Posted on September 10, 2016
Well, I haven’t made good on my promise to write every week. I’m sorry. To tell you the truth, I have been doing other things. Namely cooking up a baby and preparing our home to receive that baby in as much comfort as possible. I knew you would understand.
People who know we live in an RV often ask me lots of questions about where we will put the baby. This makes me smile inside because newborn babies are so tiny, you can really put them anywhere. I used to say (only part jokingly) that baby would be sleeping in the laundry basket. I didn’t think it was such a terrible idea, but it definitely got me some weird looks.
You may be relieved to know that baby does have a bassinet and that everything has come together quite nicely for his or her arrival. I’m amazed at how little we have needed this time around. I don’t know if it’s because this baby is our third or the fact that five people will be sharing 280 square feet of living space, but I just don’t feel the need to fill our home with baby stuff. About half of our small renovations have been for the big kids, to help them be more independent.
It’s been really freeing to keep it simple and only bring in the baby items that will truly add value to our lives. So, for those of you who are curious about how in the world we are making room for baby #3, here are some pictures of what we’ve done. It’s not much, but it makes life comfortable for us and that’s really all we need.
My mom handcrafted these beautiful ladders so we could move our two big kids up to the top bunk and give them more independence. They love being up top together and having the freedom to come down when they need a drink or potty in the night. You can also see we adjusted their bookshelf down a few inches so both kiddos can easily reach it. It’s amazing how a small adjustment like that makes my world so much better. No more crouching down to fetch books or put them away!
The bottom bunk will be baby’s when he or she gets old enough. For now, we will use it for changing diapers and storing stuff. I got each kid a set of three plastic bins that house their folded clothes: undies, pj’s, shorts. This has also given the big kids more responsibility for picking out and putting on their own clothes.
My friend Chelsea gave me this tiny co-sleeper that fits PERFECTLY between my bed and the window. Baby will sleep here for the first few months. My mom built a shelf that goes all the way down my side of the bed for the bassinet to rest upon.
Posted on June 17, 2016
It’s summertime in Texas! And that means the heat is ramping up. My little hooligans have become sissified, though and are out-right refusing to go outside. What the heck!?!? It’s only 90 degrees… And it’s only getting hotter. I blame Colorado.
We spent all of last summer in the crisp, cool shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It was glorious. And it made my kids think that summer is a breeze, unlike the pit-of-hell we Texans are accustomed to. Oh, well. This summer we are staying put, so they better get used to it.
We have gotten creative with some cooling-down strategies for outside play. Here are some ideas we are trying this summer:
– Water guns
– Water sidewalk chalk – Wetting the patio first makes the colors more vibrant and the patio cooler.
– Sprinkler play
– Bucket o’ water – I know, it sounds stupid but they never tire of pouring, splashing and dunking their toys.
– Water balloons
– “Surprise! Mama’s got the hose!” – I like to sneak attack them when they are fussing about the heat. It cools both mind and body. And gives us a good laugh.
You got any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!
Posted on May 29, 2016
Our whole family thought we were crazy. Our friends all said it was cool, but inside they probably thought we had lost our mind. What parent in their right mind would live in 250 square-feet of space with two toddlers? Our minds had been made up though, and nothing was going to change it.
Almost one year ago today my wife and I had just finished paying off our debt. We celebrated by visiting Dave Ramsey in Nashville Tennessee and did our “Debt Free Scream” on his nationally syndicated radio program. Just prior to making the trip I had sold my 2009 Subaru Outback and paid cash for a used RV.
The RV was our new home. In just a few short weeks our lease was going to be up on our apartment in South Austin. We would then kick off our new tiny home lifestyle with a trip to Colorado and Utah to promote Bearded Brothers (our family business) in a new region of Whole Foods. I was also going to use the time in the mountains to help train for the Wasatch 100, which I completed in September in a time of 36 hours and 20 minutes.
We spent several weeks leading up to the big move repairing our RV, that we affectionally named, Thistle, for reasons I can’t go into detail on. But we finished the repairs just in time, and actually managed to move out of our apartment, into our tiny home on wheels, three days early.
