which, sorry to say, is not Santa, presents, or spritz cookies.  (my husband loves spritz cookies during the Christmas season)

Christmas is about the birth of Christ.  For about a month before December 25th, people all over the world celebrate Advent with many different traditions.  Do a search on the word Advent and you will get tons of information on it.  

I want to share how our family celebrates Advent and I want to invite you to join us.
(for my daughter's article on this subject go to our website)

Most people start celebrating Advent four Sundays before Christmas.  Many churches do a special ceremony on Sunday to help people focus what it was like before the messiah came.  It is a time of reflection and preparation for each individual as we remember the amazing gift sent to earth for us.  Some years we start it on time, other years we are very late.  This year we had family coming to visit so we decided to start about two weeks early.  That way, if we miss nights we can still finish Christmas Eve or Day.

Our family starts the night with Christmas carols.  We usually only sing the first verse of the songs and sing them over and over again so the young children can learn them faster.  The little ones tend to get discouraged if they don't know any of the songs or only a few.  So, night after night we sing a few of the exact same songs and then add a few others to it.  As the children get older we add more songs and a few verses.  We even sing the songs through out the year so the younger children can learn them by Advent.

After the songs, our oldest son read the scripture verse that goes with that particular night.  Focus on the Family has a great schedule for this.  

We found a great booklet on their website this year.  It is called Knowing Him By Name.  It is a great addition to our Advent tradition.  We just downloaded it and printed it up.  It has activities included along with the scripture reading from the New Testament.  We don't do all the activities, only the ones we have time for.

At this point we try to remember to light the candles.  If we light them too early they burn out way before Christmas.  One year our Advent Log even started on fire!  So, they only burn for part of the evening's festivities.

Daddy then gets the Advent book and reads a chapter.  This year we are reading Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent .  It is a story about a boy that deceives his family and ends up on a terrible and exciting adventure that eventually ends well even though there is drama, blood, a few scary parts, and swords - the end is amazing and wonderful.

This book is part of a series that we cycle through.  Each year we read one in the set.  There are links below where you can purchase the books and other resources we use.

While Daddy reads, the kids get one Christmas cookie, usually Spritz, to enjoy during the wild and suspenseful chapter of the night.  Check out our website for the recipe.

Kids of all ages, which we have, sit on the edge of their seats to hear what is going to happen each night.  

After the chapter is done, we try to remember to blow out the candles and then we pass around the prayer card bucket.  We have cards with the names of friends and loved ones to pray for.  When we have a house, we put in the Christmas cards we received and prayed for those people.  My grandma always said she sent her card in November so she could get lots of prayer.  This year we put pictures on the index cards along with the name of the person.  Then I laminated them to help them last.  Our kids love seeing the names and faces of who they are praying for.  We don't get many Christmas cards since we went on the road.  I guess we are hard to track down!

This prayer time is so special.  We pick around three cards each.  We do a talk/prayer time.  What I mean is that we talk to the kids about the person they chose to pray for.  We tell them their needs and problems that they might pray for them.  This helps the kids learn more about our loved ones as well as how to pray effectively for each other.  My five year old is quite a prayer warrior.  She has been praying for each of us this Advent season.  We like to say, "She reads our mail."  She will pray for us in such a sweet pure way and also isn't embarrassed to mention our sins and shortcomings.  She prayed the other night for Daddy to not be so crazy - he does drive pretty wild on his ATV!

One of my other children is more shy during prayer time.  We do not scold or correct during this time.  Any prayer offered is acceptable as long as it is said with love and respect.  No matter how short and sweet the prayer is, it is perfect.

Lastly, we take turns who gets to blow out the candles.  It is either boys or girls.  If it is boys night, one son gets to light them and the others get to blow them out.  Same thing on girls night.

Advent is our favorite holiday tradition all year.  We all look forward to and can hardly wait to start and are sad when it ends.

Please join us this year and every year and make your holiday season more special and memorable for the entire family.

Even though Advent started last week, jump in and start now.  Just double up a few nights and you will be caught up, or go a week over and take your time.  One year we didn't finish until the end of January because we had so many good distractions!

