How in the heck does any family, let alone one with 14 members live in a tiny 300 square foot space?
I know you want to know. I know because you all email daily asking this very question. I know you are wondering how the heck we survive and have yet to go completely mad, right?
I mean, it’s a little odd, isn’t it? Especially when we are told half of married couples can’t stand each other and divorce. Especially when solo travel is the newest trend. Especially when alone time is so cherished. Especially when most people dread the thought of traveling with their kids anywhere and are quite content to ship them off to just about anywhere without them.
I am determined to keep my family together, as one, and since that is a goal that both Dan and I support fully, we make sacrifices. We can’t fly to Spain as a family, we can’t fly to Hawaii, heck, we can’t fly anywhere. And driving a normal car, you know without a fridge and sofas, and books and snacks, etc. isn’t the best way to travel with 12 kids. So one day we said, “Let’s get an RV,”. We searched for a year to find the right RV for us. It had to be a powerhouse, it had to have a diesel engine and it had to seat 12 people … those were our must haves. No, leather seats, marble floors, multiple slide outs and modern interior design weren’t on our list – true story.
And then a crazy thing happened … we got an RV. And we went for our first trip and it was fantastic.
Then we went on our second trip and it was equally fantastic. And then we decided to take a big road trip, for 3 months and by the end of that trip, no-one wanted to go home. Did you read that? No-one. Not even Dan and I, not even our teenage kids, we all wanted to continue the adventure.
A wild thing happened on that trip … our eyes were opened to the possibilities of life, to travel, to freedom and to the extraordinary. But we did go home, we had to, I was 8 months pregnant with our precious little Coby. But while at home, we made the decision, all of us, as a unit, a team, a partnership, to travel full-time.
Dan and I were in, but not 100%, we had all the baggage. We had worked our entire lives for that house and everything in it. But the kids pushed and pushed and their arguments grew stronger and stronger and we saw what they saw. A clean slate, an opportunity to pursue dreams and passions and adventure and excitement on a daily basis. An opportunity for an extraordinary educational experience. A chance to show our kids that money and prestige and popularity and social media wasn’t all there was to life. And a chance to really grow together as a family.
And traveling in the RV has never let us down. Every day we wake up with renewed joy for the coming day. At home, it’s easy to get into a rut and put off doing anything for days at a time, rationalizing that you have time. When traveling, the time is always NOW. It’s exhilarating to know that you live every day to it’s fullest and you fall asleep with a smile on your face and the peace that you wasted no time with meaningless toil.
Truth be told, I wouldn’t travel without my husband and kids. It wouldn’t be fun without them. I can’t imagine leaving Dan to work while I traipse all over the country. I can’t imagine leaving my kids with a friend while Dan and I have a romantic weekend – there will be plenty of time for this in the future, anyway. Sure, folks do it all the time, but for me it wouldn’t feel right! And that’s what life is all about, doing what you really want and not wasting time doing what other people do, or what other people want you to do.
And, truth be told, I love my husband, I love him to my core. He is my soulmate, in a time where soulmates are so passe’. He is my best friend, my confidant, my rock, and my adventure pal. He’s the father of my children and my partner for all eternity. I don’t have half as much fun without him as I do with him, not to mention he’s the best teacher for my kids … from who else should the kids learn how to fight, to work hard, to be honorable, and righteous, to survive, to build fires, to kayak, to snowboard, to wrestle, to be a husband and a father?
And the kids? Oh my gosh they are the reason we do anything we do. And in return, they give us a different perspective on life, one that isn’t riddled with doubts and fears and what-ifs. Our kids do everything with passion and it rubs off on us. We are all better for having done the adventures together. We are all better for putting our family first, above all things. And, I daresay, we are all better for having traveled.
But, hold on, before you gag, let me tell you that it’s true, sometimes I love them all so much I want to kill them. We fight. In fact, Dan & I fight balls to the wall. I know, right? Gasp! No violence, he has never ever touched me in an unloving way (why do I even feel the need to state the obvious?) … but I’ve thrown a remote across the room once, maybe twice.
And while, yes we fight, we acknowledge that we are not perfect, none of us are. The thing is, you don’t have to be perfect to be happy or have a successful marriage or even to live in tiny spaces with each other. You just have to try. And we do try. Lord, do we try. We make a concerted effort, like 99%, but still we fail … a lot.
