Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Indiana Deputation

The kids loved the house we stayed in while in Wanatah, Indiana with Crossroads Baptist Church.  There was a Jacuzzi tub big enough for all four kids to bathe at the same time!

Daddy found "Hungry, Hungry Hippos" game in the closet - the kids had fun with that - even the twins!

Nehemiah was fascinated with the washing machine all week.  Thankfully, once the door is locked, any buttons he pushed didn't do anything!

Silly twins while we were packing up
Bloomington, Indiana with the Gaschke family and Stoneridge Baptist Church

Nehemiah and Andrew, Elaine, Liberty and Kiersten, Heidi, Will, and Nolan
Pastor Andy Gaschke was the assistant pastor at Highlands Baptist Church shortly after we began attending there.  He and his wife Jenny helped in the youth group and with teen visitation on Wednesdays, so I had a good deal of interaction with them.  They moved to Indianapolis shortly before their first daughter Heidi was born.  Kenny and I stopped and stayed with them a couple of times en route to college.  We exchange Christmas cards every year, but it's been a long time since we were together. 
Heidi and Andrew were all about helping with the twins.  Andrew even wanted to eat next to Nehemiah!  Kiersten is about the same age as Elaine, and Will is the same age as Nolan.  Our kids loved playing in their backyard together, and they formed a fast friendship.  Every day Nolan asks if I remember his "boyfriends, Andrew and Will".  Will got to come play at the bounce house with us while the other kids were in school.
The Gaschke's are now church planting south of Indianapolis in Bloomington, IN (where IU is located).  The church is several years old and they are considering getting their own building.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with the Gaschke's and their church!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Omaha Zoo

We are in Cumberland, IA for a few days.  Our next stop is in Fremont, NE.  Ben asked me to check the distance between the two, expecting the split the drive into a couple of days.  We were surprised that we are only two hours away from Fremont!  Knowing we would need an activity to fill the days which we had expected to be driving, I googled “things to do in Fremont, NE”.  What I came up with was a list of 57 things to do (mostly summer activities), but 54 of them were outside of Fremont.  {I am thinking that Fremont is a small town!}
One activity that came up in the list was the Omaha Zoo.  Um, I didn’t even know that Omaha had a zoo.  And in 2014 Trip Advisor ranked it as the #1 zoo in the world!  It has many different exhibits, several of which are the largest of their type in the world.  Most of the exhibits were inside, so we were able to do it even on a cold winter’s day.   And it was cheap, too!  Six of us got in for under $50, and it was an all-inclusive ticket (unlike the Bronx Zoo which charges separate admission for each exhibit).  And parking was free too!  Definitely not in the big city anymore!
We decided to spend Presidents Day at the Omaha Zoo.
We began by visiting the Desert Dome - the world's largest indoor desert.  This facility exhibits three different deserts of the world, the Namib, the Central Australian and the Sonoran, under a glazed geodesic dome that is the largest of its kind.   You enter the dome in a sandy, desert-like area with birds, snakes, and other animals from that climate.  In one section the rock cliffs and caves rose above us, and we were surprised to see wallaby jumping in and out of the openings.  Several of the “ponds” for fish and birds were not inside a fence either, making it seem very realistic.  {And I was glad to have a stroller for the twins – open water is certain disaster with them!}

I think pigs are cute!


Turkey vulture
As you wound along the desert path, it decreased in altitude to take you the nocturnal animal section.  There was a baby aardvark (so adorable and ugly at the same time!).  The parent aardvarks were very active, along with bush baby’s (we learned about them in the latest Patch the Pirate adventure) and a fast moving porcupine. 


Bush Babies 
We descended even further into the dome and found ourselves in a very realistic swamp, complete with crocodiles, alligators, beavers, a beaver home you could see into, and many other swampy creatures.  It was very well done and so unlike any zoo exhibit I’ve ever been through!
Nolan has been all about Panthers since Pastor Bickel told him a scary panther story.  We stopped to see the big cats, including some jaguars and very active tigers.  Omaha zoo has the largest Cat Complex in North America.  There are three new lion cubs (one is white!) but they weren’t out when we were there.  The male lion started growling at me as we went by!

Nehemiah was enraptured by this Jaguar, and the jaguar didn't take his eyes off Nehemiah either!
We also visited the orangutans and the gorillas.  There was a first-time orangutan mother with a nursing baby.  The baby’s name is Suri and means Red Rose.  The gorillas were not very exciting, but we learned that they are Elaine’s “favorite animal in the whole world.”  Go figure!  Madagascar had a lot of unique species of animals, too.
Several animals were not on exhibit because of the winter and construction for a new African Plains section.  We missed the rhinos, elephants, and other hoofed animals.  The giraffes were open and had a baby giraffe born November 4th.  Elaine thought it was neat that she was born so close to her birthday (Nov. 5th)!
We missed the butterfly pavilion tour by 15 minutes, but the aquarium was amazing.  Thought not as big as the NYC Aquarium, and it didn’t have the walrus’ and seals, it was much more exciting.  The sharks were in a tank that went over a glass tunnel, and as you walked through you could see sea life on every side.   Liberty had fallen asleep but she woke up to see the exciting fish in the tunnel!  There were many species of Jelly Fish, including a variety that acts like a sea coral to attract food. 

