Friday, December 31, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful…

...but the camper’s toasty warm!

When planning our six-week stay in Connecticut, we definitely wondered how the camper would fair in wintry weather. It is an “extended season” model but this just means the underbelly is enclosed and radiantly heated. It has a more than adequate propane furnace which works great as long as we don’t push it too long and run out of gas! The windows are single-pane which caused some chilliness in the bedroom so we insulated the window with clear shrink wrap plastic. We use pillows designed for the purpose of stuffing in the roof vent openings to prevent drafts. And of course we added one-inch insulation around and under our mattress because that part of the camper seems to be less insulated and it gets wind on all five exterior sides.

So far, it had seen driving rains and forceful wind in NJ and all we noticed was a bit of movement from the wind and perhaps a teeny bit of water coming in our roof vents when the rain blew just so. But winter was going to be a different story. 

Early December brought temperatures down to nine degrees in Old Lyme. There were two nights when I got up to use the loo and it wouldn’t flush, nor would the sinks run. Eventually the cold water got going but we had lost our hot water flow because of it’s longer run to the faucet through the heater. After hearing what sounded like dripping in the underbelly and seeing a large icicle formed from the spout of our fresh water tank drain, we decided to winterize the pipes. This entailed waiting for the pipes to defrost and running potable system antifreeze through from the fresh water tank.

We continue to use the grey water tank for washing hands, dishes and Lily. Our water now comes in a large orange cooler for the kitchen and a small blue one for the bathroom. We lose some counter space but maintain the luxury of “running” water. I heat water in a pot on the stove for Lily’s bath.

The day after Christmas the camper braved a snowstorm that some forecasters were calling a blizzard!  We were in the house all day. The first bits of snow were wet and so created some icicles under the windows which are now melting in the sunlight. Then the blustery winds started and the snow drifted every which way. Lily’s Popsie (my Dad) plowed us a path and we braved the wind on our way back to the cozy camper around 10:00pm. Dad plowed all around the truck and camper the next day so we’ll be able to get out when the time comes.

We took an excellent walk one day, Lily in the sling, down to Rogers Lake which is frozen. Lily enjoyed the sliding sensation as Chris and I played on the thick ice at the edge of the swimming area. On our way home we trudged through drifted banks and visited Nana (Lily’s great grandmother) who lives off Muzzie and Popsie’s driveway. We moved into their house this week and are now preparing for Chris’ trip to VT! All in all, winter has been possible but not perfect in a three-season camper.
pooped after a big day outside

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Grand Tour

Our CT parking spot
For those of you who will not get to see our new home in's the tour!

This is the floorplan of the Keystone Outback 23RS. We took out both the twin and queen mattresses in the front to make room for our dresser drawers, office drawers, laundry basket, etc and it also opened up some nice carpeted space in the "foyer" area.
The mudroom, closet, dressers, office...

This view is from the kitchen. The front door is to the right of the shoerack.
Lily's changing table and dresser
If you walk in the front door, just to the right is the rest of the "foyer" which includes our changing table and more clothing storage.
And here's the bathroom. It is directly in front of you as you walk in the front door.

This is the view from the bed which shows the dinette edge, kitchen, and "foyer"

The couch and the dinette oppose each other. Here you can also see some of our festive decor (stockings, ceramic tree, and a string of lights of course).

The bed is a slideout which means when we're driving it is slid in over the couch and dinette. It also means that it's less insulated causing the condensation we've been battling.

One day this week, I went to the library with Nana while Chris and Lily took a sling walk to Rogers Lake. They collected these pretty things and Chris put them together into this beautiful camper-sized wall hanging! All the best to all of you and a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Trip to CT

Lily & Popsie
We made it to Muzzie & Popsie's house!
Our first long trip with the rig: 220 miles and about 6 hours on the road. It was lightly raining most of the way.

The first leg was about 2 hours; we crossed into NY and stopped at a rest area to feed Lily and use the facilities. I went back into the camper with Lily after Chris had turned on the heat and it was nice and cozy. Since the bed is pushed in over the couch, I had to make a spot to nurse. I put pillows on the carpet to sit on and used the Boppy as usual; we enjoyed the warm air from the heating duct just below our spot. We stopped once more to feed and change Lily, this time at a gas station to fill up the truck also.  It is so nice not to have to use public changing tables whenever possible. She is such a good travel buddy and Chris is an excellent driver so the trip was virtually stress-free!

