Posted in Joy, Travel

National Parks Tour: Stop 1- Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Day One:

               As soon as we returned from Utah last summer, I started planning out a trip to go back.  I knew we wanted to go explore some of the National parks we missed on our last trip, but when the weather was cooler for hiking and being outside!  For spring break we decided we would make a trip out west to visit several of our country’s national parks.  My parents bought a new RV last fall and I started encouraging them to make a trip out to Texas. I joked that we would hop in and travel with them. 

The planning got underway and I laid out our trek west in detail, getting more and more excited. I looked at renting an RV and traveling out west to visit the parks. I started to plan and lay out the schedule, and decided that for a short 10 to 12-day trip, we would be able to do more and see more without the extra drive time added on to either end! So, we purchased flights and my parents made the trip out to Texas to fly with us from here!

Our fifteen hour roadtrip map!

               We decided to fly roundtrip to Vegas because it was central to all the places we wanted to see. And flying there was cost-effective for both the flight and a SUV large enough to hold 8 people!  Plus, I wanted the kids to see the Hoover Dam. What better way then by driving over it on our way to our first stop at the Grand Canyon! 

What we did not anticipate was that our morning flight would arrive without my luggage. So we decided to grab lunch and wait for it. Otherwise we could not be sure that we would have our winter gear and hiking stuff the next morning. This was obviously not part of our plan. However, we decided that it only added to our adventure and it also meant that we got to see the Hoover Dam at sundown before crossing into Arizona!

Sundown at Hoover Dam and the twisty road we drove to get there!

We made a quick stop at the Hoover Dam and then made the trek to our hotel in Williams, AZ. It had been almost two decades since I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. I knew I wanted the first visit to be unique for the kids. In researching places to stay nearby and ways to see the park, I knew I wanted them to get their first view on a train ride from Williams. They have all ridden trains before, but nothing like this one. This ride begins with a Wild West shootout in town before boarding the train to the canyon. And as a bonus it would alleviate us having to drive in and park to see the canyon.

For convenience we decided to stay the night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel (they also have an RV park for those who do make the trek by RV 😉).  The hotel was nothing fancy, but the lobby has a beautiful fireplace and the kids loved that we could see the train right outside!

Day Two:

Saturday dawned bright and COLD! We woke up to snow on the ground and a very chilly morning. But it did not keep us from enjoying the Wild West show and the train ride!

The Marshall facing off with the Cataract Creek gang

We boarded the train a little after 9 for a 2-hour trip to the canyon. The train is still socially distancing their passengers. That meant we had a few empty rows in front of and behind our party of 8. My parents upgraded us to first-class for the train and we were treated to hot chocolate, cider, drinks and breakfast on the trip!

Our view from the train!

Our car had our very own passenger service attendant. He was fantastic and made sure we were well taken care of.  He gave us recommendations of what we should be sure to see while we were in the village.  There was even some musical serenading during the ride.  We watched as it snowed outside throughout most of the trip. And the kids took some fun videos of the scenery as we journeyed while reading more about the Grand Canyon’s history.

We disembarked in Grand Canyon village and I hurried everyone to see the view. Despite the heavy fog and snow, it was still a beautiful sight.

The view of the canyon
Climbing trees and enjoying every moment… even the cold ones!
Me preparing to hike down the rim trail… but unable to convince anyone to come with me 😉

We hit up all the gift stores and museums to stay warm. And made the trek back and forth on the rim and determined that we would change our plans to come back the following morning if the weather improved before we drove on to Utah!

Our train ride back to Williams was just as eventful and fun as the ride out. We ate snacks and prepared to be attacked by the Cataract Creek gang of wild west outlaws. They escaped while we were at the canyon 😉. The kids enjoyed playing along and even pulled out money to “hide” as the robbers came through our first-class cabin. The Marshal finally caught up with them and took them into custody as we pulled back into the station.

               We had dinner at the Fred Harvey restaurant after our return. Then we let the kids shop for souvenirs with their travel budget before heading to bed for the night.

