Day 173:

I went back and counted. One hundred and seventy-three days we have been on this traveling journey. With five people and a sixty-five pound, long-haired dog living in two hundred and sixty-five square feet. We sweep a lot. We have had a lot of people look at us like we’re crazy when they ask if we live full time in this camper with three kids and we say yes. Maybe we are crazy. The camper is close quarters. For some people it would be too much closeness. But it works for us. Being separated for nine months while Cede fought cancer…Cede and I spending the night in the hospital and Steve and the kids at home…we’re happy to be close. We actually wish everyday that there was one more person here with us in this small space. She would love this.

Sometime back at the end of January we left the Outer Banks. That was a hard decision and, looking back, probably the wrong one. We really loved it there. It is a place of peace for us. February we spent back near home. REALLY BAD IDEA. That was the worst place we could have been for the month we lost Mercede. That did not go so well. At all. But now we’re in Florida. This is week three being in this warm, beautiful, sunny place. We have enjoyed every minute. We left the day they were calling for six inches of snow in North Carolina, wearing our coats, hats, and gloves. We arrived to eighty degree days and have switched out our winter clothes for shorts and flip flops. Brady is spending as much time as possible in the pool. Our time here has been great.

Our second day in Florida we woke up early, drove across town, put on wet suits and snorkels, got on a boat and rode to Three Sisters Springs to swim with manatees in the wild…a completely awesome experience! It was a chilly morning for Florida, but those are the days that the manatees swim in from the ocean to the springs, which are a constant 72 degrees, to stay warm. So we got to see a lot of them! They were huge, very curious, and gentle. We got to watch a baby manatee nursing, saw two adolescent males goofing off and irritating each other, and Brady kissed a mama manatee through his snorkel! Our boat captain took an underwater video of the whole thing and we watch it over and over. Brady did so great keeping up with his sisters and all the adults, who could all touch the bottom if they needed to. But he couldn’t reach, so in the video you can see his little legs kicking the entire time. He didn’t complain once, though, or need any help. That was definitely my favorite thing since the sea cave in Maine and I think everyone else agrees. The following week we drove to the Everglades and spent a few days there. We saw lots of gators and some amazing birds including two bald eagles. We took a boat tour through the mangrove forests and had dolphins come right up to our boat to play. One of my favorite things here is the Spanish moss dripping from the Oak trees. That is my view out of every window from the camper. It’s so beautiful. Today we picked oranges from a nearby orange grove…another first for us.

Dear Cede,

You would love this traveling thing, Baby. I wish you were here. Although this is probably nothing compared to heaven. We miss you every minute. I really hope you get to swim with manatees there. We loved it so much! As soon as we got back in the boat, I looked at Daddy and told him “Cede would love this.” He agreed. We have spent a lot of time here thinking about you, watching your brother and sisters play in the ocean. There is always a hole where you should be. We just watch and cry. Three years is too long to be apart. Way too long…