The rig does great on the road. Chris had new tires put on the camper and the truck along with a new hitch and weight distributing bars which all helps to reduce the sway caused by drafts from the big trucks. The truck tires are all-terrain beefy ones so the ride is a bit less smooth and a little louder but totally worth it for the stability and traction.

We parked behind the barn and my dad helped Chris hook up the specifics while I took Lily inside to see Nana (her great grandmother who lives down the driveway).

A couple days later Lily, Mom and I went about an hour west so I could ride Kermit for the first time in a year! He was amazing and it felt so good to be back in the saddle.

Lily and I went to Providence Place Mall to meet up with three of my high school friends Mercy, Beccah, and Alexis which was really special since our ten-year class of 2000 reunion was canceled.

This weekend Auntie Emily came down from MA to visit and get her tree from the yard. Jeremy couldn't join us because he was busy kicking butt (winning both Saturday and Sunday) in Portland, OR at the season closer for Cyclocross!

Chris, Mom, Dad, Me and Lily decorated the house tree last night to some Leon Redbone Christmas tunes and a few vinyls Mom had. Lily is mesmerized by the lights; if she's upset we just walk her into the hot tub room (where the tree is) and she quiets right down. She doesn't yet know what to think of the other baby in the house...Breezy the black lab puppy who is very entertaining and cuddly.

We had a bit of snow on the ground today and the temp got down to 25 last night. Chris is rethinking the insulation around our mattress in order to further mitigate the condensation happening there. I also installed a clear plastic shrink wrap over our bedroom window to stop the draft and that worked great.

This entry is a bit all over the place but a good update nonetheless. Lily is beginning to stir in the sling so I'll sign off here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cooking in the Camper

We're cookin' with gas!
Lily & Me making grilled cheese for Dad
The camper has everything we need to make the same excellent meals we made in our regular kitchen. A generously sized refrigerator, separate freezer, microwave, 3-burner gas stovetop, gas oven (15"Wx13"H), a large and small sink, plenty of counter space, and even an outside 3-burner stovetop for those stinky projects (fish, bacon, etc).

I did not bring many of our kitchen contraptions for lack of room (crockpot, food processor, ice cream maker, cheese pot, etc) but we did decide to fit in our bread machine. So far we have been incredibly happy with our utensil and cookware decisions. We left out things that could be replaced with other items such as the garlic press....just use a knife, Pyrex measuring glass...use regular measuring cups. The great thing about having fewer things is that we end up using everything on a weekly basis and don't waste space storing things we don't use.

Some of our cooking projects included eggs, toast and scrapple for Uncle Mike & Christian, tacos for Lily's cousins Jake & Elizabeth, quiche for our friends Sam & Liz, pork tenderloin for Nick & Sharon, "Bounty Rice" and "Winter Veggie Stew" for Mom, John & Babci, and today I made split pea soup and.......pumpkin pie! for lunch with Mom, John, Babci and Lily's Uncle Cas.

It's been an adjustment getting used to less freezer space and making smaller meals for lack of room for leftovers. We've been just eating the small leftovers for lunch the next day or dinner the same day.

The two cookbooks we chose to bring with us (our only two actually) are the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook for typical recipes and Simply in Season for seasonal ingredients and different tastes. We love Simply in Season because it's organized by Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter so, for example, it's Fall now and there are a lot of we have "Sausage and Apples" or "Apple Rice". In Springtime we would have a lot of fresh greens and so more salads. A much more sustainable way to eat than our typical habits of just making whatever we want regardless of growing season.

We have just loved continuing to host friends and family in the camper during our time in NJ and are looking forward to doing the same in CT!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back to the Pappground

We waived goodbye to our YMCA hosts after one last dump station visit. The short drive back to John and Dolores' yard was bittersweet. We headed away from a beautiful campsite with herons, mallards, geese, and foliage but toward our loving family for an extended stay.