Day Three:

The next morning dawned chilly, but clear. I-40 closed in both directions due to the icy roads. That meant the only direction we could go from the hotel was to the canyon. Serendipity!

We set out early and found the roads fairly clear all the way up. We stopped at several overlooks to take pictures before returning to the Grand Canyon Village.

What a difference 24 hours made!
There is so much beauty in creation that can not be captured in photos.

It was not crowded at all for a spring break weekend. We even beat the train into town. We ate a leisurely lunch while the kids played in the snow. This time we could walk the rim and see everything clearly.

After lunch we took an abundance of pictures. Then we did some walking before getting back on the road towards Utah and the second stop on our great National Parks Tour!

Key Takeaways:

  • The Grand Canyon covered with snow was gorgeous, but prepare yourself for the lower temps if you go in winter!
  • If you can afford to splurge on a train ride, it is absolutely worth it. First class isn’t necessary as all the train cars have the same great service. You just might have to pack your own breakfast and snacks!
  • Do not rush your visit! One day was definitely not enough, even though you can see a lot in one day!
  • If you can afford to stay at the El Tovar hotel, it has a wonderful restaurant. It also has some gorgeous views of the canyon! It is now on my future bucket list 😉 There are definitely affordable options in and around Flagstaff and Williams to stay OR camp.
  • And the town of Williams has lots of great things to do. I highly recommend a visit there if you make your way out to the Grand Canyon. We did not take advantage of all the options, but there is always next time 😉

Posted in Joy, parenting

Should I Shelter My Kids From Pain?

               I recently got heart-breaking news delivered right as my sixth graders returned from lunch.  I had not processed the news enough myself to even know how to respond when the students came barreling in and saw me crying as I hung up the phone.  I left school quickly, fully expecting someone would tell them why I was upset so that they would understand. 

               I received so many emails from students in the subsequent hours.  Students who had not even seen me that day, or who were in my morning classes, were emailing because they heard I was crying.  They wanted to make sure that I was okay.  And they all wanted to make sure that I would be coming back to school the next day.  I was told to tell them I had a family emergency and would be back next week.

               There was a time a few years ago when I thought I needed to shelter my kids from any kind of sadness and suffering.  I tried for several years to shelter them from their dad’s seizures and cancer.  I did not think they needed to know he was sick.  I wanted them to have a carefree childhood free of pain and suffering.  But when my twins were only three years old, their dad took them on a walk through the neighborhood and had a seizure.  He fell off the curb into the road.  They sat with strangers and watched as he was loaded into an ambulance and waited for me to arrive to pick them up.  I realized when they explained it to me that they knew far more than I realized and that sheltering them only made them more afraid.

Here is what I have learned about sheltering my kids:

  • Loss and pain is a very real part of life. It is everywhere. You cannot hide from loss and you cannot run away from it. Someday they will have to face pain. And when they do have to face it head on, they need to know how to process it.
  • Sheltering them makes them think we should ignore hard things. When we shelter our kids, we are teaching them it is not acceptable to talk about hard things. It is teaching them that pain and loss and things to be avoided. When my kids first started school, I remember a teacher telling me that my son needed to go to counseling because he was always telling people his dad was dead. I remember saying, “but he is.” The teacher told me that it was not healthy for a six-year-old to talk about loss so much. But speaking that truth is necessary for us to process it as reality. The last thing I ever want is for my children to grow up thinking that they cannot talk about hard things or that they should avoid them because it might make others uncomfortable. That loss is a part of who they are.
  • Letting my children feel the pain and loss of others has developed compassion in them. It has taught them to feel for others who have lost. It is teaching them to be kind individuals. When I told my kids about losing their grandfather recently, the first words out of my 7 year old’s mouth were, “That is so sad for Grandma. Now she has lost her son and her husband. She must be very sad. Are we going to go see her so we can hug her?” And I cried. Not only for our loss, but for her loss, and for my mother-in-law’s loss. And because my children have had to process so much pain already in their young lives.

