Rig-loo

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,
but look what they can do
when they stick together!!” -Author Unknown

I am not one to pray for snow. I think it’s pretty when I’m looking out of my parents’ house; me inside with a fire, a good book, a dog to pet, and a blanket. I can totally appreciate how beautiful it is in the trees and creating a blank covering for all of the ground’s imperfections. And I HATE to be cold and wet! I’d rather be hot, dripping sweat, eating some ice cream than need to wear layers and layers of clothing to stay alive. By the way, I hate shoes and shoes are necessary in the snow. Many in my life can attest to my aversion to foot coverings. Again, I like pretty shoes, but rarely wear them. If it was up to me, I’d go barefoot everywhere.

I digress. Snow has not been something I longed for in the past. This is the first winter in my adult life that I was truly happy when we got snow. It wasn’t about the cold or the beauty that I was happy to see it come. It wasn’t about snowmen, snow angels, or snowshoeing. While those things are fun, I still prefer a treadmill, a board game, or a good book.

My longing for snow this year was purely rational; it is free insulation. God showers us with these miniscule pieces of ice. You’d think frozen water would make everything colder. The funny thing about this is that you can stick together these little pieces of ice to make a big fluffy pack of it. When stuck together, snow creates a great heat (or rather cold) barrier. It keeps the heat where it is and keeps the cold out of the heat. As long as it’s cold outside, the outside will stay cold enough to maintain the snow. As long as it’s warm inside, the warmth will be held in by said snow.

That’s what we’ve been banking on. Our skirting is good; our tarps are thick. We added plastic to the inside and outside of our windows. We added foam to the inside of cabinets. We even added Reflectix to our windows, vents, and walls. All of that costs money, so we couldn’t go hog wild on all of it. Now, snow is what we really needed and finally got last week. We shoveled it up and on top of itself to add wind barrier, as well as hold some of the heat in. The heater inside the RV went on half as much that night and less each night that we added more snow.

When we posted a picture of The Girl Next Door last week in an RV group, someone said “It’s a rigloo!” That got us to thinking, “Don’t indigenous peoples have a smart idea with the igloo? Let’s see what we can do with that.” We packed down the snow some, which helped even more.

Today, Jeremy got the best idea. He grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and started shoveling and packing. The 5 gallon bucket offers a consistent shape and size “brick” with a flat top so that we can put the next level on top. Hopefully, in a few more weeks, we’ll be able to really have a wall all the way around us, preventing wind and heat loss. While we’ve had it up as high as 80 degrees inside, we had all three heaters going to do it. I’m hoping we can really ride out the rest of this winter in style once the rigloo is complete.

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In other news, Jeremy had a bit of a run-in with the local wildlife last night. On his way home a whitetail decided to jump out in front of his car. The Buick got some damage to the front end, but the deer got the worse end of that stick. She didn’t make it.

And in good news this week, Jeremy also started his practice rounds for his new bodywork modality. It’s called Watsu as a play on the land bodywork therapy called shiatsu and adding water to it. In all reality, this therapy uses the healing properties of water with the resistance created in motion to promote relaxation and rehabilitation. In short, it’s exactly what Jeremy’s been looking for. His clients seem to be enjoying it too. One of his clients is who turned him onto learning this new therapy. Now he can’t get enough. He’s started training and part of training is practice. We’re excited to see where this goes.

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I’ve been supporting Jeremy in his athletic endeavors as well. He is off on his second fat bike race right now. Today is much warmer than his last race. The risk today is the ice on the trail. I’m praying that no one takes a severe fall because of slick spots. The last race was -14ºF. Everyone had ice on them at some point; Jeremy was no exception. Jeremy even went out one night a while back and tried running a little bit. Just as frozen; no thanks.

All-in-all, we’re doing well. With just the two of us in the RV again, we’re having to rearrange some organization again. More in the cupboards means more to keep the cold out, so we spread our stuff into the edges of the cabinets, hoping for more snow to add to the rigloo. So, start praying for snow for us and we’ll see you on the road.

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Dumb Things People Say

Stepmom Magazine is a digital magazine that has had an impact on my life. I never subscribed to it, but I have seen articles and videos here and there that have helped me. I have stepmom friends who have been subscribed to it. They printed it out and read the whole thing, then shared it with the rest of our group to help someone else. It’s been immeasurably helpful to many many stepmoms, often keeping second and third families together.