This time we parked closer to the house which had advantages including our being able to pick up their wireless signal! We had most of our systems figured out by this time (late October) but had to reconfigure to our new location.

We purchased potable drinking water hose to run from the house spigot, hooked our electric into the garage, and set up a system to drain the gray water slowly into the lawn. The black water was a challenge to figure out. Chris discovered a septic pipe under the porch that could be dumped into so he set up a routine of using buckets to haul the black water from the camper to the pipe. He and John made an aluminum funnel and he purchased an elbow for the drain pipe to direct the water into the bucket. Of course Chris is extremely mindful of showering after this job and wearing gloves during it.

Around November 3rd Chris took the camper for service in PA. We purchased a new hitch with weight-distributing bars and an electric jack, new tires, tons of odds and ends for little repairs and improvements, and learned a bit about condensation. This was an expensive step toward readying the rig for our cross-country travels.

We have just loved being so close to Chris' parents. Lily has not only a Babci (grandmother in Polish) and Nodyapa (grandpa in Hungarian) but also a Great Babci right here! We've shared meals, yardwork, cooking, cleaning, walks, and time with Babci Krol. What a blessing.

Camping with a Newborn

We stayed at Camp Carr until October 22nd so Lily  had lots of beautiful fall days by the river. Chris and I enjoyed sitting under the awning in our folding rocker with Lily all bundled up in our arms. We took regular walks around the neighborhood and met lots of nice campers who came in each weekend.

You may ask how we are managing to function in a camper with a newborn. Here's the rundown:

Diapers--we used disposables for about four days then switched to Gdiapers size extra small with flushable/compostable/landfillable liners. These proved to be a great choice. We set up a changing area on the guest bed in the front of the camper. There is a twin bunk with a queen bed underneath. We removed the twin mattress, put it on the front half of the queen, and put down a plastic mat. We kept a basket of necessities next to the mat and clothes in a drawer below the bed. We keep a stack of wetted hemp wipes in a tupperware bin and put dirty ones in a three-gallon bucket filled half way with water and three drops of tea tree oil. Any Gpants that get dirty get rinsed in the toilet then go in the bucket as well. Recently, we removed the queen bed entirely and set up a new changing table configuration that is a better height for us. This afforded us more floor space which has been awesome.

Sleeping--Lily sleeps between us in a product called the Snuggle Nest. It's basically a three-sided guard to keep her from rolling into our pillows. We love having her right there with us; it's easy to quickly meet her needs and calm her when she needs help. We read a great book with an odd title called The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp which teaches parents the 5 S's...Swaddle, Side/Stomache, Shoosh, Swing/Rock, Suck. These have proven to be awesome tools for Lily. We swaddle her each night and often use side positions, swinging motion, and loud shooshing to calm her when she has trouble getting to sleep. She's been an excellent sleeper so far going three to five hours at a time throughout the day and night.

Bathing--Initially we just did what the Brits call top 'n tail. A damp washcloth for her face then a damp bum wipe for her bottom. Once her cord fell off around 1 1/2 weeks then we began using the bathtub. I had a no-slip pad from my horse that works well on the bottom of the tub. With two inches or so of water in the tub, I would sit on the seat (1/2 of the tub is a seat) with my feet on the mat. Chris would kneel on the floor and hold Lily's head while I washed her up with our Shea Butter soap and water. Now we can do this with just one of us kneeling holding her head and washing her.

Feeding--Right from birth Lily has latched on like a star. I typically sit on our couch with pillows behind me, one under her, and my feet up on the dinette seat. Recently, I broke down and bought a Boppy which has been an excellent help to my upper back. Lily also enjoys tummy time on it and it makes a comfy recliner for her. I am so grateful to be able to feed her the food nature intends for her. I have pumped a couple bottles for Chris to feed her from as well which is a really special event for him and Lily.

Laundry--Thank you John and Dolores (in-laws) for the use of your awesome High Efficiency washer and dryer. We take advantage of that gift just about every three days.

All in all, it's not that much different from a regular house...just a bit smaller!

