About Us, Personal Growth

Couch Time

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(Fair Warning: This post has more transparent and personal insight on life and marriage than most. If that’s not your thing, scroll along. If it is, enter your email on the website for a free subscription. There may be more transparency coming ; )

Now for the actual text:

There is not, for all practical purposes, a couch in the Ahlmann Family Airstream. By that I don’t mean there isn’t one, for there are in fact two. (Separated by a table at the front end, they frame the dining room, living room and bedroom, as the table sinks to form our bed.) But for practical purposes, or rather one specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist.

I can see I will have to explain.

The purpose to which I refer is the occasional evening when a casual conversation becomes a constructive discussion. Or worse, an unconstructive one. You know, the kind of marital debate that requires private time of reflection because further exchange is going nowhere, and the passing thought appears that spending an evening on the couch, with a little distance, might be a viable and even beneficial option.

But for that specific purpose, a couch doesn’t exist. Because the couches that do exist convert to become the master bedroom, i.e. the one and only cushioned surface available for sleeping, with little opportunity for “distance.”

The décor of our Airstream thus encourages what any good marriage counselor recommends: Solve your issues before you go to bed (however long that takes.) And that length of time, interestingly, seems to be unchanged since we first got married 12 years ago. The topics of constructive discussion have evolved (we spend little time now arguing money or sex, the statistical #1 and #2 sources of marital strife), but we do occasionally spar on topics of life plans, raising children (and related coordination), and a recent category that I will call “great ideas that Christian can sell everybody in the world on, except Rachel (because she has already seen through them).”

For those evenings, when opposing views require focused verbal exchange, we are stuck to sort it out. Stuck to agree, at least, on where to cordially park the topic to be solved another day.

Christian

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You Have 3 Cows… no really.

3 cows

It’s raining and getting dark.  The kids are doing homework and I’m making dinner.  Isabella (1.5 yrs) is standing in the window of our Airstream, watching the clouds and blowing leaves.  Water is dripping off the awning. 

Suddenly, she looks at me, excited, and yells “coooooooow!!!!!”  “What’s that honey?”  She points out the window.  “Cooooow!”  Sure enough, 3 cows are sauntering up the steps to our Airstream above the ranch, proudly flashing their Six Sigma brands. 

I put on a movie to entertain the kids, and go outside to engage our trespassers… and keep them off the road!  I call Christian to tell about our guests. He promises to bring home hay that they will enjoy more than the meat sauce (beef!) I made for dinner.  I explain to the ladies that there is better grass in the valley of Six Sigma Ranch than our place.  They agree, and with a little encouragement from me they return the way they came.  Christian arrives with the dinner for our guests, but they have already left.  Better safe than sorry. 

 Ladies and gentlemen, You Have Three Cows.

Rachel 

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Food, Friends, Airstream

I threw my first Airstream dinner party a couple Sundays ago! Twenty –five good friends all gathered around long tables under the awning to celebrate our son’s 7th birthday. Magical as the party was, it was also hard work.

 

Because I love good food, we made everything from scratch. This included Six Sigma Ranch sausages with mustard, apple slices from the tree by the tasting room, pork stew of our own raising, my grandmother’s chocolate pudding cake and, of course, the Six Sigma Tempranillo-based red blend wine for the perfect pairing. I cooked all day.

The food and party were superb. It felt like a family meal!

One exception I will remember: Don’t put anything on the metal plate above the burner in the oven, even if you think you need to. It will burn and you will spend an hour of your life cleaning burned chocolate pudding cake off a casserole dish.

Cheers!

 

Rachel

 

 

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About Us, Personal Growth

Guns, Deer, and the Joy of Parenting

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“Hey Dad!” said Caleb as I headed out the door. “When you get home from work, we should have a drink and talk about hunting a deer.”

I concealed a laugh, and simply told him “Sure. Sounds good son.” But Rachel, standing behind him, appeared equally amused.

For the “drink,” it turned out, he was happy with milk. But he had a very clear intention with the topic of conversation. “Dad, I need to learn how to kill deer.”

The request, and the “need,” surfaced an amusing truth: For a kid at age 6, Dad is still assumed to be the definitive resource on anything he needs to learn. It matters not that Dad has never shot a deer, or that he has shot exactly one turkey. And even that was the result of one gaggles foolishly predictable travel pattern near the office around Thanksgiving, not Dad’s impeccable turkey calling skills or any enviable outdoorsman-ship in general.

The turkey adventure had stretched into the night, with Rachel and a YouTube instructional video on the front deck to guide our plucking and cleaning process. It’s worth noting that Rachel, unlike most spouses, did not respond negatively to my call about a large bird in the back of my truck, in need of plucking.   Fortunately for the rest of us, her interest in fine food from fine sources outweighs the initial inconvenience of plucking.