A blended family can be a mix of first, second, third, and even 4th families. A first family is when an unmarried and never married person marries someone of similar marital past. They have children together and raise said children together. A second or even third or 4th family is a family created after a divorce, especially if there are children involved. Ours is a first/second/third family. I am on my first marriage as Jeremy’s second wife; his ex wife is married to her third husband.

Someone who hasn’t experience being in one of these situations has no idea what the participants go through. I am in part of this family, but I can’t even imagine what Jeremy’s ex or her new husband go through in their part of our family. Every little bit is different, making roles hard to navigate and communication tough to keep up with.

The most common thing that happens to those of us that are on the inside of a blended family is criticism. We get it from each other, from others in the family, and from outsiders. The outsiders part is really the most irritating. The people that are part of the family have a right to have feelings about what I do or say. Those of you not involved in it do not have any right to criticize. Even if you have had a blended family, you don’t know our exact situation.

That said, I know that many of you love people in blended families. You want to help and offering support or advice can be helpful. Sometimes, you don’t really understand what you’re saying though. This is a topic that has been addressed over and over again in the Stepmom magazine. Just in the time I’ve known about it, I’ve seen this topic addressed 2 different ways on the screen. One video is one that came up today for me on social media as a memory. I posted it 2 years ago.

Here is the video: 5 Dumbest Things People Say

Although they may be a little harsh, some of these original statements feel pretty harsh too. I still feel this way about most of these things people say:

#1- Like saying “You knew there were grizzly bears in the forest” or “You knew that cars get in crashes sometimes”… just because someone has kids doesn’t mean you knew how complicated that would be or what wrenches could possibly be thrown in by other people.
#2- Does anyone ever really “need” to have children? The point is that if she wants children or not has nothing to do with whether he already has them.
#3- I’d like to hear you say that to adoptive & foster parents and see how you come out… Here’s some protective headgear.
#4- Because love is just based on being nice… right? Oh… it’s not? Good, that explains the massive loyalty issues, love/hate complications, and painful baggage that my stepchildren have to deal with. It’s not about being nice, no matter how much you try.
#5- My horns are under this cute hairdo…

Read the comments of the video too. You might get some good feedback on how your “help” might be perceived.

Some things you CAN say to help when a stepmom is frustrated and needs to vent to you:

#1- That sounds really complicated. Can you tell me more about how you’re feeling on this?

#2- How are you feeling about his kids? Are you planning to have your own? How do you want to involve your step kids?

#3- Just listen and ask open ended questions. Advice isn’t always necessary. Comments on “parental status” aren’t necessary either. One question that may be helpful is “This is all really hard stuff to navigate. How much parenting do you feel you want to be doing in this situation?”

#4- Tough love is often hard to do, especially if you don’t get supported by all parents involved. Here, have another glass of tea/wine/coffee/etc.

#5- You look great today, despite all of the hard stepparenting work you’ve been doing. Nice job, lady.

If you must comment on these things, there are better options than criticism or assumptions. You can do it, I know you can. I’ve had some great support from people who previously were not so good at it. Communication and listening are a big part of that.

So, keep supporting your loved ones through their struggles and we’ll see you on the road.

A little RV update today: We are plenty warm. In fact, it was 80 degrees inside the other day when it was -20 degrees outside. Win! We’ve done some double insulating on things you’ve never thought of adding insulation to. We’re looking forward to even more time living in the Girl Next Door. How’d you weather the storm?

Frozen Tundra

The Green Bay Packers football team plays their home games on a field that is lovingly referred to as “The Frozen Tundra”. There’s a good reason for this; Wisconsin is a very cold place to be.

We live in this very cold place because of family and jobs. Jason has friends.  I have a job doing production support for a high-end personal care product company. Jeremy has a stable client base. His parents live less than 30 minutes from where we are parked and Jason”s mom is about 45. The people and the jobs are important reasons for us to stay.

Living here is not extremely hard if you have 8 inches of insulation and double pain windows to protect you from the frigid elements. Wisconsin temperatures regularly drop to double digits below zero in the coldest parts of the year. The wind regularly reaches 20 miles an hour. Each year,  the place we are parked averages betweenbetween 50-100 inches of snow in season. This is the reality we are lookin at for the next 6 months.

For these reasons,  we have to insulate extra and find good reliable safe heating sources. For insulation,  we used mostly 2 inch foam board.  We have it in a makeshift wall that covers our largest window,  all around the skirting, and stuffed in the cabinets. We also have plastic wrap and reflectix for the windows. The reflectix alai helps with the vents. We bought a set of insulated curtains and hung them between the cockpit and the living room, making the cockpit into a storage area that’s 4 degrees colder than the living space. We even have a reflectix wrapped foam piece to put in front of the door when we are sleeping. We also placed a tarp over all of the skirting and the whole front end to keep out the wind.