I am hot headed, I hate to be wrong, challenged, corrected. I am needy and quite difficult to love, for sure, but isn’t everyone? I mean if you really love someone, it means you sacrifice for them, which is bloody freakin hard. Putting yourself second, or even as a parent, last most of the time, is brutal. But you know what? If your spouse is doing the exact same thing, then you really don’t have to worry about yourself. But because of human nature, this is not a fool-proof system and when it breaks down, that’s when things gets hard.
So yeah, you know, we fight about all the things everyone else fights about, but it doesn’t last. In fact, we just made up (so fun) from a fight about love. Crazy, but whatever.
And the kids, well they sure don’t make marriage easier, right? Let alone living in an RV! I mean they have their own crazy personalities and their own quirks. They are kinda needy, they are money pits and rarely clean anything without being yelled at to do it. I admit, I wish I was as organized as Michelle Duggar with her buddy system and her chore lists and how everything runs like a tight ship … that is NOT the way it works around here. We get by by the skin of our teeth.
And, it’s not like any of us changed, even slightly, because we are living in an RV for 10 months out of every year HA! Not even close. It’s only served to strengthen our ability to communicate. LIke, no-one has a problem telling another when they have had enough. We are aware we are living in a shoebox, but not so aware that we become different people.
For instance, our beautiful, talented, creative and awesome daughter, Kerry LOVES to debate and she and Dan go head to head all the time. I mean, she’s 21, so she knows as much as he does, but yet, not quite. She has yet to debate him on anything and win, has yet to ever win a bet … no matter how absolutely certain she is that she is right, she is not. Just the other night Kerry and Dan were discussing Rancheros sauce and what it was, exactly. I won’t tell you what she thought it was, but I will tell you I googled it and she was wrong. But according to Kerry, Google was wrong, more importantly, the people who make Rancheros sauce and posted the recipe on their website were wrong. She likes confrontations and debate, so she kinda looks for it..and will continue to debate even when she knows deep down inside that she’s been had. Or she’ll stalk off. Both are equally annoying. 🙂 I love you Kerry. he he
And of course, Dan doesn’t help the issue because he is not one to let inaccurate statements slide (ever). I mean, if he hears you make an incorrect assumption, statement, whatever and try to pass it off as fact or even opinion, he’ll attempt to educate you. Oh, so annoying! So, you can see how these two might butt heads all the time. They are two peas in a pod, they will argue (debate) about things they agree on! Sometimes it’s entertaining, sometimes not.
Then there is serious, but not in real life, Grady. He’s methodical in his arguments and much like Dan in that he will not argue something he doesn’t know for certain. He can win debates with Dan on occasion, but more likely than not, it’s not a win, it’s a tie. For instance, we were watching The Song last night — great movie, if you haven’t seen it, see it — and they were discussing the previews. Grady was saying that it was interesting that you never knew a Faith based film was faith based in a preview. Dan said, “yeah, the preacher mentioned the rapture.” A few minutes of debate and the remote came out … turns out there were two different previews, one in which the preacher mentions the rapture and the other where he doesn’t. Draw. And, Grady just wants to know the right answer, so if you debate him, he will concede when presented with adequate proof, like undeniable, irrefutable proof. Not terribly annoying…
Brody doesn’t want to debate, he doesn’t have time for it, and really could not care less about the things we debate. He likes facts, kayaking, snowboarding, girls and his phone.
Then there is Kady who hates debate because she is right. Plain and simple, right right right right. She won’t even entertain the mere thought that she may be wrong … in fact, that word is not in her vocabulary. The only words she processes are: “Kady you are right.” Oh dear God, help me because Maddy is only 9 and thinks the same way! Past annoying, into maddening.
Kenny, Dally, Cardy and Rowdy are still at that beautiful age where they think we are mostly right. They ask questions still, instead of always making declarations. These four are still eagerly helpful and smile A LOT!. Delightful, but the clock is ticking.
Maddy is the most persistent person you will ever meet and she wants facts, she wants times, she wants commitment. “Maybe” drives her nuts. She doesn’t adapt well when things get in the way of her plans. She’s a little Kady all the way, a perfectionist, mentally, physically and spiritually tough and a bit of a control freak. She will change the world, people. You know last year she had the idea, that is now popping up across the country, to open a restaurant where you pay as you can … rich pay more to ensure that the poor can pay little to none. Watch out, she’ll be on the scene in no time and she won’t tolerate anything but 100%!