And that may become the perfect match. If Caleb learns to hunt, under my guidance (or rather, via Dr. Grant Woods at www.GrowingDeer.tv as interpreted through Dad), and Rachel enjoys cooking the quail, deer and turkeys that march regularly within rock-throwing distance of the Ahlmann Family Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch, this could turn out well. (The buck pictured above is one of the local residents.)

So far we’ve sighted in uncle Michael’s air rifle for target practice. It can, according to reliable sources, also serve to take down my young protégé’s first game, including quail, as soon as he can reach around the stock and look through the scope at the same time. Stay tuned.

Christian

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Photo Credit: Bob Minenna

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Perspective

 

IMG_1256The bathroom was huge on this flight. Usually they’re cramped, right? But this one felt like home. No more, and no less space than the bathroom at my house. Serious airline upgrade, I thought to myself. But then remembered that Rachel and I moved into an Airstream trailer with the kids in May.  So, yes, same size as my “house.” Felt great.

Our destination also was an exercise in perspective. If you had told the natives of this country centuries ago that they could vacation in a tent, they would have been unimpressed. Even a fancy tent with a fireplace would have been a tough sell. But today, a tent-inspired vacation phenomenon sweeps the country. Mobs of people leave cities each weekend to live outdoors, in tents, or small huts. The weekly exodus is particularly interesting because the mobs leave comforts and luxuries at home that they work hard to afford.

When Rachel and I arrived at Huttopia in Sutton for our anniversary weekend, we were issued the key to a tent, and the opportunity to purchase firewood to heat said tent. We cooked over open flame, leaped off the deck and ran wooded trails along mountain streams, and talked with the excellent staff. But mostly we talked to each other. We talked about life and dreams and challenges, all the things that were easier to keep up on three kids ago. We talked about raising kids and growing business. We ignored our phones, except to take a few pictures. And we collected ideas with open arms for use at our own take on simple living, our Airstream at Six Sigma Ranch.

We landed late on the flight back, and booked a Best Western near the San Francisco airport. The bathroom there was glorious, even bigger than the plane. But the room came with a thermostat, and little opportunity to roast marshmallows.

Meanwhile back in Sutton, another slightly frazzled couple prepared to take over our tent. I bet they ran the trails, talked about life and dreams, and cooked over an open fire that also heated the tent.

And just like us, I bet they loved it.

Christian

 

 

 

 

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Simplified

IMG_1241I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, going through a box. It was a keepsakes box that had been packed and taped for 10 years. There were papers and pictures, letters from childhood friends, nick-nacks and homemade creations that I had no memory of making.

Simplify.

It was the mantra I had to keep telling myself. Simplify. I had to simplify because Christian and I had decided to move ourselves and the kids into a 200 square foot Airstream trailer and all this stuff was not going to fit. I had recently been inspired by some amazing people in history. Mother Teresa and Gandhi and Jesus had very few possessions.   They didn’t spend time on maintenance activities. All effort was poured into their cause. They inspired me!

They inspired me until I pulled out the lime green porcelain vase boot that my grandmother had given me. I held it in my hands for a while. My grandmother had touched it. This was not a family heirloom. It was not valuable. It was not even pretty. But my grandmother had touched it.

Simplify.

I had to do something. I had to set up some sorting criteria or I would continue to keep and collect stuff in boxes. I chose to only keep things that were uplifting, valuable or inheritable. That meant family pictures could stay and that pictures of my 12 year old boyfriend had to go. That meant letters from my grandmother would stay but cards that were only signed by people would go.

Simplify

I finally put the vase boot in the box labeled thrift store. It was not valuable and my kids would never want it. And I havepictures and actual letters from my grandmother that are golden. In the end we got through all the stuff. We packed our family into the Airstream, and any remaining nice furniture into a 10×10 ft storage shed.

Simplified.

And I feel somehow lighter. The battle is not over. Stuff still piles up and from time to time I have to purge. But I’m hoping that lifting the burden of stuff will give me time. Time is my most valuable possession. If I have more time I can pour it into my family and my cause.

Rachel

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2 Week Airstream Update

 

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It’s fun to watch faces when people ask “sooo, how’s it going?!”

They are referring, of course, to our full-time Airstream adventure.

We woke up the first morning when the sun popped over Jim Dollar Mountain at Six Sigma Ranch. It lit the inside of our shiny dwelling to a golden glow, and breakfast began.

The decibel threshold for sending kids outside is lower in the smaller space. So they end up riding more bikes, and finding more treasures and dragon flies, than they did when we lived in a “normal” house. We also end up on spontaneous family hikes, and the occasional fishing trip. (Real fisherwomen don’t need waders.)

Home repairs and maintenance adventures are different, but no more complicated. (Review of the “Water Wizard Toilet Wand” to follow ; )

It takes just a few minutes to sweep the coach, but no less time to clean the bathroom.

It takes longer to do the dishes, with less counter space and no dishwasher. So we’re stuck talking to each other as we work. On the same note, it’s possible to communicate at a conversational volume from anywhere in the rig.

This tiny home thing isn’t for everyone, but it’s probably less difficult than you think.

Christian

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