Stinging nettle - not a painting - they are real!
Our last stop of the day was the Lied Jungle - the world's largest indoor rainforest.   It was amazing!  Like the Desert Dome, we started at the top and worked our way down through various levels of animals and terrain.  There were bats everywhere flying fast your heads.  The trees, vines, waterfalls, and tunnels were all very realistic.  The ground was packed dirt to be authentic.  We were able to look down into the hippo cage and the tapir cage.  These animals are often underwater and you can’t get a good view.  As we got farther down into the rainforest we could also see them underwater through an underground aquarium.  The monkeys were hilarious (they always are), and the kids really liked the adventure of being in a real jungle. 

Roosting fruit bats

A common squirrel monkey - "common?" I had never seen a yellow monkey before!

Nehemiah loved watching the tapir swim and pace back and forth.  It was hard to get him to move on.  My mom always likes the tapir, too!

Elaine and Nolan on the only rhino we got to see... 
I guess it’s hard to explain, but it was a fantastic zoo experience!  So if you’re ever out in the middle-of-nowhere on a road trip and you find yourself near Omaha, take a day to spend at the Omaha Zoo!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The John Deere Pavilion - Moline, IL

On Friday we drove three and a half hours towards our next destination.  We stopped for the night in Moline, IL.  I had booked a decently priced hotel on  As I researched the area for activities to do on Saturday morning, I discovered that we were right across the street from John Deere Pavilion.  It’s a big showroom full of tractors and heavy equipment that you can climb on to your heart’s content.  Best part about it?  Completely free.  For a family of six, that’s amazing.

Elaine in one of the "big ones"

Liberty loved this little mower.  Nehemiah liked the automatic "Tango" mower.  I liked that one too...if I had a yard to mow!
The kids enjoyed the showroom and scattered in four different directions.  Luckily it wasn’t that big that we couldn’t keep track of all of them.  However, we did have quite a lot of attitude come out – especially from Liberty.  Nehemiah was rather compliant because he was in…little boy heaven.  He is a total boy, and I believe his exclamation upon entering the building was “Wowwwww!”

I think this was the combine...cant' remember

Nolan loved this tractor and the old fashioned ones.  Prior to this he has been "collecting" Deer X-ing signs as we drive down the road.  "I see a watch out for deer sign!"  After being at John Deere he exclaimed, "I see a watch out for deer sign but it's freen {green}!"  He had seen the Deere logo!

I tried to get a picture of all four kids together, but the only time they came to one spot was on the Gator, and this is about how it went…

All four kids in a gator.

All four kids in a gator a moment later.  Note the twins.  This is normal these days.
We had a good time in all.  There was a children’s section in the back with toy tractors, books, farming facts, and a big puzzle.  There were computer simulators too, but I’m not talented on video games and the kids were too little.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Niagara Falls

Something I've wanted to do for a while is visit Niagara Falls.  I don't really have a "bucket list," but if I did, seeing Niagara Falls would be on it.  Our trip from Rome, NY to Wanatah, IN took us basically right through Buffalo, NY so we were able to make a quick {and very cold} stop to see the American side of the Falls.  Some day I would love to go back and take the boat ride in the summer...

The sun was in their eyes, and Elaine had just sneezed.  But...we were there!

It wasn't quite as enormous as I had imagined, but I think it was because of the amount of ice at the bottom, and quite a bit of the Falls was shrouded in mist so I couldn't see it completely.  We walked out to the observatory bridge as far as it was open.  The kids were more interested in throwing ice chunks over the fence than in seeing the waterfall or getting their picture taken!

Nehemiah and Elaine wanted their pictures taken.
We had a "picnic" lunch indoors at the closed cafĂ©.  When we were finished, we let the squirrels have Liberty's bread crusts.  No pictures of this as we had watched some other tourists feeding the squirrels, and the squirrels climbing the legs of the people trying to get more food!  I was on guard duty to make sure the squirrels didn't climb the kids while Ben handled the feeding.  I did however catch this pretty fellow in the trees after the squirrels realized we were out of food.

These two were happy to be outside in the snow (and out of their carseats), but even happier to get some food!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thankful Thursday: Off to a Great Start???

I have written before about the "other side" of deputation.  It's not just all a great vacation as you travel across the country!  And since my next post will likely have some pictures from Niagara Falls (it's been on my bucket list for a while, and it's en route to our next stop), I wanted to go on record again saying it's not all a walk in the park. 
Today I am thankful that we have been in one place for four days at this beginning of our big deputation trip out west.  We were never able to book a meeting for last night, so we ended up staying at the same church for a Sunday and a Wednesday.  It seems a little counter-productive to getting into as many churches as possible.  But God knew we would need a "home base" for a few days - even at the beginning.  (I anticipate reaching a point in this trip where I want to just "park" and set down a few roots rather than constantly being on the move).
This is how our days have gone so far...
Monday brought 14" of snow (or more) and subzero temperatures.  It was windy also, continuing into Thursday.  It nwouldn't have been a good time to be on the road.
We needed to make a volcano for school.  Though not absolutely necessary, I knew it would be fun.  Here in Rome, NY they have a Wal-Mart where I could get supplies inexpensively.  (It seems silly, but Wal-Mart is one of the first places I like to go upon leaving the City!)  Staying in one place for several days also provided us the opportunity to be able to do such a project.