There are no set rules - just make it your own.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in a Camper

This is a decoration made by our then 5 yr old.
It hung on our steps handle into the
camper. Decorations get unique
on the road.
Christmas in a camper is so much different than in a house. Despite the fact there is much less room for decorations and presents, every year we seem to find room for a tree, garland, and lights.

Sometimes our decorations continue outside the camper to the patio area where we have put small decorated trees and lights.

Some years we have had to move our camper to another campground after setting up all of our decorations. Now, that is challenging!  My husband says our camper goes through an earthquake every time we go down the road - so this means our tree and decorations do also.  That is why you will not find a glass ball on any limb of our tree.

With the weight of contents in the camper being such an issue, the presents are chosen for not only their cost and uniqueness, but also their weight and size.  Is this a present we will have to pack up when we get back to Missouri or is it small and light enough to keep in for a while?

Legos, small dolls, plastic men, Squinkies, die cast cars, and color books make great presents for the young ones.
camper decorated 

My tween likes books, which is a problem.  We don't have a Kindle and she doesn't want one anyways. So, we buy her books and then trade them out with others when we get back to Missouri.  With three kids younger than her, we don't resell the books, we just save them for the next child to get old enough to read them and then unpack.

We do have Kindle on our laptops, which is nice, but not a stand alone device.  We will probably get one this year, though.
the camper decorated in central Florida

Teens and twenty's seem to like cameras and adventure items.  So, they are easy to buy for.  Whether it be backpacks, flashlights, purifying water bottles, camera lenses, SD cards, or hiking boots - these two are easy to please, just a little expensive if I'm not careful.

Our rule is - if you can fit it in your bed you can bring it.  But, we have had to modify that rule sometimes as we found out it is quite astonishing how much stuff they can cram in tight spaces.  With two beds up high in the camper, we have to be careful of weight on the top - not good for traveling.

too much in the camper
too much up top
too much in the back,
too much on me
I'm sick of dealing with weight!

The presents under the tree will be few this year, but very special.  

Holidays on the road are always full of adventure, new experiences, and surprises.  

Who knows what this one will hold?
We make a Jesse Tree every year

We enjoyed our nutcrackers but now they are packed up

It was fun to be at an aunt and uncle's house for Christmas.
He always wins the town lights competition

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Traveler

The views are breathtaking.

What happened to my day?  Where did it go? Sometimes the day gets away from me and my to do list only shrinks a little.

What did I do of value?  

Was there a moment with each person in my family?

Husband? - check

Kids? - check

God? - check

Up into the mountains for adventure.

What are your priorities?  

Find the things in your day that really matter and then make it a point to do it.  

Put the other things on the back burner.  

Some activities can wait while others cannot.

We saw a huge buck picking up some does. 

We cannot do it all but we can do what matters most.

Don't miss out on the little opportunities each day.  We will never have this day again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Budgeting on the Road During the Holidays

With the holidays looming we can't help but look at our finances.  We have normal travel expenses - camp fees which range from $350 - $600 a month.  Sometimes those fees include utilities and sometimes they don't.  If the camp fee doesn't include utilities we usually pay around $100 a month for electric.

Usually we have dental appointments at the end of the year and hope there are no cavities.  With eight of us there usually is and our insurance only covers so much.

Since we are from Missouri, we have personal property tax due December 31st.  What a terrible time of the year to have to pay taxes!  We get taxed every year on what vehicles we own and our ATVs, UTV, and camper.  This year it is about $700 for us.  Then we have Missouri State Tax due in April.

With six kids, the cost of presents can get high, fast. There is not a lot of room in the camper so we have to buy less than when we had a house.  For every toy brought in one is brought out.  I have found a way to pack a lot of their toys in the back room but there is not enough room for all of them. When we go back to Missouri we trade out toys with some that are packed in a storage trailer.

The most asked question about our trip is -

"How can you afford it?"

Shae is an engineer for a telecommunications company.  We are so thankful for a job during this economy and then also for a job that he can do from home.  His company doesn't care where he is as long as he has cell phone signal and internet.

Cody and Hanna, my two oldest children, are doing bible school on line as well as working on our blog and website.  We try to make money from our internet businesses.

