Visiting Quartz Mountain, OK

During the months of March and April we camped near Lawton, OK and got to do some hiking/exploring at a few very neat spots. Our first outing was to Quartz Mountain State Park. It wasn’t far from where we had set up camp and the drive there was rather pleasant. Not a lot of traffic, nice roads and easy to find.

When we arrived we saw a couple nice RV camp sites and cabins as well. The park was very clean and didn’t have a lot of traffic. Our destination was the lake so we drove just a little bit further.

Jennie “fishing” at the Lake Altus-Lugert

The lake has a really interesting history. It’s fairly new and made by a dam. Until 1947 it was the location of the town of Lugert. And the town wasn’t there for very long before it got flooded. It was founded in 1901 by Austrian immigrant Frank Lugert when the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation opened for settlement. The town had a population of about 400 at its peak and Mr Lugert ran the post office, general store and train depot. Everything was great until the town was hit by a tornado on April 27, 1912 and 41 of the 42 business buildings were swept away. The town continued to exist until 1947 when the W.C. Austin damn was completed for the Lugert-Altus irrigation system and water soon covered the townsite. When you’re at the lake shore you might be able to catch a glimpse of some brick foundations of buildings, depending on how high or low the water is. Either way, it is a nice place to visit and to spend a few hours or even a weekend.

If you are looking to go there and want to camp, they have five camping areas with over 200 total campsites, eight cabins and a lodge for you to stay. There are hiking trails, swimming beaches, boat docks and other activities for everyone to enjoy.

Camping and traveling with a toddler while potty training

If you’re traveling with a little one in diapers you already have a lot to pack. But I always thought I’d have to pack so much less once we started potty training. Boy, was I wrong!

To make the potty training experience as easy and stress free as possible I found a few things that would help us. And everything I bought I purchased not only with every day use at home, but also with the camper and our frequent road trips in mind. I believe that made a big difference on our way to success.

First of all, it helped to let Jennie pick and choose things from options we gave her. Being involved made her feel like she was in charge and she was very eager to get started!

The number one item you’ll need is either a potty seat or a potty chair. We actually bought both. Camper toilets aren’t usually your average toilet size like you would have at home so the seats are different, too. I found this foldable toilet seat on Amazon and thought it was perfect for us, as it can be used on pretty much any toilet seat and makes public bathroom stops a little easier on this germaphobic mom over here! You can find the seat HERE. It comes in three colors and with a neat little plastic bag that fits in a pouch where you can also stick some disinfectant wipes. Perfect for your diaper bag or purse!

The potty chair that I decided to purchase for traveling I found at Walmart. at only about $14 it was a good deal and it being by Summer Infant it was a brand I knew. What really sold me on it thought is the fact that it has a lid that closes (which also makes it usable as a step stool!!), a removable seat (you can use it without the chair) and a tray that catches their “business”. Until I found a good deal on potty liners I used up the leftover diapers by lining the tray with them, clicking the potty seat over them to securely hold them in place and when they’re done it is a super easy clean up! I thought it was perfect as Jennie’s travel potty and so far it did not disappoint! Another plus us that it fit in our backseat of either one of our vehicles and perfectly fits into the bathroom in our camper! Space can be an issue and this little potty blends in very well for us without anyone tripping over it etc. It also is available in two colors. You can find it HERE on Walmart’s website! The potty liners I”ve been using I purchased on Amazon, find them HERE.

Now, lets talk car seat protection. This is another very important thing to think about and prepare yourself for. Because there is a very high chance that there will be accidents in the beginning!! And trust me, you do NOT want to have to wash your car seat all the time. They are a major pain to take apart and put back together, at least in most cases. We own the Chicco NextFit and the seat liner I found doesn’t slide in our seat (I was worried about that for safety reasons) and has survived several washes already (told you, there would be accounts!) I purchased a two-pack so I would always have one ready to be used in case another one would be in the wash. From what I read about them they should fit almost any car seat. They’re sold on Amazon, you can find them HERE.

