Thursday, December 31, 2015

Disney World, part 1

During December we traveled through Lakeland, FL to see my friend Danielle and her family.  While we were there we took advantage of the close proximity to Disney World...yes...our kids got to experience Disney, compliments of Grandma & Grandpa as an early Christmas present.  We didn't tell them where we were going, but waited for them to guess as we entered the park gates.  Danielle joined us for the day. She is a Disney pro, and it was such a great blessing and help to have her along!  We  were able to see/do everything on our list, and the kids enjoyed the day with minimal attitude issues!

Here are some of the highlights from our trip...


  

On the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom.  We got up early and made it there for the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the park.

    
Elaine and Nolan were the most excited about the day...they understood more everything that we would get to see and do.  This was their first glimpse of the castle.

All the Disney characters came off the train with Mickey Mouse when we arrived.


We had three strollers - Danielle had Adam in one, we rented a double stroller for the twins, and Henry had one.  Danielle stayed with all the "littles" while we took the Elaine to do the Space Mountain roller coaster.  

The Dumbo ride - Liberty, Nolan, Henry, and Mommy
Daddy, Nehemiah, and Elaine

Henry did great!



   

We enjoyed the Thunder Mountain roller coaster (twice!), Peter Pan's Flight, It's a Small World (twice!), Winnie the Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, the Carousel, Barnstormer, the Log Ride (waited far too long for this one), the Jungle Cruise, the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, and more.  The kids were thrilled with all the rides they were able to do.  On a side note, I can't imagine the lines during the summer and the FL sun! 

Next up... Princess Pictures!

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for missionary housing.  As a family we have been in our temporary "home" for less than two weeks since September.  That's a lot of moving around!  Hopefully it makes for a lot of support raising (we have added 37% support this year).  But...it also makes for a lot of instability.  It's hard to have a routine and keep things "normal" when every week (or sometimes twice a week) you are changing lodging and re-setting up "home."  We did enjoy six days with my girlfriend from college in December, and also a week at my parent's in Denver for Christmas.

However, since last Saturday, and for more than three whole weeks, we will be in one location!  One of our supporting churches has a missionary home and they have graciously allowed us to stay here for most of January.  Not only is this a place to make home for an "extended" period of time, but it is very nice.  

We have actually stayed in several missionary houses (or prophet's chambers) over the last two years.  We have stayed in all kinds - small, large, furnished, mostly-empty, nice, and some...well...not-so-nice.  It is a blessing to have a church that is able not only to own an extra house for traveling guests, but also to maintain it and make it nice.  It really shows what kind of a heart they have when they care about the details of even what the guest house looks like!

The home we are staying in is a three bedroom house - bigger than anything we have lived in!  It has a washer and dryer which is an amazing blessing!  The kitchen is fully stocked with dishes and all utensils needed for cooking our own meals.  I especially love that the walls are decorated with Scripture in every room!  There is even a piano!!!

Just being in our own place, to set our own routine, and be regular in nap times, eating schedules, and keep up with school is an amazing blessing.  We have done over a week's worth of lessons in the last four days.

The Lord has always taken very good care of us, and we certainly have nothing to complain about.  But it sure is nice to have a very nice place to call home, even if it is only for a short time!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Usually Christmas is exactly that for me.  Snow.  Hot chocolate.  Twinkle lights.  Tissue-paper-wrapped packages.  Gingerbread lattes.  Fresh cut Christmas tree.  This year, however, things were much different for us! 

We were on the road since the day after Thanksgiving.  Everything of ours…all of our traditions, were in storage.  We had one Christmas celebration in Florida on Dec. 14th with Kenny & Becky.  No offense to Floridians, but doing a winter holiday in a hot state is about as un-Christmas as it gets in my mind! 

Then we drove five days to get to Denver and arrived in freezing snowy weather.  Opposite ends of the spectrum!  Mom & Dad had just moved, and then had the trip to Florida, so when we arrived the kids got the pleasure of decorating Grandma’s tree.

