How the boys come home, when home is wherever we roam

Not so very long ago, I wrote about what home now means to us.

Now, I’m delving a little further into that concept — and trying desperately hard not to open the Pandora’s Box of parental guilt — by telling you a little bit about what “going home” now means to our sons, who are out of the nest and impressively independent, but still just barely into adulthood.

Our older son is 22, and has been living in WA for more than 3 years. Our younger son turned 20 at the end of February, and has been living in Austin, TX, for about 18 months — the same amount of time we’ve been living and traveling full time in The Toad.

That’s right. As soon as “the baby” left the house, we did too!

That type of move is not without family precedent. My parents sold my family home right after I left the nest (to relocate to another state and another actual house, not an RV), so I do have some clue as to how my own children might feel about not having the same house to come home to.

The big difference? I lived in the same house from kindergarten through senior year, in a small town, with a graduating class of about 150, so it really was my Home-with-a-capital-H.

Our sons, however, are military brats, because of Tim’s 25-year career as a naval officer. They grew up in three sets of military quarters, two houses we rented, and three that we owned. To them, the place we lived in when they left the nest was not the house, but merely a house.

I stood with the boys in front of my childhood home in 2007, 20 years — and an entirely different color — after I’d left it.

As one son put it when I asked how being a military child prepared him for having nomadic parents, “The idea of moving is such a casual thought, all I care about is which time zone you are in.” Not only did that put my heart at ease, it also reminded me how considerate he is to try not to call or text when we might be sleeping.

Always hug your mama, even when the door you walk through to get to her leads into an RV instead of a house.

For us, the short answer to “How do your kids come home” is that they don’t.

With only a few exceptions, we take home to them.

Last winter, we pulled the RV to western Washington for the holidays, so we got to spend time with our older son and his girlfriend, and even hosted them for a couple of overnights. Our RV is “just a house that is close to a different airport each time,” he explained.

It was crowded in here, and it took a fair amount of discussion to explain the many ways we need to be conservative with water use, but we would not have traded that family time for anything.

Last year, we were able to celebrate both boys’ birthdays right here in our home on wheels — one in WA in January, and the next in TX in February.

And when we’re parked in our home base of San Antonio, TX, for a few weeks every six months, our younger son stays with us in the RV for an occasional weekend home from the University of Texas at Austin. He’s a little more blunt about the issue. “I went to college. I don’t care where my parents live,” he said.

Some things about his visits are different than perhaps we’d all expected. For one thing, he gets the RV couch instead of his old bedroom, and for another, he doesn’t bring home his laundry because he’s got a washer and dryer in his apartment. We parents are the ones schlepping our stinkies to the laundromat every week.

But other things are quite similar to the traditional image of having a child home from college:

  • We let him sleep in.
  • He does his homework at the kitchen table.
  • And we often send him back with food, like homemade cookies and rolls, and once, a gallon of our family famous dutch oven chili.

We joke that he can tell his roommates that he stays in his parents’ food truck for the weekend!

Homework at the kitchen table, just like in a sticks-and-bricks

One exception to taking our home with us to visit our sons was when we recently did the reverse by flying our Texas Longhorn to Nevada to stay with us in The Toad for part of his winter break.

So… what do you do when you’ve got a 19-year-old joining you for the RV park’s holiday ugly sweater party? With all the “old” people?

Well.

We tried to come up with an option that took his feelings into account, so I decorated our three sweaters with the words HO, HO, and NO.

Guess who got NO.

And guess who won the ugly sweater contest!

Christmas spirit for the win!

(Author’s note:  a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission. In addition, portions appeared previously here.)

There’s no place like home when home is, like, no place

Those of us who own RVs have heard, seen, bought, or been gifted with something bearing the phrase “Home is Where We Park It.” Makes for a popular hashtag too, and I am guilty as hell for using it on our Twitter and Instagram accounts.

For those of us who took the additional step of selling our sticks-and-bricks houses to live full time in our recreational vehicles, this saying is always true — but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to explain.

Here are 5 ways we’ve learned to re-think the concept of home.

Home is where we say it is

Our least favorite question is “Where are you from?”

Sigh.

There’s no good answer, and few people — even other RV park neighbors — seem comfortable accepting, “Right here for now.”

When I don’t feel like explaining, I say San Antonio, which is the last place we lived in a “real” house before we moved into The Toad. It’s the city we use as a home base for mail and medical, and we’ve got family in town, but we no longer own property or intend to live there again, so it’s not exactly home, but it makes for an expedient answer in a potluck line.

We were two happy kids at the title company, the day we closed on the sale of our Texas house, in March of 2016.