Lastly, here are some other items and tips that have helped us with potty training Jennie in general. Letting her pick out her own underwear was a big thing to get her started as well as finding the right bribe to use as a reward for successfully using the bathroom! Several princess dresses had been purchased on Amazon and at Walmart as they had the best “cheap” items out there. Because no one wants to spend a fortune on “potty presents”… The Dollar Store has also been a great place to find little rewards and presents! You can get so many items like stickers, sticker books, little toys, coloring books etc. Some kids may prefer candies or snacks over that but other than mini marshmallows here and there we stuck to small toys and other items that could easily travel with us.

I hope this article will help you on your quest to potty train your toddler. May the odds be ever in your favor!

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Why we began documenting our travels and started a YouTube Channel

When we first started traveling together in “The Turd” we began taking photos and videos mainly to keep family and friends updated via a group text and also to have a few snapshots for ourselves. But it didn’t take us more than the first day with Dale on our big trip when we decide to take as many photos and videos because we had a feeling this would be the trip of our lifetime.

From the camper needing repairs and little tweaks every few days to us experiencing a new place together to Jennie learning a new word on the road, trying a new food or popping yet another tooth. So many firsts for all of us and many things to document. So, when we arrived at the Grand Canyon (post to follow!) we had decided to start a YouTube channel when we are home and began documenting the remainder of the trip as best as we could.

From watching a lot of videos and subscribing to several camping/RV life channels we had gotten an idea of what to prepare ourselves for before we set off on that maiden voyage of “The Rolling Turd Seven”. So another reason we wanted to get started was to help others that might be looking to get into camping like we did.

Furthermore, there are so many people that may not have had the chance to go traveling to all the places we have been to and it may give some good ideas for things to do, things not to do and also some ideas for sights and places off the beaten path.

So, I will be posting more blog posts about our big 2017 trip, continuing with our visit at the Grand Canyon. And if you’d like to visit out YouTube channel you can do so HERE! Please subscribe, let us know what you think and what you’d like to see next. Thank you!

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What to expect when camping with your children and/or pets

Camping with little ones is so much fun, but it also comes with its challenges. From dealing with their nap and bedtime routines on the road, them adjusting to sleeping arrangements in the RV to things like teething or sickness while traveling. Not to mention potty training! Then add pets and their possible issues. It certainly never gets boring!

I think the most amount of gear I pack for anyone is for Jennie, followed by the dogs. I always travel with at least three extra days of clothing for her because, well, she’s a toddler. They get messy as soon as you turn our back on them! But, that’s a part of having fun and making memories on the road!

So, if you’re considering to go camping with your children and they’re anywhere between baby and pre-potty trained toddler, you are going to want to bring A LOT of diapers. Because for some reason it feels like we went through almost twice as many diapers as we were at home. We also never travel without things like infant/children Motrin, Ibuprofen, cough medicine (we love Zarbees), rubbing alcohol and Benadryl. Because chances are that you’ll need at least one of them. And don’t forget the bandaids! Those are just the bare necessities you should have on hand, besides the foods and snacks.

Things that happened to us was stuff like Jennie working on not one but eight teeth while on our 5 week vacation in 2017. We went through our ibuprofen we brought along from home and then some. The poor little thing didn’t catch a teething break for months back then. On top of that we dealt with extreme temperatures due to a heat wave and our generator ran basically 24/7, which didn’t help with Jennie’s sleep on the road. Most of the nights she ended up sleeping with us, which didn’t help my sleep either haha! At least daddy, who did all of the driving, got to sleep! Thankfully this was just a phase with the poor sleeping for Miss Jennie, mostly due to the teething, I’m sure.

How did this not wake him up?!