Decorating the Christmas Tree
They got a little ahead of Grandma and helped themselves to the box…

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Decorating Grandma's Tree

Decorating Grandma's Tree

Decorating Grandma's Tree

Decorating the Christmas Tree
…and we got a little bototm heavy on the front of the tree!

Decorating Grandma's Tree
But I think it looked great and they had a good time!

Christmas Eve 2015

On Christmas Eve we enjoyed a lovely and well-done, Christ-honoring service at Red Rocks Baptist Church.  Then we came back for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family.  It was a smaller gathering than when I was a little girl!  I guess thats what happens when everyone grows up and moves away.

Christmas Eve 2015
Nehemiah enjoyed trading hats with everyone.  Of course, he IS a Broncos fan!

Christmas Eve 2015
Uncle Wes and Nehemiah

Christmas Eve 2015
Me & my cuties

Christmas Eve 2015
My three sons

Christmas Eve 2015
Great-grandma meets Hennry – great-grand #15!

Christmas Eve 2015
My kids and my heritage

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Missionary Blessings

When I was a teenager we had a lot of missionaries stay in our home. It was something that was very influential in my life at a critical time when I was considering my future direction. I believe the Lord used the influence of missionary families to reinforce His call on my own life to serve in the field of missions.

As missionaries on deputation, we often rely on the generosity and goodness of others to help us down the road to the next stop. The Lord always places the right people across our path at the right time to take care of our needs. But just like the Lord, He so often doesn’t just give us the necessities – He gives us blessings in abundance upon what we actually need. Many times this comes in the form of gift baskets or “care packages” from our hostesses and often from the church at a mission’s conference. We have truly been blessed by many generous people this year. My kids love opening a “care package” and going through all of the goodies.

Before we started traveling I didn’t understand how much a small gift could mean. They are often the encouragement or “token for good” that the Lord provides to encourage us at the right times. Now that we have been recipients of many of these gifts, and as we continue to live on the road, we appreciate certain types of gifts a whole lot.

Please note: This post is only meant to be a help to others as you seek to be a blessing to others. It might even be helpful as you stock your missionary closet. They are a few tips that you may not have considered before. This is NOT a complaint about anything we have received from others. We have been blessed beyond measure and humbled by the generosity of God’s people to our family.

--Gift cards are very helpful. They are small, portable, and allow us to use them to fill a need when it arises. Gift cards for Wal-Mart, Target, gas stations, and fast food restaurants are very helpful. Sometimes missionaries have personal preferences on a toiletry item, or special needs. A card to Wal-Mart or Target helps to meet the need but gives the freedom to pick their own items. It also allows them to not purchase it until it’s needed, instead of carrying the item around in the van for a while before it is needed.

--Small, portable items are best. Laundry soap is great, but not a family size bottle. Just a travel size will do! Even just a small gift is welcome. While we feel spoiled with the laundry basket of goodies, we often don’t have room for it. One ladies group gave me a small gift bag with a pen, book of stamps, package of note cards, purse pack of tissues, and purse size hand sanitizer. It was perfect – items I can and do use, but not too many of them!

--Consumable items are appreciated. This way we are not just constantly filling our vehicle until we happen to make it home. We are using them up as we go. Travel tissues, toiletries, diapers, baby wipes, hand sanitizers (please don’t buy the dollar store brand – it smells really funny), gum/breath mints, etc. If you are offering toiletries in your missionary closet, make it a “take what you need and leave what you don’t” policy. Then there’s no pressure to take things we won’t use, in order to not offend you. But we feel the liberty to take as much as we can use on the road without feeling greedy.

--Our kids love to be spoiled. They enjoy being made to feel special. BUT…as parents we don’t like them to be too spoiled, and not at every stop. Small gifts are best for them too. Not the giant baby doll or biggest bath boat. And art supplies are not great for car travel!