After one month of living in various RV parks around Austin, we hit the road for our Summer tour. Thankfully at that point our kids had pretty much already grown accustomed to living in the RV. They didn’t mind it one bit. There wasn’t a single dose of complaining about the tiny space. That’s the beautiful thing about toddlers, it’s easier to make big life changes like this because they just roll with the punches. To them it was just life…it was their normal.
Throughout the summer we rolled around from RV park to RV park, including some family vacation time in Estes Park. The entire time our kids, Abigail and Joshua, just rolled with the punches. To them it was just one huge adventure. They actually loved not having structured days, and loved having LOTS of time outside in nature.
We were usually parked next to a river or right under the mountains. One of my favorite spots, and one of the most breathtaking was Leadville, although the wife despised it because of the altitude. The kids loved it too, and the RV park actually brought back fond memories of being in the mountains as a child, and it had turned out I had stayed in that exact same park when I was nine. We even recreated an old photo of my sister and I with my own kids in a play fort they had at the playground.
The trip wasn’t all fun and games though. Most of the days we lived a normal life. I worked most days, usually doing product demos at Whole Foods to promote our energy bars that had just landed on their shelves. But our kids never complained about being away from “home” because to them, “home is where you park it.”
The apex of the trip was late September in Utah when I ran the Wasatch 100. It was my dream race, and I conquered it — but by then my wife and I were missing Austin more than our kids were, and our journey wasn’t quite over. We still had to stop in Arkansas for the 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, a 24 Hour Climbing Competition that Bearded Brothers was sponsoring.
The journey of this part of the trip was pretty epic. It included tire blow outs, run-ins with the local rednecks, declined credit cards, and not having use of the RV bathroom for the last week of the trip. And who do you think struggled the most with this? Was it our kids? Nope…it was the adults.
We made it though, and we couldn’t have been happier to cross the state line into Texas. Even then we still had several hours before we arrived in Austin, which is where our tiny home on wheels remains parked.
Since the big summer expedition we have taken Thistle on two other journeys. One of them being to the Guadalupe Mountains to summit Texas’ highest mountain, Guadalupe Peak. We have the most fun when we travel, that is for sure, but for the next year or so Thistle will remain parked, as we are expecting our third child in September (we are not looking forward to the Texas summer in an RV)!
Of course our family and friends are now asking us, “Are you going to move back into an apartment now, or find a house?” And our answer is simply, NO. We love tiny living, and our kids do too. I’d venture to say that many people use their kids as cover up for their own fears. Our kids have never raised an objection to how life is, they just roll with the punches, and they have taught us to do the same.
Posted on May 24, 2016
We’ve been doing the full-time RV thing for a year now and we love it. But just like anything, there are some not-so-great aspects to living in a home on wheels. I wrote a post on this topic after being in the RV just a few weeks. It’s funny to look back and see that most of the things I thought would be a drag turned out to be fine. After being at it for a year, here are my top four gripes about living in an RV:
Noise from outside. The walls in our RV are thin. So thin that I can easily hear my kids’ conversation as they play in the yard (good thing), but can also hear my neighbor talking on his cell phone (not a good thing). We’ve all grown accustomed to the ambient noises of our RV park: the highway traffic and Tejano music. But there are two sounds that still wake me up at night: thunderstorms and police sirens.
Swaying with movement. Even when we have our RV completely leveled and the jacks tightened down there is still a fair amount of “bounce” to our home. It doesn’t bother me at all during the day, but at night it can keep me awake. I can FEEL it when one of our kids is tossing and turning in their bed or if someone gets up to go potty.
No bath tub. Ah… my one, continuous gripe about living in a tiny space! This would not be a big deal if I didn’t LOVE taking baths with an unnatural passion. But after a year of living in an RV, sadly I am not cured. I still jump at the chance to soak in a tub. And when we eventually upgrade to a newer RV, a full-size bathtub is already on my must-have list.
Tough to keep cool. Our 30-foot rig has one central A/C unit and it works tirelessly to try to keep us cool in the summer. The thing is, we live in Texas, where summer temps are in the triple digits. It’s almost impossible to keep this tin can cool in sweltering conditions, especially if we are parked in direct sun… Forget it!