We still had to deal with the heat outside and planned our outings not only around her nap time but also the hourly temperatures. Depending on where you go, you’ll need to make sure to know what to expect weather wise ahead of time, it will make everything so much easier during the trip! Hiking and exploring in mid to late morning as well as late afternoon worked best for us. Not just for Jennie but also for the dogs. It was important make sure the ground we intended to hike on wasn’t too hot for them and there was enough shade. A foldable water bowl for them as well as extra water was also always packed. Oh, and the Benadryl. NEVER camp without it if you have pets. Our three girls were quite inquisitive on our big trip, like most dogs are. And on one particular occasion they got into something that caused an allergic reaction/irritation on all three dogs. But Echo, our special baby, had it worst because her skin was sensitive to begin with. All I can say is that I was so happy we had an extra bottle of Benadryl for just them. We were in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception and no town nearby when this happened. Thankfully after two doses she almost looked like her normal self again. But it took a full 24 hrs for the swelling to go away completely.

Now, don’t let this scare you away from going camping with your two and four legged family members!! I am telling you all those things so that you know of the things that can happen and can take them in stride, being prepared for them and know what to expect. Every single camping trip was fantastic in its own way, no matter where we went. Because the most important thing is to always make the best of every situation.

Part of that is that you’ll also want to prepare yourself for rainy days, or days where it is simply too hot to be outside. If you’re a family that can be entertained by TV with movies etc, great! Jennie gets bored with TV fast and we always travel with a handful of toys she picks out herself. Something I always pack are laminated activity sheets (homeschool supplies for preschool), paper and crayons & watercolor, plastic table cloth for crafts, glue, craft paper, popsicle/craft sticks, pompoms, pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes etc. Whatever it takes to keep her happy and entertained when weathered out works for us. And it is fun for the grown ups, too!

Back to dog supplies before I finish up! We found that crib mattresses for our Great Danes work really well in the camper. Our old rig had a jackknife couch that we let the dogs have, and that was perfect. But we don’t have that option in our new one, so we had to get a little creative wit the space we have. The sheets for them are easy to wash and we also have an array of doggie blankets and towels we travel with. Other things you should think of are plenty of waste bags, maybe an extra leash or two, tie out cables/leashes, a crate (if it fits), brushes, clippers, shampoo and pet wipes. That’s our standard “suitcase’ our pups travel with, minus the crates because they’re just too darn big for our rig!

So, I hope this little article will be helpful to you. Feel free to share!

Below are a few snapshots from traveling with Jennie and the dogs. Wonderful memories were made alongside of messes, even though someone got sick here or there, it was only a short period of time and then we turned it around and made something good out of it. I hope you enjoy your next camping trip, or maybe it will be your first!

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Living (and Traveling) with Post Partum Depression and Anxiety

I thought long and hard if I should write this post as I have never opened up about my struggles with PPD and anxiety other than my closest family and a handful of friends that had dealt with the same or similar struggles. But May is mental health awareness month, so here I am, telling you a little bit about myself.

Before I get into PPD, let me backtrack a little to how it all started. My first struggles with anxiety and depression began in my late teens and lasted throughout my early twenties. I am still not exactly sure what triggered them other than being in an unhealthy relationship. But over the first year of my depression it had gotten so bad that I started to lose weight, A LOT of weight. I had never had that “perfect weight” to that point and, especially being a teenage girl, it can be hard. You’re mad fun of, you’re trying to fit in and find yourself. When I started to lose weight I suddenly got compliments on my figure, I started to fit into those skinny jeans I always wanted to wear. At first, it felt good. But the weight loss didn’t stop. Because I didn’t eat. Now, I would “eat” in front of others but your body can’t store what it needs on half a sandwich, an apple and some chocolate every day. I kept telling myself and others that I don’t have a problem, that I AM EATING THEREFOR I AM FINE! But I wasn’t. My depression got worse and so did my weight loss. I got myself to the point where I was completely miserable and my parents were sick with worry. One day I finally agreed to go to therapy sessions. And even then I told myself that I am only going to make everyone else happy. Well, everyone besides my controlling boyfriend of that time. And after the second session I suddenly realized what I had been doing to myself and those close to me. It was a lightbulb moment! I finally started to pull myself out of the black hole that had started to suck me in all these months ago. And, for the first time in almost two years, I suddenly felt hungry again. Fast forward to 4 sessions later, I had recognized that part of my problem was the relationship I was in and I found the strength to get out of it. I started to talk to my parents again like I used to. I went out with my friends again. And I was myself again.