Welcome Lily

I woke up around midnight on Monday, October 4th feeling regular surges so I woke up Chris and told him I thought my labor was starting. We called our doula, Suzie, and my mom around 2:00am. Suzie sat tight to wait for our next call and my mom got on the road. Chris made Annie's mac and cheese and some tea while we listened to quiet music in the darkness.

My mom arrived at the campground around 7:00am and mostly laid low while I moved about the camper during the surges. We called Suzie again and she arrived around 11:00am and began helping me move more. When it got more intense, with me feeling nauseous and having frequent stronger surges, Suzie suggested we head to the hospital around 1:00pm.

More nausea upon entering the maternity ward caused us to head straight to our private LDRP (Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Post-Partum) room. I was beginning to go further within and become less aware of my surroundings. Chris and Suzie were amazing; they worked together to help me through each surge. I was in the shower on the ball, in the jacuzzi, squatting at the foot of the bed, in bed sitting up, on my side, on all fours, etc. Our midwife, Barbara, checked me at 2 1/2 cm, 5cm, and again at 8 1/2. The nurses kept up on my blood pressure and the fetal monitor belt. They suggested IV fluids to combat dehydration which I agreed to and felt better having had.

At one point, I was on my side with Suzie rocking me during surges when I felt one start and a huge release of fluids! What a rush...things were really moving now! Eventually I was not willing to wait any more and needed to push. I had my mom holding my left leg, Suzie on the right, and Chris at my head...beautiful teamwork. Twenty minutes later, Chris caught Lily! He lifted her toward me and I saw she was  girl which I announced before he even thought of it. I remember saying "Hi Lily!" and feeling overwhelmed. He put her on my chest and we were overcome with awe. What a surreal experience. She really was inside of me!

We had some great meals, loving visitors, and I got to meet the nurses who watched over me during labor. We went home on Wednesday at 3:00pm after being bombarded with information and warnings about infant care. Our camp hosts greeted us with huge smiles and we settled into the camper for our first night as a family at home.

To the River!

We spent our first few days of camper living (Sept. 21-26) in Chris' mom and step-dad's yard. Learned about the A/C, hot water heater, lighting, gray water system, fridge and freezer, stove, microwave and oven. We sorted out some odds and ends into storage and rearranged cabinets for easier use.

Our plan was to move to a nearby YMCA campground so off we went on the 27th. Camp Carr is a simple campground with twenty five or so sites on the south branch of the Raritan River. We had scoped out the sites over the summer and so got our pick of spots. Unfortunately, two nights after we moved in, a huge rainstorm came through and caused us to pack up and head back to higher ground at the in-laws'. Other than this three night break, we enjoyed three beautiful weeks on the river.

We continued to learn about the systems of the camper. Our camp hosts were gracious enough to loan us a tote tank so Chris could empty the tanks every three days or so. We discovered that our furnace is propane and not electric (duh). We learned that the gray water tank is full when the water comes up into the bathtub. And we learned that we were not immune to New Jersey's wonderful "stink" bugs who enjoyed creeping unseen into our bed curtains.

Our most exciting event at Camp Carr was when Lily Alyce Wyglendowski decided it was time to join us around midnight on October 4th...

Pack it up, Pack it in.

We accepted an offer on the PA condo and bought a 2006 Keystone Outback 23RS camper and 2004 Ford Expedition and moved in on September 21st 2010...goodbye mortgage, hello adventure!

I was 38 weeks pregnant on move-out/in day and had spent weeks packing up the condo and deciding what we would want in the camper. This process was quite challenging as we have limited space for kitchen items and clothing which makes up the majority of the "things" we brought with us. This really got down to the nitty gritty.

For example, I had to decide how many of our Corelle dishes to bring (4 large, 4 small, 4 bowls). How many pairs of pants (2 jeans, 1 cords, 1 khakis, 1 sweats, 1 yoga) and shoes (1 sneaks, 1 clogs, 1 crocs, 1 Simple ballets, 1 flips, 1 muck boots). The list goes on and on; we went through the entire condo bit by bit boxing up things for storage and items for the camper. We also had a "give away" pile which was donated to a garage sale. Then we towed the camper to the condo and loaded up. Chris' mom and step-dad graciously stored the rest (including many large pieces of furniture) at their house.

And off we went, back to NJ to wait for baby Wy!