Tuesday Ben went to work at the pastor's home.  He ended up having a run-in with a saw, and had to get 8 stitches in his chin.  Thankfully we are in still in New York State, so the bill should be covered by our health insurance.   I think we will remember Friendship Baptist Church for a while...especially when Ben looks in the mirror or goes to shave!

Tuesday night was a sleepless night as Elaine was up puking every 10-15 minutes between 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., and quite a few times after that also.  I shudder to think of having a stomach bug like that in a moving van with four children.  (Please pray that it was just something she ate, and not a bug that the others will catch.  We WILL be in a moving van today and tomorrow!).
I had thought to leave my laundry mat days behind for a few months at least, but I have been there twice in the last three days.  I'm thankful we were in a place where we could easily go out and do that, and not have to arrive somewhere with a lot of mess to take care of immediately.
I'm thankful that the Prophet's Chamber was a good size, so as not to be too confining for the kids with so much indoor time.  I'm also thankful for God's provision for a full gas tank, and lodging tonight.
It may not have been the start to deputation that I anticipated,  but God always knows what is best.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


We just started a new unit in school on Mountains and Oceans.  Our lesson for Tuesday was about volcanos.  We were able to do the project and build an erupting volcano.  The kids loved it!  After the initial experiment, Ben decided to try round 2.  This time he screwed the lid on our bottle hoping for a bigger explosion.  I was grateful his version failed, since I was in the line of fire!
I bought terra cotta colored clay so it would look better without being painted.  Elaine was not so thrilled with the color of her hands though!

Wordless Wednesday - Video Version!

Some video shots of the indoor playground we visited yesterday.  The slide was wavy and had quite the drop off so the kids really went air borne at the end.  Nehemiah did it probably 20 times in a row with a little "friend."

The twins finally tried out the bouncy house.  I just sat and laughed watching them try to stay on their feet and jump with any "style" or "form."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Toto, We're Not in Kansas Anymore"

January was an amazing month at home.  Busy, full, as we prepared for and anticipated beginning full time deputation.   Now that the time to leave is here, my heart is full with all God has done and all we expect Him to do over the next year. 
Ben didn't work in January, yet God has provided for all we needed and even prepared our February rent payment already.  It was a big step - and it grew our faith - but where God led us, He has provided.  It makes me anticipate great things from this trip as well, because we know God is leading us this direction, and He has proven Himself to us time and again.
It was hard to say goodbye to people that we love.  And though our time in Brooklyn is not done quite yet, we know that our days of regular attendance at Bethel have come to a close for the most part.  When deputation is done, we will be moving to the Bronx to start the next chapter of our ministry.  My church family has been my family for the last four and a half years.  I'm going to miss them!
And I guess I'm officially a city girl now, because it didn't take very long being back in suburbia to be surprised at the way life works.  We are in central New York this week in a "little" city of 33k people called Rome.  Several things let me know that I wasn't in the big city anymore!
The kids were bored on the drive here.  I had printed several different Road Trip Games like bingo, but since we are out in the "middle of nowhere", there were very few signs (except for deer crossing), and very few cars or restaurants to mark off on the game board.  We ended up playing "silo" and counting the silos along the road.  I have a feeling this game will keep us busy as we go through Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas!
After we arrived in the Prophet's Chamber, I went back into town to get some milk and cereal for breakfast.  I was excited to find Aldi's, but when I pulled in at 7:11p.m. the nice lady told me that they closed at 7 p.m.  It's been a long time since I've been to a grocery store that closes that early on a Saturday!
I then stopped at Subway to get some sandwiches for supper.  I was the only one inside, but another man came in after me.  As I walked back to the van with my food I saw his truck, in the parking lot, still running, and no one inside it.  We could would never do that in New York City!
Today we were going to meet someone and he told Ben to go to Route 31 and turn right.  "It's the first or second stop light."  Ben assumed that meant it was a couple of blocks away.  10 or 15 minutes later, we found Route 31.  And it was the second stop light!
I was pleasantly surprised to find an indoor playground/bounce house to give us an outlet from some "cabin fever."  These places cost around $20 per child for about two hours of play in New York City.  The out-of-town price to play for four hours?  $3 a kid.  Yes, we are not in the Big City anymore! 
We got over 14" of snow and have had subzero temps, but the kids still took a {brief} romp in the snow.  Elaine tried a snow angel!

Libs made a tea party for Nehemiah in the nursery!

Indoor Playground

Nehemiah spent nearly the whole time on this train!

Firehouse - Post Office...Elaine's new "clubhouse!"  So sweet to see Nolan defending her when the big boys moved in!