Russellville, Part 2: The rest of the stuff

December 25 – January 9

After Christmas we still had a couple of weeks at my parents house. Clay had flown down from Chicago, so we all got to enjoy lots of family time. In keeping with usual Arkansas winters, we had some days in the 60’s for bike riding or hiking Brad’s loop trail, and other days in the teens for huddling by the fireplace by day and working to keep Stumbo’s pipes from freezing by night.

Always lots of fun things to discover on Brad’s loop trail through the family property.
Puzzlin’ with Pappy
Mauli loved having the girls around to offer some extra attention.
It was such a bizarre experience to go from this grand journey we’ve been on for the past 4 months, seeing so many completely new places, and interacting with so few people outside of our immediate family…to being around extended family and friends nearly 24/7 in a place that has been familiar to 3/4 of us since birth. Brad & I both had used the phrase “it feels like we are on a break from our adventure” multiple times.

We are firm believers that the way you choose to frame an experience with your words shapes your perception, which in turn greatly informs the reality you are facing any moment. For example, Brad has long been insulted anytime I’ve made comments to the affect of “I’m really sick today. I bet you’ll have it tomorrow.” In Brad’s opinion, I more or less give him the sickness in that very moment of planting that potential reality in both our minds. I used to be skeptical, but over the years I feel like I’ve definitely seen the “power of positive thinking” play out in our lives. One of our favorite quotes about this is also a book title that we frequently say to each other: “You Are What You Think”. (Brad actually read the book. I feel like I probably got the gist of it from reading the front cover.) We also listened to a really interesting On Being podcast recently where a psychologist was interviewed about mindfulness because it’s a concept she has been studying since the 70’s – before it was cool. She doesn’t study it like many do as something tied to meditation or yoga, but simply as the act of actively, intentionally noticing new things in the world around you. Her studies have revealed amazing affects that stem from the way you think about things.  In one study a group of chambermaids were taught to think of their constant on-the-job movement as exercise instead of work, and without changing anything else they lost weight.  I’ve also been known on occasion to channel my inner motivational gym poster to tell my kids, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”. 

All that to say – whether we experienced it first or said it first is nearly indistinguable. But we don’t like the feeling that these weeks with family & friends are a step out of our “adventure”. So we are very intentionally trying to keep the adventure alive as we wait out the winter in these states, and a huge part of that is in how we talk about it and label it.  Brad calls it “the tourist mindset” that we are trying to maintain even though we are in familiar places. We’ve tried to accomplish this in Arkansas by visiting new places like Central High School National Historic Site and also by revisiting old places with fresh eyes like the Arkansas State Capitol Building, the Discovery Museum, and Lake Dardanelle State Park.

Sunny playing with bright colors at the Little Rock Discovery Museum.
fun with liquid nitrogen
Coral especially enjoyed the 4 & under part of the Discovery Museum.
I could have watched the magnetic dust dance on electromagnets to the programmed songs all day…

making circuits with copper tape
http://youtu.be/2FavPcO34GI

We have had such an amazing time at each of the museums we’ve had to pleasure of visiting, but it’s started to be a little funny how many exhibits are starting to look VERY familiar!

We just happened to walk into the Central Arkansas Nature Center 10 minutes before the weekly alligator feeding. It turns out that Arkansas is the only state without a coastline that has alligators!
This face doesn’t do justice for how much fun the girls had doing a scavenger hunt for all these different animals at the Nature Center.
Uncle Clay taught us about the Little Rock Nine when we visited Central High School. 1957 wasn’t that long ago, y’all.
Across town we saw this sculpture of the Little Rock Nine in front of the Arkansas Capitol Building.
Jr. Ranger Badges at Central High School National Historic Site. These were by far the most difficult Junior Ranger books so far, but they started some good conversations.
Arkansas State Capitol Building It’s a scale replica of the US Capitol, so it’s often used as a filming location.
The lovely marble hallways and staircases were all decorated for the season. Even though we’ve visited so many cities on this trip and learned lots of state capitals, we realized here that Little Rock is the only capital city the girls have been to so far.
Turtle friends at the Lake Dardanelle State Park Visitors Center.
We love it when unsupervised children are allowed to pick up the wildlife!
This makes me feel guilty…like maybe I’ve personally consumed the entire life’s work of about one million bees.
We spent one long afternoon running out some extra winter-time energy at Tom E. Tiger, a gym full of inflatables in Russellville.
So that’s how we tried to fill our days in the Russellville area as they slipped by in that bizarre way they do when you suddenly have less to keep you busy than normal. No unhooking or hooking up the trailer. No cross-country drives. No trying to figure out where the closest grocery store is located, hauling dirty clothes to the laundromat, or packing yet ANOTHER picnic lunch the night before a full day trip. The days were slow but the weeks flew by in a matter of minutes. We jumped from day 100 on the road to day 150, and it’s crazy how differently those 50 days passed than the first 2/3 of our journey.

We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve with sweet friends in Springfield, MO. This was the first time Brad & I had been away from the girls since last summer! Both the great time with friends and the break from parenting were welcome ways to spend the last minutes of 2016.
Exploring the pasture on a sunny day.
The girls love hiding in this grass that’s taller than them.
We had the great joy of a rare Arkansas snow day! It wasn’t particularly good for snowballs or snowmen….but we made do.
The whole point of this route was avoiding snow, but it’s like these monkeys didn’t even care about our plan! I lived in this area for 21 years and only saw this much snow a handful of times. Good thing we had at least packed rain boots.
 

Snow Day in an RV. At least we don’t have to shovel the driveway!
We had the chance to meet up with one of my best childhood friends and her daughters. Spending the afternoon making new connections and rekindling old ones was wonderful.
So if you talk with me in the near future and ask how the trip is going, and you get the response that “it feels like we’re on a break from our Adventure right now”, then please be sure to gently remind me that “You Are What You Think”.  And I’ll probably say, “I don’t know what you’re implying because I haven’t read that book.”

As a closing thought, I want to share that my mantra these days is GRATEFULNESS. Anytime I start to feel any other emotion about this adventure – guilt or fear or impatience or worry or like it’s a self-indulgent exercise, I try to turn away from any of those thoughts and return to “I am grateful”.  I’m still so overwhelmingly amazed that we are actually experiencing this year on the road that we talked about and dreamed about for so long. This opportunity that I never really thought would be a reality finally is, and it’s going by way too fast. I’m so grateful that we were able to align all of the logistical details to make it real, and I’m so grateful for all of the people we have in our life that have supported us – whether by installing RV hookups in their front yard or just replying to a facebook post or something in between…we have so much love in our lives and it moves mountains.

3 Comment

  1. Marie Scanlon says: Reply

    you write with such honesty; i love it. you are what you think….i’m going to remember that more often. 😘

  2. Janet Clark says: Reply

    This is a Wonderful Family Experience! Enjoy Your Adventure, Let the Lord lead , God Bless your Journey!😊

  3. Brenda says: Reply

    Ok, yes you hooked me on the magnetic dust dancers! Mesmerizing!
    So happy your journey included Arkansas. I know your family was delighted to have you here!

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