Then there are all the little kids, who at times fight like rabid dogs and at others are best friends. There is no place that their multiple personalities are more obvious than in the RV. But, maybe I’m weird, I think they are hysterical, so funny are their little fights that I am often laughing out loud. Lately Coby’s newest statement, is, “I don’t want that.” or “I want that.” So cute. Elly is wild and free and funny and adorable and brave. Emmy is a sweet little girl all the way, unless you make her mad, she dances and sings and has been practicing the splits for two years!
Which brings me to my point. There is no place like a small space where a family can really, REALLY get to know each other intimately! I mean, there is a lot of time where we are driving or sitting around a campfire or hiking or waiting our turn to climb or whatever where we just talk. I mean, Dan, the kids and I have had more conversations on religion, politics, the Middle East, the presidency, the courts, goals, aspirations and motivation, philosophy, finances, passions, skills, dreams and desires in the last 2 years with each other than any of us have had in our entire lives with anyone.
We know what makes each other tick, which means we know how to make each other happy, how to motivate, how to help and conversely how to push each others buttons! 🙂
We are each so very, very different. We have the creative person, the resilient person, the courageous person, the funny, the confident, the skilled, the persistent, the diva, the tender, the leader, the wild, the unstoppable, the smart and the spontaneous person. We are united in our quest to live free and to focus on family. But we focus on the things we have in common. Our love of adventure, of extremes, of traveling. Our faith, our optimism, our pursuit of happiness. And our love for each other.
Our family takes precedence over everything, and we are dedicated to teaching our kids that the greatest motivator in society, money, is, while necessary, quite meaningless.
Hence, we are teaching our kids that toiling for money is meaningless. Teaching them that loving is the key to happiness. Life is about relationships, with God, with each other, and about loving the people you are blessed to have cross your path.
Teaching them that it’s through diversity, through trial, that you learn who you truly are, what you are truly capable of. Your strength, your faith, your value — that only shines when times are tough as it’s so easy to be strong and faithful and be loved when everything is going great and you have a lot to offer others.
We learn humility and compassion and unconditional love. Is there any greater gift in the world than Unconditional Love? Anything? No matter how horrible and mean I can be, and I can be mean, he loves me. No matter how annoyingly right and slow in stores (like Lowes) he can be, I love him unconditionally.
Teaching them that values are non-negotiable, that you don’t test your beliefs through public opinion, but you stand for them even when you are standing alone.
Teaching them to go after what they really want because time is short and life is too short to be living with regrets.
In the end, Dan and I are so united in our common goal to raise good, strong, righteous, independent kids and to having a fun, enjoyable stay here on earth, that we don’t have much time or desire to fight. But, when we do, we are free to speak our minds and say and do and act in any way (you know, like give 100% to the argument just as we do to life) because on the other side of that argument is the person we have each sworn to grow old with, sworn to raise children with and sworn to be with through good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
So, how do we do it? How do we “survive life in an RV with 14 people?” We don’t survive, this is not a survival story, it’s a living story, a thriving story, a story filled with passion and love, trials and triumph, success and failure, and God. It’s such a great life, such a fulfilling life, I can’t believe how blessed we are!
You see, in order to thrive in life with your family whether it’s in a small space, a big space, an inadequate space or a loved space, one must realize and accept one simple fact.
And that is, each member of a family is on the same team.
Each of you should always want what is best for the other. And you achieve that by spending time together. Focus on the good times, acknowledge that whether you have one child or twelve, you are going to have issues, fights, disagreements, tantrums, etc. That’s life, and it’s your life. Don’t get wrapped up in the tough stuff, celebrate the good. Make it a goal to do something FUN together, anything, every single day, in sickness and in health. Laughing with those you love is the best medicine, the only cure to the difficult times in this life.
For us, today, we choose to leave the traffic behind, the busy malls, the work commutes, the organized sports, the proms — all behind. Our lives have evolved. We now want more from life these days. We drink the sunrises like energy drinks and relax as the sun goes down. We are awed by rivers and mountains and trees and landscapes. We are encouraged and educated by people and cultures. We are transformed by struggles and triumphs. We are privileged to see God everywhere and in everything.
Now go out and make your dreams a reality!!!