Travel isn't cheap.  We knew we wouldn't be saving any money by going on the road full time.  Many people that travel stay free in national forests or boon dock elsewhere.  For us, it is hard to boon dock anywhere.  Usually where we boon dock there is no cell signal.  So, we stay at campgrounds.  Not only that. by the time we pay for the gas to run the generator, with gas prices as high as they are and have been, it is cost effective to stay at a campground for a month that might average $12 a night.  We have to do a load of laundry a day so that would cost us at least $1.75 a day for laundry.  If we don't have full hook-ups I have to go to a laundromat and pay.  We have a washer/dryer in our camper and it has already paid for itself.

We are in one area for the next few months so gas expenses will be lower.  The only problem is we have family coming to visit.  The trips we will have to make to pick them up and drop them off at the airport along with the trips to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park so they can sight see will be financially difficult for us.  With only a handful of weeks until Christmas, it is hard to find the money for everything coming up!  But, we will make due.  To see them will be wonderful.  It is a reminder though to allow for the unexpected financial expenses in our budget.

Food is definitely more expensive for us on the road.  I do not buy bulk food like I did before.  When we are camped near a Sam's Club I will stock up on some items.  Where we are now it is over two hours to the closest grocery outlet.  By the time I pay for gas my saving on bulk groceries is gone.  Also, unless we are staying somewhere for a long time, I cannot haul heavy grocery items down the road.  Weight in a camper is an extremely serious issue.  A camper cannot go over the recommended weight set by the manufacturer   So, bulk food is not an option if we are going to be moving to another campground soon.

Hand-me-down clothes are not as easy to pass down as when we had a house.  So, I have to buy more than before.  Of course I buy a lot at used stores and sale items.

Camper maintenance can be less expensive one year and break the bank the next year.  This year has been a break the bank year.  We traveled in extremely hot weather from Missouri to Colorado in June.  The temps reached over 108 degrees so there is no telling what the temp of the black asphalt was.  It bubbled and warped our times. Then the winds picked up and blew our camper sideways.  That made the tires wear funny and eventually blew out two of them while traveling through the desert of Utah.

This terrible story will be in another post....soon.

With little room in the camper and a tight budget this Christmas season we will teach our kids how to enjoy the family time and tradition of the holidays.  We celebrate Advent and Jesse Tree.  We sing songs, play games, and craft.  Cookies are giving to anyone in the neighborhood that will eat them and snow angels are made in the smallest amount of the beautiful white powder.

For more on budgeting while traveling - visit our online magazine at 

The Lemonade Digest - squeezing every drop out of life!

117617_Xmas - General - 234x60

Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting Ready For the Holidays - Inside and Out

With snow falling in the mountains all around us I couldn't help but focus on art for our school today.  We enjoyed making three batches of cinnamon ornaments.  Each child got to make numerous shapes and sizes of  random shapes to eventually hang on our tree.

While on the road we have spent Christmas in Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Missouri, and now Utah.  Each place has had different terrain, climate, family, friends, customs, and fun.

This year is different and special in its own way.  Instead of visiting family or trying to cram a small turkey in a crock pot in the camper, we are renting a cabin for a few months.  I've always wanted to rent a cabin in the mountains for the winter.  And now we get to stay in it for the holidays.

Of course, with all plans and dreams, things try to destroy them, change them, or take away the hopes you had.  

Sometimes we have to fight to keep our joy, hopes, and plans.

We've already begun celebrating the holidays.  We started Advent early and began to make ornaments for our little tree.  Now that we have a big oven in the cabin, not like the tiny one in the camper, we can make home made bread, three turkeys already, and lots of cookies.

I try to focus on my husband and kids this holiday season.  I am so blessed and I refuse to let other distractions come in and ruin my holidays.  Every moment I have to chose to enjoy the day I have been given or to join in the wide range of emotions that try to pull me from the inner joy and contentment I should have.

Whether in a cabin or a camper, 
north, south, east, or west,  
happiness and joy is a condition of the heart - not a circumstance.

Personalized Christmas Cards

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hazards on the Road - Air and Water Issues

There are so many benefits of traveling full time. Yet, there are many disadvantages.  