Home is where we can live in our own space but also be tourists

Because we have chosen to make this 5th wheel our only home, and to spend as much time as possible traveling in it, we become both visitors and residents at every stop.

We feel like visitors because we are unfamiliar with the place, and often spend the first few days exploring the area’s most notable museums, parks, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

And we feel like residents because for a week or more, we are living there — sending and receiving packages; doing our grocery shopping, laundry, banking, household and vehicle maintenance; and contributing to the local economy by patronizing independent merchants as often as possible.

Our 2008 Heartland Bighorn at its birthplace in Elkhart, IN, in June 2016

Home is where we’ve lived before

We’re a retired military family, so we’ve got a long list of cities we’ve called home. These places are where our memories are, where friends still live, and they will always be home to us in some way, even if we never plan to live in any of them again.

In fact, you could say that the previous item also applied to our military lifestyle: we lived in various places for anywhere from 18 months to 6 years, never feeling completely like residents, yet taking advantage of each area’s many activities and destinations in fairly short order — like tourists do.

As full-time RV’ers with an empty nest, we are essentially continuing our moving pattern as a military family, only at more frequent intervals, and without having to worry about school districts anymore!

This wooden plaque, our very first RV-warming gift, helps our house-on-wheels feel like home.

Home is where we might want to live someday

With no exact timeline, we are using this lifestyle to find our next permanent residence, and we try to view each RV travel destination with an eye toward future home-worthiness. We’ve saved several different publications’ lists of “Best Places to Retire,” “Best Small Towns in America,” etc., and this year we plan to spend more time checking out some of those cities, to see for ourselves whether they’d make our list.

Home is where our children visit

This is my favorite one!

Both of our sons (a 21-year-old living in WA, and a 19-year-old living in TX) have taken turns staying with us for brief periods in our house on wheels. Wherever we’re parked can be a home to them, because we can still spend valuable time together as a family. Even in the RV, we make their favorite foods, celebrate birthdays and holidays, play games and watch movies, and sometimes even yell at them to GET OUT OF BED BECAUSE IT’S FREAKIN’ NOON ALREADY! 

Just. like. home.

Both of our sons know their way around a toolbox, so when they visit us in the RV, we put them to work!

(Author’s note: a version of this post appears at Heartland RVs. It is printed here with permission.)

When home changes, but it’s always the same, and will never be the same

A few days ago, I added an event to our calendar because “Oh. We’re in town! We could go to that!” 
 
Didn’t hit me until yesterday that San Antonio is not the town we’re in anymore.
 
It’s due to a combination of having so many places we think of as home, thanks to Tim’s military career, and the fact that the interior of our home no longer changes along with our location, so I sometimes forget where we are.
 
Also, I’ve been inhaling a lot of paint fumes, as we work on our S&B house (in Norfolk — I know we’re in Norfolk now), so that may be part of it too. But look at how much progress we’ve made!
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Those are cedar shake shingles. After priming and replacing them for nearly two weeks now? Only a mad man…

Just don’t remind me that this is Project 1 out of 5. Five big ones, most of which we are doing ourselves, before listing this house for sale with an agent. If you or someone you know wants to get in at a pre-listing price, please see this ad (link removed 6/11/16), and give us a holler! Our neighbors are so good, they are actually helping us get this done. Who wouldn’t want to live in a ‘hood like this one?
And speaking of homes, we’ll be leaving this one tomorrow, the Sea Mist RV Park at Dam Neck Annex, because our reservation expires. Wish we could have enjoyed more of the beach out our back door, but neither the weather nor our work schedule supported it. But we knew we were on a military base (again), when we were greeted by this sign:
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and noted the following verbiage in our page of rules and regs:
“Surfing, fishing and sunbathing are allowed on the beach any time it is not secured for drone launching.”
Right, then.
~ ~ ~
A final heartbreaking note: if you’ve been following us on social media (all the links are over there on the left side), you already know that our home will never be the same. Due to advanced kidney disease, we had to say goodbye to our faithful RV dog, Lola, earlier this week. It was a comfort that we were here in Norfolk, where we adopted her nearly ten years ago, and could take her to her old veterinarian to ease her way out of this life. She came home to go home, and we will miss her terribly.
Lola. Oil on canvas by my sister-in-law, Whitney, who gifted us with this art for Christmas, before knowing of Lola's illness. It's even more of a treasure now, and displayed prominently here in this home.

Lola.
Oil on canvas by my sister-in-law, Whitney, who gifted us with this artwork for Christmas, before knowing of Lola’s illness. It’s even more of a treasure now, and displayed prominently, here in this home.

Other posts on this topic:

  1. How it all started
  2. Getting things started
  3. Coping Inappropriately
  4. Before & Afters