Now, when I became pregnant with our daughter my OB had asked me if I had ever experienced anxiety and depression before. I told her about my previous struggles and she told me that, although the situation is not at all related, I should prepare myself for PPD and anxiety. And I am so very thankful she brought it up. Even though it made me a little nervous to think about having to fight mental illness again I was not going to be taken by surprise.

Yet, when it did hit me, I was not prepared for the intensity. It came over me like a giant crashing wave. At first everyone tells you about the baby blues but after a few months of it gradually getting worse I knew this was what I had dreaded since the chat with my doctor. Yet, it took me a while longer until I was able to open up about it to my husband. I struggled with it in silence and made myself miserable because I didn’t want anyone else to worry about me, especially not my husband who was gone on a deployment and, in my opinion, had bigger things to worry about. So, I kept on with my daily life as a stay-at-home mom and I pushed it all down. I didn’t allow myself to deal with it until Jennie was about 9 months old. That’s when I broke down and finally spoke to my husband about it for the first time. In the truck. On our way to a camping vacation. I was exhausted and drained, physically, mentally and emotionally. He could tell but I wouldn’t let him help me up until that day because I thought I could do it myself. We talked about it and he listened. I am so grateful that he tried to understand what was going on inside of me because he is not at all a person that would ever get depressed.

After our vacation I started to look into counseling, mostly because he urged me to try it. I wasn’t so sure if it would help or not. But I went ahead and made an appointment. I had five or six sessions and although the counselor listened to me and let me cry it out, I didn’t take much away from it other than “work sheets” that told me how to be more self aware and exercises to calm yourself down with. I felt like it was a waste of time and money, so I stopped going. I figured I could do it myself.

We spent more time camping and traveling and I was hoping that all the distractions would help me get over my depression and anxiety. Our big 2017 trip across the Midwest was amazing but I can’t even tell you how many experiences I missed out on because I was too tired to go outside and do stuff. I was overwhelmed yet again by my always racing mind and I needed to drag myself out of bed in the mornings and mentally yell at myself to get it together. It was then that I realized that, if I don’t get this under control, I would miss out on the most amazing time of our daughter’s life and I would get myself seriously ill again, let alone strain the relationship with my wonderful husband who couldn’t help me because I wouldn’t let him.

There aren’t many photos of me from that big trip because I was either snapping the photos myself and felt I looked too exhausted for photos of me or I wasn’t there when the photos were taken. Looking back I wish I could tell myself that it would get better and that I should just go outside and take it all in. But it wasn’t that easy.

Upon our return home I finally made a few phone calls and found a counselor very close to our house and I immediately clicked with her. After a few sessions we discussed medication and I am happy I made that choice. Because it made a huge difference for me. I didn’t realize how bad it was until the medication began to work in my body. It was like night and day. I could finally think clearer again, I slept, I wasn’t on edge anymore. I could enjoy everyday things again and didn’t have a near anxiety attack when I knew I had to go out in public with Jennie. Because I always had at least 10 worst case scenarios on my mind before when I took her out and about. There is nothing worse than driving down the road with your baby/toddler in the vehicle and suddenly having a thought pop into your mind that the car that’s headed towards you is going to somehow veer out of their lane and hit you, injuring your precious little one. Or startling awake several times at night and frantically checking the baby monitor because you thought you heard a noise in her room and now you’re worried something terrible happened to her. That kind of fear can be maddening.

After about two months on medication it all changed and I began to calm down and enjoy things again. Like I said at the beginning, I didn’t tell just anyone about my struggles, because I was afraid of what others might think. But now I think about all the other women out there that may have the same struggles, feeling alone and maybe think they’re going crazy because no one warned them about PPD, PPA and how they could show up/manifest even months after giving birth still.

