Campers Have ‘Smore Fun

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“Look at this Instagram account,” I said, shoving the phone under The Husband’s nose. “They have an RV, they travel around the country, see all these cool places, and homeschool their kids.”

This was towards the end of May 2020, and we were just coming out of the shutdown. We thought we had the next ten years all mapped out. And then suddenly, it was all flipped around. What about our jobs? What about school? Everything felt like it was up in the air. Who knew what was going to happen in a month, let alone a year or two!

One of the greatest parts of blogging was that I got to interview so many different people. And I would always ask people, “How did you find joy?” Time and time again, I heard: Life is what you make of it, and time passes very quickly. So if you want to carve out happiness, the time is now.

I really took that lesson to heart and tried to live my life with that advice in mind. And in May 2020, we didn’t know what the future would hold, but we knew some things for sure: We wanted to find joy, continue to travel, spend more time with our kids, and get outside more… City life did not seem as appealing as it once had. RVing felt like the perfect solution!

… But we had zero RV experience (scrolling Instagram, sadly, does not count!). So we made a plan: we’d rent an RV and head out for a week-long trip. We booked an RV through www.RVShare.com, I snagged a sandy spot at a campground in Florida, and a few weeks later, we hit the road.

Our maiden voyage was SO much fun! We were instantly hooked! “Camping” with electricity, a refrigerator, air conditioner and a real mattress? It was perfect for our family. We immediately started to search for an RV of our own.

Now, I know that we were not the only ones with this bright idea! I’ve read RV sales went up 20% or more during the pandemic. However, we did make the decision a little earlier than most of the crowd, so we managed to beat the insane price inflation and lack of inventory that began to hit just a few months later. After weeks of comparing RV types (driveable, towable, etc), lengths, price points and floor plans… we settled on our dream RV.

Meet – The Flaming Marshmallow!

She’s ridiculously big – 42.5 feet long. When hooked into our truck, we’re about 61 feet long. Because we wanted an RV that we could actually live full time in (just in case), we opted for a large floor plan with two true bedrooms and two bathrooms. When you walk into the front door, you enter a kitchen/living room area with a full size fridge, a comfy couch, and a table that was perfect for dinners, virtual school, and puzzles.

There was a huge learning curve. Huge! I would never call us “handy.” But a basic rule of RVing is that something will break every time you go out. And before long, I could do all sorts of things – I could empty the tanks, drive it down twisty mountain roads, back it up into tiny spots, hook up the electric, unhook the RV from the truck, troubleshoot why the awnings would never open… It was quite empowering, actually!

Don’t get me wrong – we’ve had some major upsets. Once, the Husband dropped the RV onto the bed of the truck – the truck suffered more than the RV. We broke the toilet when it got too cold outside and the plumbing inside froze solid. We drove the side of the RV into a tree when making a tight turn. Another time, I opened the slides and hit the RV next to ours, shattering a window.

There’s a camping joke – “I’m sorry for what I said when parking the RV,” and boy, oh boy – is that true!

But seriously… RVing has been glorious. The adventures we’ve had! It’s been about 18 months, and we have gone on 15 different trips! We’ve explored the Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. Our camping trips usually are 4 – 7 days long, just depending on what we can swing with work and school (we usually do both on the road). We spend our times fishing, kayaking, making ‘smores, building camp fires, hiking, and biking. Claire even learned to bike at a campground in Georgia!

Our new pup Sam loves RVing! We got him two years ago, about three months before Maggie died. He is a husky/lab mix. We adopted him from the shelter when he was about a year old. We have never had a big dog before, but I really love having a dog that can keep up with all our outdoor fun.

Sam’s very protective, which makes us feel safer when camping. Although, I must say we have only encountered awesome people while camping. There are tons of newbies at the campgrounds, but also lots of people who have been RVing for years and are willing to help out if you need a hand. It’s fun to sit around the campfire with your neighbor and trade stories, and the kids love finding new friends wherever we go.

Here are my favorite campgrounds:

  1. Solitude Pointe RV Park in Cleveland, SC: This campground is very small – only 15 spots or so. There are also a few cabins that you can rent. It’s super quiet but beautiful, with a big mountain river at the front of the campground that is perfect for swimming in the summer. Cleveland SC is in my favorite part of South Carolina; we go here as often as we can! It is near Lake Jocassee, which is well-known for being one of the cleanest and clearest lakes in the south.
  2. Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion NC: Known as “The Prettiest Little Park This Side Of Heaven,” this park is also very small BUT the best part is that nearly all the spots back up to a roaring mountain stream. It is insanely beautiful.
  3. Mistletoe State Park in Appling, GA: Be warned – this state park has zero WiFi (but that’s how I like it these days). Surrounded by a beautiful lake, this campground is super “woodsy” and fun.

I don’t know if the stars will ever align for us to truly live full time in the RV, but maybe one day, it will!

And on a final note….