  • One church we were at gave each of our kids a 6” Sesame Street stuffed animal. It was the perfect size to fit in their back pack.
  • Another gave us bubbles and glow sticks. Perfect! We can use them, have fun, be entertained away from home, and not fill up the vehicle with too many toys. And as much as they like coloring books and crayons, we usually get them at every church…so we have quite a few by now!
  • Window clings (usually available for the different holidays/seasonal décor) are fun for the kids to stick on the van windows.

--Fruit baskets are great, but they don’t have to be huge. We love having something non-fried or fast food to snack on. But most places we stay only 2-5 days, so we can’t always eat up all of the fruit we are given. Some of it is portable in the car, others are not. We don’t like to waste it either. My kids particularly love the grapes that come in fruit baskets!

New Purses from the ladies of Calvary Baptist Church!Personalized bags from the ladies in Huntsville, AL.  My girls LOVE them!

--Think outside the box.

  • One church we were at gave us a chocolate gift basket. Instead of fruit, we enjoyed a decadent treat of chocolate dipped Oreos, chocolate covered pretzels, toffee, candy apples, and other chocolate treats. It was nice to have something out of the ordinary! (Though we would be huge if every church did that!)
  • One family that we stayed with gives a roll of $100 postage stamps to missionaries. This was a HUGE blessing since we send a lot of mail!
  • Quarters for the laundry mat, which was also helpful for the places we stay without laundry facilities.
  • Dried fruit is better for car snacks than all of the individual serving packs of cookies, crackers, etc. It’s better for us. Ben likes dried fruit because he has to chew it more, so it helps him if he’s a little sleepy when driving.
  • Blank note cards. We leave a hand-written thank you card each place we stay. We can always use note cards!
  • Music. We always listen to something in the car to help entertain when we cannot move around. It’s nice to have something new to add to our own favorites. Several people/churches have given us sacred recordings which we have enjoyed!

--Some things that are not as helpful…

  • Consider that we will be eating/drinking items in a moving vehicle. My kids love juice boxes. I do not – at least not in the car. One squeeze and its everywhere. We prefer water and non-crumbly snacks for the vehicle.
  • Home items, like doilies, candles, breakables, and home décor. I won’t be home to enjoy it, but I have to find a space for it in the vehicle.

Some people have the love language of gift giving.  If you are one of those people, what special things do you love to do/give for the people in your life?  If you are a missionary or travel often, what are some things that you love to receive from God’s people?  Leave a comment…I love new ideas!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Traveling with Lots of Littles

We have been on an extended road trip for most of this year, and nearly every weekend last year. It’s called deputation and it’s our full-time job right now. It also means the van is our full-time home. I thought our Brooklyn apartment was small! There are a few things we have done to make travel with all these little people, and for this length of time, more manageable. Many of these suggestions won’t be helpful to most people, unless they are traveling for an extended period of time. But maybe some of you are just curious as to how we make this work!

For the Kids

We have tried a lot of things to help the kids stay happy in the car. Let me start with what doesn’t work. Keep in mind my kids are little – five kids ages six and under!