As with anything, you can choose to focus on the bad or the good. We still think RV life is amazing, even with these drawbacks. Next week I will revisit the top five things I love about RV living and see if they still hold true a year later.
Posted on May 5, 2016
Today is the one year anniversary of our debt freedom! We celebrated one year ago today by driving out to Tennessee to the Dave Ramsey headquarters to tell our story live on the radio and scream to the world, “We’re Debt Free!”
That moment was something we had looked forward to for nearly three years as we struggled to pay off over $60,000 in debt. Becoming debt-free was exhilarating and, looking back, I think we got a little “drunk” off the feeling and made some poor choices. We share this with you in hopes that you can side-step these mistakes on your journey to debt freedom.
Mistake #1: Not having a fully-funded emergency fund.
Step Three of Dave’s baby steps prescribes you save up three to six months living expenses for emergencies. We were so excited to FINALLY be free from debt that we minimized this crucial step in the program. Immediately following becoming debt-free, we purchased our truck and RV… And two months later we were on the road!
Looking back, we should have waited until we had at least $10,000 in the bank before we did anything else. But that’s not what we wanted to hear at the time. We had just scrimped and scraped our way out of debt and we wanted to celebrate. Understandable. But as Dave always says, without a full-funded emergency fund as your rainy day umbrella, you are just inviting trouble.
And trouble is what we got. This last year has been fraught with the unexpected; little “emergencies” that have constantly derailed our progress. The timing belt went out in our car, the transmission went out on our truck, we’ve had to buy 10 new tires and replace the motor in our slide-out. And that’s just the big things.
We are still working on completing baby step three. I would advise anyone who is newly debt-free to continue with intensity until you have completed this critical step.
Mistake #2: Not sticking to a budget while traveling.
We spent three months on the road after becoming debt-free. During this time we lived within our means, but we did not live on a budget. I think we wanted to cut loose and have some fun after being so tight for so many years. Looking back, I wish we would have settled on a budget for our trip, which included extra money for fun but also allowed for some continued saving.
Since we basically spent every penny during those three months, we were left hanging when our transmission went out mid-trip. We had to borrow $5,000 from Caleb’s dad just to get it fixed. That debt hung over our head for the remainder of the trip and made all our indulgence seem much less sweet.
Mistake #3: Continuing to use a credit card.
I know, I know… True Dave Ramsey followers cut up all their credit cards. Well, truth be told, Caleb was in love with our REI Rewards Visa and was reluctant to let it go. We were really good about using for budgeted monthly expenses and paying it off every single month… For a while.
Recently, we have slacked off and forgotten to make our payments on time, which has caused us to be charged interest and late fees. Ouch! I think we are finding out the hard way that credit cards just aren’t working for us. We plan on cancelling our beloved REI card posthaste.
I hope what we’ve learned will help you on your journey to debt freedom. We certainly have learned the hard way! We are staying parked this summer (even though we have an itch to travel) because we really want to buckle down and get that $10,000 in the bank. It’s going to take a while, but the piece of mind will be so worth it.
Posted on May 4, 2016
It’s been about four months since I’ve written anything on the blog. So sad! Well, I thought I should explain where we’ve been all this time and why it’s taken me so long to get back to writing.
It all started in December, just after my last blog post. I had started a 30-day get dressed challenge for myself. The idea was to stop looking so slobby and, well, it worked. I guess you could say it worked REALLY well because I ended up with more than just my soaring self-esteem (wink,wink).
We found out just after the New Year and will be expecting our third little one in early September. Needless to say, I’ve spent the three months since in survival mode, just trying not to throw up, honestly. Then we had a massive parasite invasion that took the whole family out for a month. Oh, and I got a terrible stomach virus, which took me back to Pukesville for a few days.
Anyway, the tide seems to be turning and we are all feeling well again. I’m about half-way through the pregnancy now and feeling really good. My goal is to get back to writing once a week for the blog. I’ve missed it so much! I hope you’ve missed us too. Stay tuned for more Simpson family adventures!