Heat sources are a constant topic with RVers in the Midwest. For us,  we use a ceramic heater under our skirting and warm incandescent light bulbs in our tank bay, as well as the refrigerator compartment. We have a small electric heater that runs most of the time in the winter that sits in the kitchen. We have heated blankets for our beds. We will be baking and cooking on the stovetop regularly. We have one Mr. Buddy propane heater that we use only while we are awake to bring the whole place to a comfortable temperature.  Sometimes I’m awake at 2 a.m. for this reason alone.

While we do have a furnace that is built in to our rig, we have opted not to use it. We waited too long this summer to find someone to do a tune up and the furnace has exterior vents. We want to keep anything that goes outside closed if we can to limit the heat loss. Wealso want direct control of all heating sources and energy drains. A concern with RV living is carbon monoxide poisoning and propane furnaces are high on the risk scales.  So we have chosen to eliminate the use of this comfort in favor of things we only use consciously.

We also have a back up plan.  In the case that our current plan fails or it is far too cold for these measures to keep up, we have a house we can go into.  The place where we are parked sits in the driveway of a good friend of ours. They have included in our winter lease that we can come in the house if it gets too cold outside. Since this is our first full winter in The Girl Next Door, the house option takes a huge anxiety off our minds.

So,  to recap, we are not going south because we need to pay our bills and we don’t want to “just get an apartment for the winter”. We want to see how this works for us for at least a full year.  Being in our own home is important to us. This is the home we decided to try. Stay warm,  my friends,  and we will see you on the road.

We Needed a Wall

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.”–Donald Trump via azquotes.com

This post has nothing to do with politics. Although, it was a great great wall with a “UUUUGE” beautiful door in it. All kidding aside, we did build 2 walls this weekend.

You see, we’re living in the Midwest for the winter. In an RV, this takes on a whole new set of challenges. The insulation that’s put in RVs aren’t exactly created to help with -30ºF. They’re thrown together to replace your typical tent during camping.

There are RVs that are 4 season RVs. That means the bottom is enclosed, they may have extra high insulation compared to other RVs, and some even have built in skirting to prevent wind from getting underneath. Our RV is a “vintage” model, meaning it’s over 25 years old. There weren’t very many Arctic packages back then for RVs. It is called a 4 season model, so the bottom is enclosed and insulated, but it’s 25 year old insulation. Taking extra precautions is a must.

This lead us to add some insulation to our walls and windows. Each window, before the next few weeks are out, will get plastic added. 22199178_1976654349237254_176131283_o

All of our windows have already had some reflectix wrapped styrofoam insulation board made to be held in place with velcro.

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We even added some 2″ foam board with a wooden frame to cover one large window and one fairly open wall.

Well, Jeremy and Jason built the wall with Jeremy’s parents. I took care of creating meals and not knowing how to help.

On top of that, we expanded our cabinets by removing some unnecessary compartments for wires, along with adding the foamboard insulation in every cabinet. You can kind of see the insulation in them on the above pictures.

Jeremy picked up a few batteries off of craigslist for a pretty good deal. We also found evidence of some animal visitors, some of which we hope do not return. The cat is welcome back anytime.

All in all, it was a very productive weekend. We are getting more and more ready for winter every day. Hoping to get on the road to move closer to my job and Jason’s school within the next few weeks, so that’s when we’ll see you on the road.

Working on the Weekends

“These are homes that are under constant earthquake conditions and thus subject to more wear and tear through normal use.”–Cherie Ve Ard,”The Sucky Sides of RVing: 10 Things We Hate about Full Time RVing”, Technomadia

I know I haven’t written enough lately. As a result, this is a very photo congested entry, so give it time to load. It’s hard to focus on anything when you work full time on the weekdays, then spend so much of the weekend wearing yourself out. Jeremy and I haven’t been working at our office every day for the past month, but we haven’t exactly taken any days off.

The Girl Next Door wasn’t perfect when we found her; she’s not even really perfect now. However, now she is mostly sealed on the roof and ready to have windows put back in, brakes repaired, and exhaust replaced. Here in is the essence of optimism: we HAVE to focus on all the major work we got done or the mound of work we’re looking at moving forward will overwhelm us.