Through the years I've learned to always try discern if the problem I am facing is due to living in a camper and traveling full time or if it is a problem that I would have had in a sticks and bricks home.

Often times the difficulties are not caused by our lifestyle.  No matter where we live there are hard times.

Other times it has everything to do with traveling.  When I come to that decision I make necessary adjustments, get a good attitude, and start to be thankful I am even alive.

Lately, I have been facing a problem I have not had in three years.  During my pregnancy I had breathing problems.  My lungs did not want to cooperate with my body and I had a very difficult time breathing.

There were many causes - some were my fault - too much stress - not setting boundaries in my life - 
                                      - some were not my fault - exposure to sickness - stress I could not avoid 

I was also exposed to a huge fire in central Florida that year, and that must have been the trigger for my emergency room visit.

Three years later my lungs have decided to go on strike again.  We are in Utah this year.  It was difficult to avoid the fires in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado, but we did and we made it to Utah with no smoke inhalation.

Sadly, not long after we arrived the fires from Idaho sent there poisonous smoke south to us.  There were two weeks I could not even leave the camper.  Then two more fires were west of us and then south.

Why didn't we pick up and leave?  I guess we were hoping it would stop. We have spent so much money to get west and have plans to stay for a long time.  No one wanted to change those plans.

After the smoke subsided, my husband and I went for a hard hike up a mountain. When we left there hadn't been smoke in the air for days. Little did we know a fire had started west of us and the smoke was still not visible.

Notice the smoke hovering in the mountains
Since then my lungs have been hurting.  So, I ask myself, is this something that is the fault of our lifestyle?  No, there was a ton of smoke in Missouri this year! If we had our home there still smoke would have been an issue.

In other ways yes.  I think it is important to consider the environmental impacts in the locations we travel to.  I am always going to  They tell me how many tornadoes have been in the area, sex offenders, environmental hazards, and other necessary information.

Another problem here is the radon.  There were huge uranium mines in the mountains all over the area.  Thankfully we have our water filter.  The radioactive material can get in the water supply.  We also stay away from the mine dumps. Some have mercury around them.

Whether you are traveling full time or just going on a trip - be informed.  Be careful and count the cost and benefit of each place you go.  Our home is on wheels so we can pick up and leave or be patient and make the necessary changes to stay where you are at.
Below is an Amazon Widget that has the water filter we have used for over a year. It is amazing. I used to get sick all the time from bad water at campgrounds.  Every few days I would feel tired, my belly would rumble and maybe some of the diarrhea.  Which, with living in a camper is not a pleasant thing to have, especially when everyone hears everything that goes on in the bathroom.  Too much information you say?  Well, for those of you thinking about going on the road - this is the reality.  Those of you on the road already - I know you totally sympathize.

We also have a great air filter.  There are many on the market. You can shop through our website on Amazon.  Also, check out our Amazon Market for more products - hey, we gotta make a living, too!! he he
But seriously, these are really important issues that we deal with sometimes on a daily basis and can really affect our health.  I joke about it, but I have almost no voice because of my lungs. I hack and cough when I eat and have a hard time jogging now.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Smiths Explore... Capitol Reef National Park

Most of the time we love to explore the more obscure destinations than the busy and more popular sites.  Such is the case with Capitol Reef National Park.

I hadn't ever heard of it but I sure do love it.  Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, and Zion National Park are amazing but what is this - Capitol Reef National Park?

Our entire family loves to go to this not-so-known national park.

The orchards, the pioneer history, red rock, and river are just a "few of my favorite things".

We have been here twice in the last two months and I hope to camp closer someday.  I would love to visit it many more times before we leave Utah.

To learn more about this amazing place go to our website and watch the video my son made about our trip!

Capitol Reef National Park has amazing views that make my jaw drop every time I see them.

There are many Indian petroglyphs and pictographs to be found all over the park.

Egyptian Temple

One of my favorite places are the many orchards to eat fresh fruit at.

There is a wonderful nature center for the kids to play for a couple hours if you have the time!

River at the bottom of a canyon.
Also, you can find more pictures on our facebook page!