Posted on April 27, 2016
Ok, there weren’t any literal fires on this trip, but the first 30+ hours weren’t the most delightful. To start, we haven’t been on any trips of significant length since Colorado of last summer, aside from a short weekend trip for one of my trail races just an hour north of where we live.
The trip started off really well, aside from some traffic getting out of Austin, and having to make more pit stops then usual. But then the wheels came off…literally. About 350 miles into our 450 mile trip we started experiencing some vibrations in our steering wheel, which soon turned to a, THUMP THUMP THUMP down the highway.
We pulled over and after some time figured out one of our tires had a huge bulge in it. We were actually relieved, because prior to that I was in the process of calling our insurance company about a tow, and trying to figure out in my mind where I was going to put my family for the night, how we were going to get there, and how in the heck was I going to get my RV back to Austin with a bum truck. I was stressed to the max, all the while my children enjoyed frolicking on the side of the highway without a care in the world. Oh, and to make matters more tense: while stopped on the side of the road we discovered sometime in the past 25 miles our RV awning had popped lose, fully opened and then completely ripped off the RV.
The tire ended up getting taken care of with a little help from that phone number on the back of your drivers license for roadside assistance. They call was routed to the county sheriffs department, that then got the call out to the right person and send a DPS trooper to help out. He didn’t have the tools to change the tire though so called for a wrecker, and about 15 minutes later a guy arrived in a truck and changed the tire in about 10 minutes.
After the tire was changed we had about 100 miles remaining, and all was smooth sailing until we arrived at the RV park in the Guadalupe Mountains: there wasn’t a single RV spot left, except for a TINY spot designated handicapped. But seeing the nightmare roadside experience we just had, I wasn’t about to go hunting for a place to park the RV, especially since we had driven out 60 miles from the last gas station.
So, we made the tiny handicapped spot work, for the night. It was a tough tight fit, but we made it work. This meant that I wasn’t going to be able to go on a long run in the mountains as originally planned. I feared a ranger would come when I was gone and tell my wife we had to move it. I was thankful I stayed behind too; because we were told if another spot had opened up we needed to move.
After we moved the RV to a new location I took the kids out on our first adventure of the weekend. My original secondary plan was to summit Guadalupe Peak, but Kristy was feeling altitude sickness, so she stayed back in the RV to nap. The trailhead to most of the trails in the park was literally 10 yards from our door, which was really nice. I let the kids lead the way, and they chose a trail that lead to a cool rock feature called Devil’s Hall, but unfortunately the kids didn’t make it very far down the trail before they decided they were tired and wanted to turn back. Upon returning to the RV sites I killed some more time with them by playing outside so Kristy could get some more rest.
After Kristy finished her nap we ate some lunch and then put the kids down for their nap. Up until this moment in time I had been Mr. Grumpy Pants: all my friends were off running in the mountains and I wasn’t getting to be there like I wanted. Once the kids were in bed, and Kristy was cozy in her bed I took to the trails. Not having a lot of time I chose an easy 4 mile out and back to Devil’s Hall, which was a really cool cut-out in the rocks, caused by water cutting through it over time. After my romp in the mountains I was in much better spirits and fully ready to spend some time with my family.
We took the kids on a hike that was close to a mile in total; they had lots of fun and enjoyed sitting at just about every bench along the easy paved portion of the trail. The trail was along the foothills of the mountain peaks, which make for some amazing views, and the trail had lots of informational signs about native plants.
The next day was daddy’s, “big day.” I won’t bore you with all the details, but I went on an amazingly beautiful 19 mile run through the mountains that started from the campground and ended at another visitors center and trail head. Kristy and the kids met me there when I was done. When I got there the kids were covered in sand; they had been throwing on each other in the dry washout.
I started the run around 4:30 a.m. and finished up just after 10:30am, I had arrived about an hour earlier than expected, so Kristy was relieved to know she wasn’t going to have to hike the kids back up to the trail head and then back down just to entertain them. So, after spending about 45 minutes in the washout watching the kids play we decided to pack up and head back to the RV for lunch.
The kids, being covered in dirt, enough to fill a sandbox, got showers that afternoon before naps. They also napped really long and hard, and so did I, having been tired from my long run. After everybody awoke from naps it was already pretty late in the day, so we took a quick walk down to the visitors center to kill time and picked up a park map so I could get a better idea of the trails I ran earlier that day.
