Monday, November 28, 2016

Our Thanksgiving Road Trip

For Thanksgiving, we decided we wanted to head to Maryland to see my brother and sister and their families.  We don't get to see them very often so we were all pretty excited.  We got packed up, loaded the suburban and then this happened.

Yep, dead battery.  Luckily it didn't delay us too long.  And we were on the road.  The first day we just drove.

But on Thanksgiving morning, we woke up and drove into Shenandoah National Park.  We quickly realized this might have been the best day out of the year to check it out because everyone else was home eating turkey!  There was hardly anyone there.  The few we did run across were either foreign exchange students, or people happily hiking the Appalachian Trail.  There is a long skyline drive you can take to see a lot of the park and it was beautiful!

We were able to eat our Thanksgiving dinner (bread, cheese, chips, cookies and water) right on the Appalachian Trail.

After we left the park we took a spur-of-the moment trip into Washington DC.  The kids had never been so they were excited!  Because it was Thanksgiving, it really wasn't too crowded and we were able to park right near the mall.  We just checked out a few main sites - the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the White House.  But when you only have about two hours, that's what you see!

Also, on a side note - we had no idea how many thousands of squirrels call the national mall home.  But Max tried to chase every single one of them!

Friday we were able to head over to Annapolis to see family.  The kids needed cousin time!

And then we left for home around 4:15pm.  We didn't get home until 1:45 am.  And let me be very honest - that last 30 minutes was a killer to stay awake!  I was so glad to pull into our driveway so we could quickly crawl into bed!

We were able to recover on Saturday and then Sunday our small group went to check out the Ark Encounter in Northern Kentucky.  It was really impressive answering tons of questions I didn't even know to think of!

It was a busy few days, but we really packed a lot into it!  We are so blessed to be able to hop in the car and head anywhere we want!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

When you're wondering if you're screwing up your kids...or maybe that's just me!

Chris and I (like all parents, I'm sure) spend a lot of time trying to figure out if we're doing the best job parenting our children. 

We think about how the choices we make as parents impact their lives intentionally and unintentionally.  We think about how our expectations, rules, consequences and rewards  affect who they are going to become as human beings.  We look at how and when we discipline.  We think about what we expose them to and what we protect them from.  We're intentional about who we put in their lives as mentors and influencers.  And we look at the values that we're teaching them. 

We think about our words and actions and how they impact these kids.  We worry we're not teaching them enough from the Bible, that we're not always modeling "love your neighbor" well enough, and that we are not around our extended family as much as we'd like.  We know it takes a "village" and frankly our "village" is pretty small here. 

We think about all the activities they're involved in.  Are they too busy?  And man, do we feel bad when we have to say no to some of the things they want to do...whether it's due to money, or simply not enough hours in the day.  How will these choices impact their future?  Will we always regret one of these choices? 

We worry we're doing too much for them.  Will they learn enough life skills to be successful adults?  Because they're just too busy for more chores.  It usually comes down to sleeping, or learning to do the dishes or fold the laundry better.  And, honestly, they really need sleep!  We really need them to sleep!  We think about all the mistakes we've made along the way.  And we pray we'll do better!  We've only got five years left with all four at home.  That's just not enough time!!

We worry, because it's well known that pastor's kids often rebel and many leave the church because they've seen and heard too much.  The church consumed their childhood and they lost precious family time together.  They sometimes want to run far away.  We don't want ours to run.  So what can we do better?  What should we change?  

It's easy to dwell on the what ifs.  Will one little decision we make impact their entire future?  Will we say no to the one sport we should have said yes to?  The one they would have loved and been most successful at?  Will the schools we send them to prepare them to be successful in college, and if not, will their entire futures be altered?  Will we teach them to love the church or will they run from it?  Will they become kind, selfless human beings who look for ways to help others, or will they only think of themselves?  Yikes!  It's such a big thing when you become responsible for raising other human beings! 

Basically, we worry a lot that we're screwing them up and hope prayer and good intentions will go a long way!  In the end, we know God's got them.  And he loves them even more than we do. 

But today, I'm going to think about what I know we're doing right.  We always pray with them on the way to school, at meals and before bedtime.  Always. It doesn't matter if we're at home, in a restaurant, in a tent, or at a hotel, we pray together.  We read the Bible together several times a week.  Some weeks are better than others.  We are continually talking about our faith and how to live out what Jesus tells us to.  We love them fiercely and are adamant that as a family we will love and respect each other.  They may fight like all siblings do, but underneath they are also best friends.  And it's awesome to watch those friendships grow.

We take the kids on big camping road trips.  We've seen 26 states and 9 national parks in the last 22 months.  We sleep in a big tent, picnic at roadside rest stops, and teach them you can do a lot with a little amount of money.  We're showing them there's so much out there outside of their own little world. We spend a lot of time together.  We go to church together.  We go to cross country and swim team together.  We go to school together.  They share rooms.  And share a small home.  We are together a lot!  But we know that's good even when there are times when we'd love a little space.  We are a family and our little family motto is "As Family We Go!" 