When I popped in over the weekend to say hello, I NEVER thought you all would respond the way you did! It was so sweet and lovely to hear from so many old Internet friends. 🙂 My first post back was very spontaneous, so I had no idea how to answer questions like, “Are you really back? Are you blogging again?” This is why I wrote this post – I wanted to share a little bit more about what we’ve been up to since everyone was so sweet and excited! I really can’t thank you enough if you took time to comment.

I do not know what the future holds for this space, to be honest. A lot of the reasons that I stopped blogging still stand. As the Internet got more “stylized” and “staged,” I struggled to keep up with it. And truthfully, a few people were downright cruel – I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, but I had people do some really mean things to me behind the safety of their keyboard that reached into my “real world.” I have thick skin… but it just felt like too much after a certain point. The kids getting older was a major factor, too.

I loved to write about fitness and food and books and random stuff. But the other stuff that made Healthy Tipping Point so fun to read… well, I don’t know if they can exist in 2021. Remember our “great debates”? I used to post about a “controversial” topic, give my take, and then readers would debate in the comments section – with no name calling or yelling or “canceling.” Oh, that was so fun! And so interesting! I learned so much by reading others’ perspectives. Does our society even have the ability to have those chats anymore? I’m not sure… But the past few years have given us a lot of material for some really, really interesting debates, huh?!

Here’s my FAVORITE debate in the history of the blog.

A lot has happened to me over the last six years. So many lessons, so much growing, so many new thoughts and experiences. In some ways, I’m the same CaitlinHTP. In other ways, I’m not. I know this is true for you, too – everyone changes. And six years is a LONG TIME!

BUT – and this is a big BUT – I weigh all of that above with the absolutely incredible response to my “Hello Again” post. Again, I never thought that would be the reaction. And all the feelings of community and friendship came rushing back. I missed that, I missed you. I really, really did.

So, I’ll leave it open ended for now. 🙂

And I’ll close it out with a question, as I always used to do. How have you carved out joy during hard times? Tell me all about it. <3

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It’s Been Six Years

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Hello, world! It’s been six years. Tonight, I was out with friends, and much to my chagrin, a dear friend told the entire table that I used to be a “famous blogger” (and I use that term extremely loosely). Whenever it comes up in conversation, the other person squints at me and says, “You? You had a blog?” and I confess that it’s true – I did!

It seems so far away now!

I suspect it seems out of character to the people who know me now.

But it’s a fun story to tell – how my blog started when the Internet was still kind, way back in 2008; how I used to share my mailing address with complete strangers without a second thought; how my friends, readers, and I were at the forefront of something and barely even knew it…; what the Internet was like before Instagram, Twitter and filters; how I felt deeply connected to people I never met in person, and how those connections were real and genuine; how writing in this space changed me forever; how it became something bigger than my thoughts and musings (the Operation Beautiful notes)….; and ultimately, one day, I just decided to stop. And then it was over. Completely. For six silent years. Until now.

I came home and immediately tried to break into my accounts. I haven’t opened any of it in six years. It was harder to get into the accounts than I hoped – the only ones that unlocked easily were email and the blog. So here I am.

I wonder what updates you would like to hear… Well, our kids are so much older! Henry is nearly 10 (well, 9.5)! It blows my mind. Claire just turned 7. They are amazing people; I’m so glad to be their mother. “The Husband” is still the absolute best thing that ever happened to me. Maggie (the dachshund) passed away two years ago; she went peacefully in my arms after a long, happy life. And our second dog James is still alive (he’s about about to turn 16!). There are new pets, new jobs, new friends, new homes, new hobbies… But so many things have stayed the same.

I still work out. I still eat healthy. It looks a little different now than it did in 2015, but I’m still of the belief that small efforts make a big difference. And health seems more important than ever these days. <3

It’s strange to think that I used to type here 3 times a day and rarely ran out of things to say. Now, at the age of 37, I feel so much quieter. Older. Wiser. More cautious. I’m not even sure what I’m doing now, by saying HELLO! But I wanted to pop in and say hi.

I last posted in this space in 2015 and – man, oh man – does life feel differently in 2021. I’m not sure I could have survived blogging in 2020 – 2021. But here we all are. About to close out 2021, another year of lessons under our belts.

So…. Hello, world. Is anyone there?

Lots of love,

CaitlinHTP

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The End

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When I was 24 years old, I wrote my very first post.  I said hello, uploaded a picture of my dog, and said I wanted to share things that I was passionate about.   And for 7.5 years, I did – and it was so good for me.  This blog challenged me to figure out who I was.  It shaped me.  In this space, I shared everything that excited me…

 

Wedding planning. Marrying an incredible man.  Figuring out how to have a healthy life. Enjoying the small moments in life.  Running.  Wrangling a house of cute pets.  Eating delicious food. Feminism.  Vegetarianism.  Writing a book.  Writing another book.  Writing ANOTHER book.  Writing half a book and quitting on it.  Having a baby.  And ANOTHER baby.  Discovering triathlons.  Somehow pulling off a Half Ironman.  Vowing to never do that insanity again!  Reading.  Sooo much reading.  Photography.  And cooking – a lot of cooking.