If you are reading this and feel like this is something you or someone you know are dealing with as well, please reach out to someone. Your partner, your friend, heck even me. Speak to your doctor, don’t suffer in silence. This is treatable and it WILL get better! I know there are many levels on this illness but a doctor and/or counselor can help you. You owe it to your little one/s, your partner and, most importantly, yourself. There are over 3 million reported cases of PPD/PPA a year in the US. You are not alone!

PS: If this post is a little bit all over the place, I apologize. I am writing this at 4:30 am as I am apparently a terrible sleeper these days 🙂

A summer trip to the Finger Lakes

A quick group shot at our boondocking site at an organic farm

At the end of summer 2018 we wanted to get one last family camping vacation in with Dale. So we were looking for something that wasn’t too far of a drive where we could spend more time together, enjoying the area we are visiting instead of driving. A friend of ours owns a big piece of land in the Finger Lakes region in Seneca Castle and invited us to boondock there. He has an organic farmer rent land from him there so we parked at the unused side of the property. The farmer invited us to come pick as much of their fresh organic corn as we wanted and we pretty much ate our body weight in corn on the cob during our stay there. Jennie was super excited about getting to pick her own food and it was a great experience for her.

Our campsite was right in between Canandaigua Lake and Seneca Lake and traveling to all the places we wanted to see what a breeze. The drives themselves were very pleasant because the views were always very nice.

One day we spent hiking in Grimes Glen Park, making our way down to one of the waterfalls there where Jennie and the dogs got to splash in the water. Perfect for the temperatures we had that day!

After a few hours of hiking we found a great place where we stopped for a late lunch. The Redwood Restaurant was a spontaneous stop as we were staving and Google Maps had suggested it to us being a nearby food option. We were not disappointed!! Our server was incredibly friendly and attentive, the other patrons were very nice people and the food was great! That’s also where Jennie had her first milkshake. We had heard a lot about a place we had to get dessert, so since we weren’t completely stuffed yet, lunch was soon followed with a stop at Monica’s Pies in Naples NY. Her pies were SO good! I highly recommend both of those places.

Since we were already at the south of Canandaigua Lake we decided to also make a trip to The Olde Country Store in North Cohocton. We had been there a few times before and became friends with the owners. It is one of my very favorite places to stop when in the area because it is owned by a German-American family and they always have a bunch of German groceries, chocolates and candies in stock. They also have seasonal items from Germany and going there around Christmas time has been my favorite yet. We stocked up on German Christmas treats and ornaments. But it isn’t all German there. They also have a wide variety of items handmade by local artisans as well as their own line of Finger Lakes themed items. The Wells family pours their heart and soul into this store and it shows.

It is cozy in there, you feel right at home and they are happy to get to know each customer that comes in. I can’t wait to be back there again soon, it always makes me a little less home sick when we visit. Check out their website here, they also ship to your home! https://ocs1849.com

The day after this we made a trip to Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park in Canandaigua NY. It was absolutely beautiful and peaceful there, with plenty of things to see on our paid (and self guided) tour of the gardens and mansion. A great peace of local history and an educational way to spend a few hours. Dale and I especially enjoyed wandering through the differently themed gardens with Jennie, and my photographer’s heart was overjoyed.

One of our last days in the Finger Lakes region was quite rainy so we decided to drive up to Rochester and visit the Strong Museum of Play. We had heard a lot about it but never had time to make it there, even though it is only 90 minutes from our home. Jennie got to run her little heart out and we all had a great time watching her have a blast. There was plenty to see and enjoy for grownups as well. They have a huge selection of different exhibits that are always there as well as changing exhibits. From Sesame Street to air and space, game hall of fame, arcade games to a children’s sized Wegmans grocery store we spent a good three hours inside, ending our trip with a visit to their butterfly garden. Check out their websites fro hours and admission fees.

Dale and I made sure to also get some wine tasting in at some of the many great wineries along the lakes. We also visited a huge outdoor flea and artisan market while there. They had lots of local handmade goods, from quilts, clothes and art to wines and Amish/Mennonite foods. There was something for everyone and we found a few bottles of good wine to go with some cheeses and meats we had bought from a Mennonite stand.