So today, I'm dwelling on what's good.  An hour ago two of them were fighting.  I didn't solve their disagreement.  I told them to go back to their room and find a way to work it out.  And you know what, they did.  They came out a few minutes later and are now outside on the driveway with milk, dish soap, and food coloring.  They're doing some kind of experiment together while one practices her new trumpet.  Outside.  Together!  And they don't need me at all right now!  They're good kids who are healthy, do well in school, sports, and are generally kind to others.  So I'm thinking that even when we screw up as parents, God's got this and I've just got to trust him more!  So for the rest of the day, I'm not going to think about the what ifs.  I'm just going to enjoy today!   (And be grateful none of the neighbors got upset by the outdoor trumpet practice!) 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Great Moon Road Trip of 2016

4,650 miles.  15 days.  10 states.  13 bears.  4 moose.  Hundreds of bison.  Over 600 photos.  The laundry is done and we're mostly unpacked.   What a trip!   I want to share some pictures, but man, it's hard to narrow them down.  But here's a little glimpse into our crazy road trip! 

Vacation Part 1:  Buena Vista, Colorado - cabin
This is Chris' favorite place on Earth.  His grandparents built a cabin years ago and the entire family has enjoyed it since.  We got to spend a few days with Chris' parents and our niece Lucy.  We had so much fun together. 

Chris' happy place....drinking coffee staring at Mt. Princeton.
Shopping Fun.
 Cottonwood Pass.  So. Much. Snow.
Family Pic.
We met two guys in their 60's who were climbing up to the top of the mountain to ski down.  They were planning to "hook a ride" back up to the top to do it again, then hook another ride back up to get back to their car.  Crazy!
Pizza fun!
Swimming at the hot springs.

Kayaking on Cottonwood Lake.
We lucked out and hit Buena Vista during their annual Paddlefest!  There was so much going on down at the river and the kids had a ball! 
Learning to paddle board.  I watched several adults tip over, but our kids did great!

They loved trying out the hamster balls! 
Everyone had a great time in Buena Vista!  

Vacation Part 2:  Boulder, Colorado - wedding
Next, we headed up to Boulder for Chris' brother's wedding.  Anna was sick the day we travelled.  And I will spare you the details, but it was bad.  Really, really, bad.  Luckily it lasted less than 24 hours and we were back in action!  I didn't get many pictures, but it was a beautiful couple of days. 

Before the wedding! 
Giant Jenga was a big hit! 
 Cousin Lucy looked beautiful at her daddy's wedding!

Vacation Part 3:  Yellowstone! 
This vacation was about 5 years in the making.  We've dreamed about taking the kids to Yellowstone.  Every year we said, "maybe next year we can do it."  Well we finally did it!  And Chris already wants to go back!  It's the most amazing place ever. 
The Grand Tetons!  
Our first night we pulled into our campsite, set up, and started dinner.  And a herd of 30 bison walked through the campground, about 20 feet from us.  The next morning we heard grunting outside our tent and they were passing back through.  We quickly learned the bison kind of rule Yellowstone!

We hoped we would see bears.  And man did we.  We saw 13 bears.  3 Grizzlies, 4 black bear mamas and 6 baby black bears.  At our first sighting, we got WAY TOO CLOSE!  We were right by our car when the mama turned and came in our direction.  We had to rush to get in the car, but the bear was seriously within 20 feet of us.  I stopped taking pictures at that point because getting the kids in the car became a priority. 

Mama bear and one of her cubs.  This one got VERY close to us! 

This man was fly fishing and there was a bear just across the river. 

Another mama bear and her two cubs. 

On our last morning we were able to see 4 moose.  They were a bit far away, so the pictures aren't great, but they were really beautiful!  We also saw elk, deer, pronghorn, coyotes and one snake! 

This guy was across from our campsite! 

So many cool things at Yellowstone!

Max at the campsite!
We definitely need more time to explore Yellowstone! 

Vacation Part 4: Badlands and Home.
On our way home, we headed directly east through Wyoming and into South Dakota.  Chris wanted to check out the Badlands.  We passed through the Bighorn Mountains, and I'm just going to say that pulling a trailer through those mountains was a bit of a challenge. 

The Badlands.

One little note about our travelling.   We spend a lot of time in our car.  So our kids (and our dog Max) really are very good travelers.  Two of our travel days we decided to skip the motel and just pull off at a rest stop and sleep in the car for four hours and then keep driving.  Chris is a champ.  This is how we slept.  Nice!

There are really great rest stops across the U.S.  One of them had a little chapel you could go in.  Very cool.  

Sophia gave a good sermon!
We had a really fantastic time on our road trip!  And I know it was worth the wait getting to Yellowstone because now our kids are old enough to remember it!  And I know all of us can't wait to go back soon!