 

And I will NEVER, EVER forget how supportive you all have been through those experiences.  I know there are people out there who have been reading since the beginning.  So many you of took time out of your lives to offer me advice or support or just a nice comment.  I was always SO grateful for you.  That’s what I tell a lot of people about when they ask me about blogging as a profession – I tell them about my readers.  You guys have been great to me – so sweet and so supportive – and I will never forgot the human connections I made by typing on a screen.

 

Because you guys were lovely enough to read what I wrote, I was able to do something I was passionate about… for a living!  Seriously, I cannot write this post without stating how grateful I am to my readers.  I got to travel, explore, learn, cook, photograph, and write for a living.  But most importantly, without you, Operation Beautiful would not exist.  I am so incredibly awestruck with what Operation Beautiful did for so many people, and if it wasn’t for my readers supporting the idea, it would not have happened.  So – thank you for helping.  (I will continue my efforts with Operation Beautiful – you can follow the movement on our various social media platforms.)

 

Blogging was not always easy. To share 7.5 years of my life on the Internet – there is bound to be some low points. But I wouldn’t change that.  The bad taught me a lot about the world.  It also taught me who I am, and I’m pretty happy with me.  Plus, with the bad came so much good. An overwhelming amount of good.  On a day-to-day basis, I loved my work in this space. I loved creating and conversing and brainstorming. I loved seeing posts come to life.  Heck, I wrote over 5,000 posts!  Goodness only knows how many pictures I took.

 

But even as I lovingly worked on this blog nearly every day for the past 7.5 years, I always said that I wouldn’t do this forever.  I knew it would have a natural conclusion from the very start.  And now that my kids are older, that moment is here.

 

I loved sharing my early motherhood experience with you, and I love sharing photos/stories of my kids, but as they get older, I crave more privacy for them.  I struggle to write about my life without writing about them.  And I want more privacy for me, too.  If you can believe it, after so long, I’ve finally run out of things to say!  I like to think, “Maybe one day I’ll be back,” but I probably won’t.  And it’s a hard feeling to explain – that I’m done – but it’s been creeping up on me for a while.  It’s like when you’re reading a great book, and the pinch of pages in your right hand is getting smaller and smaller and smaller until you can feel your fingertips through the paper.  You can tell that the end is coming.  And here it is!  The End.

 

It’s hard for me to explain what being a blogger was like, but I can sum it up in one word.  Adventure.  This was a grand adventure, from start to finish.  Thank you for reading along, and I wish you nothing but the best.

 

Love,

Caitlin (and the whole family, too)

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How I Stop Temper Tantrums (this trick still works very, very often!)

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Post-Birth Review of Bradley Method Natural Birth Classes

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The Case for Waiting (to find out the baby’s sex)

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Henry’s Birth Story, Part I and Part II

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Claire’s Birth Story

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Why I’m Stopping Breastfeeding HenryStopping Exclusively Pumping, Part I, and Stopping EP, Part II

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Breastfeeding Claire – How It Was Different

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Side note:  As we approach her one year birthday, we are still breastfeeding champs.  I have no plans to stop anytime soon.  I had a pretty rough experience with breastfeeding, pumping, and eventually switching to formula with Henry. Looking back, the transition to motherhood was hard for me (although I couldn’t really pinpoint that at the time).  I felt an immense amount of pressure to be the “perfect” mom in all sorts of ways.  That mentality sabotaged my breastfeeding efforts with Henry.  With Claire, I tried hard to accept the steep learning curve of breastfeeding, minimized stress, and took a metaphorical chill pill when it came to the rest of my life.  I gave myself permission to stop breastfeeding at any point and (ironically) that helped me continue.  This was a huge factor in having a successful breastfeeding relationship with Claire.  For anyone who wants to breastfeed subsequent children but struggled with it initially, please know that it can be completely different from child to child.  It has been different for me, and it is such a blessing – I am very thankful for our breastfeeding relationship.

 

Parenting Books I Love

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7 Concepts that Guide My Parenting

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New Mom Survival Stations

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Things I Learned About Having a Newborn

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Panic-Free Pregnancy: Round Two

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What’s your #1 pregnancy, baby, or toddler tip?

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I <3 Frozen Veggies

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I have gotten SO into frozen veggies.  They are so quick and easy (no chopping, no mess) and way cheaper than buying the organic fresh produce.

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Plus – they help make awesome omelets… or messy eggs when I forget to mix the eggs before pouring them into the pan.  Ha!  When I have two kids clawing at my legs, a fast breakfast is pretty much a necessity.

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Side: cinnamon on bananas (and apples) is my current jam.

 

I saw this floating around on my Facebook page and felt really inspired by it.  I’ve been kind of grumpy lately, and the idea of taking a diet from negativity sounds really nice.  I’m going to print it out and put it on my bathroom mirror – next to the existing sign that says “UNCONDITIONAL LOVE” (which helps remind me to be nice to the kids when they are clawing up my legs at breakfast, haha).

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And last, but not least, do you like my mani?

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I’ve gotten really into the Jamberry nail wraps – they are so fun and last forever.  I love looking at my hands and seeing pretty designs.  It’s the little things in life, right?

 

Have an awesome weekend!

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