We would go back there in a heart beat, the region offers such a huge variety of attractions and activities that there will be something for everyone. Out of the 10 days we spent there we only had one day that we didn’t do anything outside of our camp site. And other than the middle of winter I would say it is always a good time to visit!

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Echo

Echo watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon
June 2017

In my past posts you’ve seen photos of our dogs. One of them, Echo, always stands out because her looks are so unique. That’s what drew me to her when I saw her adoption photo in March of 2014. Here’s a little back story about how she came into our lives.

Echo was a double merle Great Dane, born deaf to a so-called backyard breeder in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Being unable to sell her, she was supposed to be shot or drowned in their backyard, along with at least one other sibling who was born just like her. Thankfully they had a guardian angel.

After ending up with a someone who took Echo in as a free BOGO puppy, that person decided she didn’t want that “useless dog” anymore (her words) and posted her for free on Facebook. “Someone take this dog or it will be put down in 24 hrs!” Thankfully someone from a Great Dane Rescue saw that post and a volunteer went and got here to safety.

We had been on a wait list for a special needs dog with that same rescue for a few months, wanting to add a third dog to our pack of 1.5 year old Great Dane sisters. When I read the message from the coordinator about Echo I instantly fell in love with that scrawny little pink-nosed puppy.

Who couldn’t smooch that little snoot all day?!

We chose to adopt her after discussing the matter for only a very short time. I knew she was meant to be ours! So, only two weeks later I was on my way to pick up Echo in Baton Rouge, our two other pups in tow. And I just couldn’t wait to hold her. We had an instant connection and she became my heart dog, and I her person. She was my little white shadow, following me wherever I went and she fit right into our family and home, like it was always meant to be that way.

She may have always had this annoying look on her face but I swear she was a happy dog!

In 2015 I became pregnant with our daughter Jennie and we kept saying that Echo will become our little one’s best friend one day. And we couldn’t have been more right. Echo loved to snuggle with my baby bump and, after I gave birth, was always right next to Jennie. The two of them seemed drawn to each other and had this special bond that needed no words.

When Jennie became more mobile their connection became more and more obvious. She would crawl or walk somewhere and Echo followed close behind.

I would post photos and videos of them together and our family and friends kept saying we should send them to the news or a magazine. Little did we know that only a few months later a news agency would contact us about publishing the story of their friendship and the local news came out to our house to do a story about them as well. Who would have thought?!

Echo and Jennie, both totally relaxed in front of the big camera

Jennie walked Echo by herself when we went on our daily walks together and the two of them always walked right next to each other, keeping a comfortable pace.

But Echo didn’t just love on her sister Jennie. She also went to therapy dog training, visited local nursing homes, volunteered with me for our local shelter and for a local organization that helps veterans with PTSD. Being around people and spreading love while getting lots of attention were always things she absolutely loved.

Sadly, Echo passed away in March of 2017 after a battle with cancer that we were unaware of until it was too late. She was strong for us as long as she could, not showing that a terrible disease was raging inside of her body. Her passing left a gaping hole in our hearts and not a day goes by where we don’t think or talk of her. Jennie still talks about her as well and has several photos and artwork of Echo with her in her bedroom.

Our big camping vacation in 2017 may have been Echo’s all time favorite trip ever. She enjoyed the outdoors so much and would lay outside of our camper for hours on end, just soaking up the warmth and sun while enjoying what was going on around us. I am so grateful for all the memories we made with her and because of her. Hopefully Jennie will never forget about her. And maybe some day we will be ready to open our hearts for another special dog, when Echo sends the right one our way.

If you are interested in learning more about dogs like Echo and opening your heart and home to a Great Dane in need, check out Keller’s Cause here http://www.kellerscause.com as well as OZR Great Dane Rescue by clicking this link http:// http://Ozrdanerescue.com/about

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