  • Crayons – these ended up spilled next to the heater but underneath a bag we didn’t access often. The result? A multi-colored puddle of wax melted into the carpet. I also spent a good bit of my time reaching and moving in the van trying to pick up the crayons which were dropped. Magda doodle boards are better for young children who want to draw. Mine were quickly bored with the magdna doodles, though. So we don’t do much coloring or artsy activities in the car anymore.
  • Dry Erase Games – before our first full-time trip, I printed off tons of car games, road trip bingo boards, mazes, and practice alphabet sheets. I put them into heavy-duty page protectors and purchased washable dry-erase markers. The idea was that the kids could each have a notebook and play road trip games, then erase and start over. Another epic fail. There wasn’t room for the binders to lay open in the carseat, but when we folded one side back, the binders broke. Just like the crayons, I expended a lot of effort searching for makers and lids. I spent a good deal of effort cleaning marker out of clothing. And my kids needed constant help to play the bingo games. In the end, I have four small game boards which are laminated and on a jump ring. We pull them out as a last resort, with only one marker instead of a rainbow of colors.
  • School – I had hoped to homeschool on the road. But I tend to get motion sickness, and Elaine seems to have tendencies that way too. It’s hard enough for a first grader to learn to write, but less to do it on winding highways or bumpy roads. We don’t do school in the car unless absolutely necessary.
  • Here are some things that do work – at least for us.
  • Backpacks – each kiddo has a small backpack. They can pick five small toys before each trip to bring along. Things like matchbox cars, Little People, a baby doll with a bottle and a change of clothes. These are mostly for in the car. Many stops have a toy stash, so we just play with the “new” toys rather than mix things up and get confused.
  • “Friends” – my kids are stuffed animal collectors. BUT…with five kids, we can’t bring all of them in the car. They each get to pick one friend who is their bedtime companion. This helps them feel more comfortable in each new location.
  • Backpack of toys – we have a backpack in which we keep a few community toys. When we are at a prophet’s chamber with no toys, we bring in the backpack. It has a few puzzles, some coloring books (only one for each kid), a couple of games (Uno, matching, etc), and a couple of art supplies. Since they don’t play with it daily they don’t get bored with the small variety.
  • Box of books – I have a box of books under the seat where I can reach it. Then I can hand out a couple of books to read when boredom sets in.
  • Movies – Mom & Dad gave us a DVD player in the van for Christmas last year. Lifesaver! We watch one movie on longer trips, usually in the morning. I can also pop in a flick if I want to keep the kids awake on the drive between church service and host home. This is really helpful if it’s been a long travel day and they are sleepy! All of our DVD’s fit into one CD wallet, so we don’t have a bunch of plastic cases all over the van.
  • I bring each child their own blanket. This gives them something consistent every night even though their surroundings are constantly shifting. I have been blessed with great sleepers, so as long as we follow a similar routine each night, they sleep fine. The blankets help with that!

Packing

We had a bit of trial and error on this. Do you have any idea how much stuff you have to carry inside the hotel/host home every night for seven people?!?! Even though we are traveling as compact as possible, I often feel as if there is stuff everywhere!

My friend Rachael Brown gave the best suggestion (so glad for other deputation friends!). We have a set of plastic drawers – actually two sets now – in the back of the van. It serves as a “dresser.” We each have four every-day outfits, and two church outfits. I have a duffel bag that gets loaded with jammies and clothes for the next day before we go inside for the night. ONE outfit for each person goes inside, and the rest stays in the car. This cuts down drastically on what we carry inside!

We have a community shoe bag (which we don’t access unless we need dress shoes), and a community toiletry bag. We use travel size toiletries so that there’s not as much weight to carry inside. In the car I have a small plastic “home” tub. There is extra shampoo to refill the travel bottles. We carry a travel iron, carpet cleaner for wet beds, shout spot remover, a small container of OxyClean and laundry soap, tissue purse-packs. It’s easy to get to when we need it, but we don’t have to carry it around all the time!

We have a set of plastic dishes and utensils for everyone also. Many prophet’s chambers don’t have dishes, and they are helpful for eating in a hotel room too. We also use them when we eat a picnic at a rest stop.

Being a family with lots of littles, we also take a couple of booster seats, children’s cots, whiffle bat & balls for rest areas, and swimming suits for hotel pools. We praise the Lord for a full-size van to carry all of this with us and make travel easier! The cots came from my mom, but they have been particularly helpful. They are lightweight and compact (like a camping chair). We often stay in a hotel room with two queen beds, but there are seven of us. The cots make sure everyone has his own sleeping space!

These are just a few things that have made a life of travel more palatable for our family. Maybe something will be helpful to you!