The next morning got off to a crazy start. I woke up super early again for another trail run, this one to summit Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas: but something wasn’t right… the lights in the RV were not working. I figured it was something wrong with the battery, as we had been having some problems with it throughout the week, so after getting ready for my run I checked the battery to discover one of the connections wasn’t fully on. No big deal I thought, Kristy could just turn on the generator in the morning to get the lights back on and turn on the heat (the heater hadn’t been cutting on due to the thermostat being out).
So, while I was off summiting the tallest peak in Texas, Kristy was trying to figure out why the gas wasn’t coming on, but didn’t realize it was due to the thermostat being dead because of the dead batter, so she snuggled in bed with the kids and read them books, just waiting for my return.
Upon coming out of the trail head the first person I see is Kristy getting back into the RV, I gleefully greet her, as I was excited to see her, but then I saw fire in her eyes. I had no idea what she had been dealing with while I was gone. But after explaining I didn’t think there was anything to worry about because we had the generator, she felt more at ease. I then quickly went to work connecting the battery back up and getting the generator going so we could get it charged back up again, and run the heater if need be.
Having started my run super early, I was back around 8:30 am, which gave us plenty of time to eat breakfast and head off on a family adventure. This time we went to the Frijole Ranch historical museum and hiking trail. At the Ranch there is an old homestead house that is in amazing condition, and it was located right next to a spring that they used to irrigate a nearby orchard. The owners then took their produce and drove 60 miles by wagon over night to the nearest town to sell their delicacies at the market.
After exploring the homestead location for a bit we hiked about a ways down the trail in the foothills to another spring. There were 5 within a 3-mile radius. The hike ended in a poop explosion, when Abby decided that nature was calling (she has no problem answering that call no matter where she is). Due to her poop marathon (it lasted forever) we had to cut the hike short and head back to the RV for lunch and naps.
During the kids naps I was still feeling pretty good and decided to take to the trail again. I hiked up a portion of the Tejas Trail, the one I had done the day before in the dark. So I could see what things looked like in the daylight. I actually ended my hike just above Devil’s Hall – the hike I had done two days prior. So it was really cool to see the cutout in the rock from up high.
Upon returning from the hike I was sufficiently satisfied, having run/hiked 37 miles the entire weekend. Pretty soon after I arrived back and the RV my children woke up and I got them up so that Kristy could nap longer. We played a bit outside, and explored some trails right next to the RV that went to some picnic areas. The rest of the afternoon we spent getting the RV ready for departure the next day.
The next day we had a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call (central time: we had been on mountain time). The goal was to be on the road by on the road by 5 a.m but it didn’t quite happen the way I thought it would. Having pretty much everything secured from the day before, all I should have had to do was back up, attach, and drive away. But with the way this trip had started out I should have known it wouldn’t be so easy.
The RV slot we were in had a severe horizontal and vertical slant, requiring me to raise the RV up really high to elevate it enough to back up and attach. The angle was causing the motorized jack to struggle, for a while I thought it wasn’t going to go up any further. At this point the kids were still sleeping, and by the time I got attached it was time to load them up in the car, but first we had to pull in the slide… CLANK CLANK CLANK CLANK went the ratcheting system that brings in the slide. The severe angle of the lot was too much for the motor to handle (even though our new motor was supposedly the strongest one available).
So, we carefully and slowly pulled the RV around to more level ground and loaded the kids up into the truck, said a prayer, and then hit the button. This time the slide came in without any problems. By this time it was already 6 a.m. central time.
From that point on the trip home went really well, aside from missing the initial turn off just exiting the park, and some heavy rains near Austin. We arrived home with plenty of daylight left to get Thistle parked back in her lot. Heck we even got her backed into the EXACT same position we had her. She was exactly even with the jack blocks I left in the rear as place markers.
This trip was pretty epic, but we had a great time. We are going to be parked here in Austin for quite some time now. We are expecting baby number three in September, and with all the truck repairs and RV repairs coming up we are going to need to stay put for a while. Traveling has been a blast, and really glad we got one last trip in before the next Simpson child comes into this word. But I would venture to guess as well that this will be the youngest Simpson to travel the wide-open roads.