This started out as a very simple resealing project. It was in our budget’s best interest if we took care of this ourselves. The sweat equity in her hull and our home will help us really feel at home in this space, even if it’s horribly cold or feels too small.

Speaking of cold, we live in Wisconsin, so doing this outside wasn’t even an option. This is why we are really blessed to have friends. One of our friends rented us a large bay in his repair shop at Somerset Auto Salvage and Repair. Being inside a heated garage was invaluable to us, even though it will cost us some once we figure out the shop hours we’ve put in.

We thought we would take the old lap sealant off of the roof, scrape off some putty, and replace it all with newer, better sealant options.

We removed vents and began scraping off the icky, sticky putty and sealant. Things were going quicker than we expected at first. It helped that we had many extra hands. Jeremy’s parents, Lisa & Tom, and our close friend, Erin, all came to help us with the first day of deconstruction (and what we thought would be the beginning of reconstruction).

As Jeremy and Tom removed vents and trim, Lisa scraped the putty and old sealant off of them. Erin and I worked at removing the remnants from the actual roof. There were scrapers, putty knives, razor blades, and screwdrivers involved, along with a rotary sander and some mineral spirits. The hallway vent was removed and exposed a dirty secret: rotten wood. We had known there was a leak in the shower vent. We had been hopeful after finding no mold in the shower wall that there might not be any need to destroy more of the walls and wood. We were wrong. After finding the rotten vent hole, we knew we needed to remove the whole roof to replace the rotten pieces of plywood. Thus began a HUGE undertaking that has, so far, taken us 3 weekends.

We had to remove all of the screws, every piece of equipment attached to the roof, and even tarp The Girl Next Door over the week between the first and second weekends. In the process, we replaced rusty screws, broken vent caps, and the screens on the vent covers. Lisa was a champ at cleaning putty off of trim, vents, and vent covers; she spent about 90% of the time doing just that. Friday-Monday of our supposed “staycation” 4-day weekend, we worked on The Girl Next Door. Jeremy said “I need to go back to work just to get a break.”

We even worked on it at Tom & Lisa’s house for a while on Sunday, since we couldn’t get enough garage time. At the end of the first Saturday, we had everything removed,  and the roof ready to take off. By Monday afternoon, we had finished removing the roof, fixing the plywood, adding some HomeGuard building wrap , and putting the roof back on. We tarped her and put her in the yard for the week while we all went back to work at our day jobs.

In the process of removing the roof, we found we needed to lift the upper part of the cab to release the aluminum. To get it to hinge upward, Jeremy had to remove the windows. As he removed them, he found that the interior walls had some wet wood. It isn’t enough to be concerned the way we were with the Shower, sweet, shower post. We think it probably came from being tarped at Lisa & Tom’s for the last few months. No matter how the water got there, it needed to be removed. Our overhead windows came out and the wall on the front cap came down. More scraping on the windows happened at home.

Jeremy and I showed up very early on the next Saturday. We untarped The Girl Next Door in the dark. Once we got inside, we scraped more on the roof, reinsulated the cap with 6 cans of Great Stuff, and started the resealing process. Jeremy also added the leftover housewrap under the cap to add some extra water resistance.

We decided to go with Eternabond for our resealing. This stuff sticks to EVERYTHING. Thankfully, we had done some research and knew this already. It’s kind of a hybrid between butyl/putty tape and a smooth backed packing tape. From the reviews we’ve seen, this stuff isn’t going to leak or need replacing for quite some time. It is also very easy to get straight lines with it.

Eventually, everything went back on during the second Monday. The tape is pretty compared to the ill-conceived silicone that was on top of the original lap sealant and butyl tape. Really, if you’re working on an RV or camper PLEASE DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD SILICONE! It was hell to get it off and it cracked in multiple places. That’s not something you want with a house under constant earthquake conditions. We got all of the seals closed up with the Eternabond and all of the vents back onto the roof. So far, we have a total of 33 shop hours in the last 2 weekends. This weekend, we are planning to get back at it again for a few hours Friday, maybe a little on Saturday, and hopefully a few hours Monday morning.

Eventually, all of the major problems will be fixed. We are lucky that we found the rot when we did. Starting out knowing that The Girl Next Door is put together right is going to be a bit load off of our mind throughout at least the next few months, longer if we decide this is definitely the life for us and stay in her for another few years. The peace of mind will be worth it. Either way, be sure to check for leaks everyone and we’ll see you on the road.