Posted on December 15, 2015
I have come to the slow realization that my personal care has devolved into slobbery. I believe it all started when I had kids and was too tired to think about clothes, so I just wore the same yoga pants day after day. This condition was aggravated by moving into the RV. I have fully embraced the “trailer life” and now regard any personal care routine (including getting dressed) as too cumbersome. I’d rather sit in my hammock and read.
Of course, I have felt little hints that I had taken my relaxed attitude too far (like the time I showed up to bible study in my husband’s sweatpants and a three-day stink), but it wasn’t until my Grandma said something that I really got the message. After all, I’m living the RV life. And no one should care what I look like anyway! What’s on the inside matters most, right?
At first, I didn’t want to change. I didn’t really see the point. I thought people should accept me for who I am and looking sloppy endears me to more “average” people than looking fine and polished. For example, we go to a church where people dress in their Sunday best. My family typically goes in whatever is clean. I hear visitors comment regularly about how dressy our church is, so I feel like we bring some normalcy and approachability to the group.
However, I was recently convicted (thanks, Grandma) by the idea that God deserves our very best. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and should have our highest honor and attention. What is my sloppy appearance saying about my heart? I fear that it’s saying, “I don’t care that much. My comfort is more important than my worship.”
As I thought more about this, I realized there are so many layers within my decision to dress sloppily: Laziness, comfort, deflection, rebellion… I could go on and on. None of my reasons, however, matched up with my faith and who I really want to be… like Christ.
So…. I am entering a self-imposed 30-day challenge to get dressed every morning in an actual outfit (not pajamas or workout clothes). That’s it! I know it sounds simple, but it’s just the habit I need right now. I would love your encouragement too, as this is hard for me. Thanks, friends!
Posted on November 7, 2015
I love our tiny RV. I love the lifestyle living small affords us. And If you live in a big ‘ol house, I don’t judge you one bit. Sometimes I get the feeling that this whole tiny house movement has made people a little judgey – Like the size of your home is inversely proportional to the size of your heart. Well, I’m here to tell you that ain’t true! And I have a great story from this week to illustrate my point:
Tomatoes, Tornadoes, and Volcanoes...
If you live in Texas, as we do, you will remember that the day before Halloween was rife with freakish storms. That morning, Caleb went to work as the rain was pouring down. I had plans to visit a friend who lives nearby. Just as I was clearing off the breakfast dishes, I found out there was a tornado warning issued for my immediate area. I quickly stuffed some necessities in a bag, grabbed my kids and ran to the truck.
The rain was falling so hard that I was drenched after running ten feet. We headed for my friends house to take shelter. The roads were already flooding and I was so thankful to be driving the Beast (our Ford F-250). When we arrived, my friend and her kids were in the bathroom, hunkered down watching episodes of Daniel Tiger on the iPhone. My kids and I joined them and there we stayed for half an hour or so until the tornado warning expired.
While huddled in the humid bathroom, our kids started talking about what was happening with the weather. As Abby understood it, we were hiding from a tomato. Levi asserted that it was in fact a volcano. I could not help but laugh thinking that the present danger was in fact somewhere between a benign fruit and a deadly explosion.
We stayed for a few hours after the danger had passed. But when we tried to leave for home around lunchtime, I found that the main road was closed due to flooding and several trees were down. So I turned the truck around and we once again sought refuge from my friend. By then I was completely exhausted, with a pounding headache and an emo-stink that could put a skunk to shame.
Once we got the kids down for a nap, my friend let me take a bath in her garden tub. Ahhh! I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to soak my cares and headache (not to mention my stink) away. A bath is one of those luxuries my RV life just does not provide, and it makes me sad. That’s why I am so glad I have friends with houses…and bathtubs!
I love that my friends with big houses invite me over for play dates on rainy days so my kids don’t go crazy. I love it when they let me hide there when tomatoes or volcanoes strike. I am so thankful to have friends with such generous spirits. So don’t believe the hype, people in big house can also have big hearts. I know my friends do!