               The last few years I have struggled with whether to shelter or expose my children to pain and loss and suffering.  But pain and loss are very real parts of life.  They will not be able to avoid those difficult moments as the get older and they have to know how to persevere through hard things and come out stronger. 

               I still pray that difficult moments will not find them.  I pray that we will not have to face the loss of anyone else that we love and I pray they will not have to mourn lost relationships.  I try to make sure that my kids lives are filled with as much sunshine, confetti and roses as possible and I try to teach them to embrace every single day head first.  But when those difficult moments come, so much more frequently than I would hope, I hope I have taught them to face them head on too.  We cry the tears, we embrace the sadness, we hug each other a little tighter, and we learn the lessons… together, one heartbreak at a time. 

Posted in Joy

Cookies For Santa, Cause We All Need Something To Believe In

 Last week when I picked up my kids from school, my youngest asked me if we were going to leave out cookies for Santa this year.  She caught me off guard as we have never really encouraged a belief in Santa in our house.  In true big brother fashion, my oldest quickly told her that Santa isn’t real and looked to me to back him up.  And over the next few moments, a million thoughts ran through my head before I could respond.

My first thought was if I tell the truth will it end up like it did when she told everyone at school what she thought were our thoughts on Halloween? (if you haven’t heard that story yet, it’s a good one… 😊 I’ll save it for another day).  Or will she get in trouble like her brother for touching the class elf to prove there is no magic there? 

Then my mind moved on to… is this something she needs to believe in?  And is this belief going to hurt her?

I honestly don’t remember if my parents told us Santa was real or not when we were growing up.  I do know that Ben and I decided early on that we would tell our kids the truth about things like this.  But I also know that whatever my parents told me, it obviously didn’t leave any lasting damage.  And I know that as children (and even as adults) we all need something to believe in.    

Now I don’t by any means equate Santa as being up there with God on things that give us hope.  But I do know that in her short 6 years of life, this little girl has had a lot of things taken from her.  She has faced more loss and pain then someone her age should have had to…  And if I am being honest, there have been more times than I can count as an adult when I have wanted to believe in my own little fairytale.

Over the last few years, I have learned that no matter what comes at me in life, I can find a steadfast hope and belief in the things unseen.  I am thankful for a heavenly father that gives me that hope and that I can trust in Him when things are tough.  That belief is what has helped me live through the hardest moments of my life, and is the reason I can still find a reason to smile at the end of each day.

So of course, my mom brain went a million miles a minute as I analyzed what I should say and do.  And on that five-minute ride home from school I asked her… do you want to believe Santa is real?  And she said she did because she wanted to leave him some cookies.  I told her that I was not going to tell her that Santa was real, but that if she wanted to believe that he was this year, that she could.

The presents have been wrapped and under the tree for days.  And not once has a child asked me if Santa would be bringing anything for them… because they know that the spirit of this season in our home is in giving.  And they know that this holiday is a celebration of Christ’s birth. 

They didn’t ask about what Santa would be doing for them, instead they only asked could they leave him some cookies.

So today we decorated cookies and she and her sister picked out the ones they wanted to leave out for Santa. Their big brother reminded me before he went to bed that they would be disappointed if I forgot to put them out. And when I went to tuck him in one last time, he asked if I was really going to eat all those cookies… since they all know that I am really Santa 😉

So this Christmas, I am grateful for children who believe in the things they can not see.  I am thankful that they look to me to always tell them the truth no matter what.  And it warms my mama heart that she was able to tell me that yes, she wanted to believe in this, this year… because I think one of the hardest things that I have learned through grief is that it is okay to believe in something again. 

And tomorrow, we will wake up and read the Christmas story over breakfast before they open any gifts… and we will talk about the true meaning for this holiday… and I will pray that this sweet little baby of mine will always remember that we always have Someone to believe in…

I don’t know if you still believe in Santa Claus 😉 or if you know that there is Someone greater that you just can’t “see.”   I am praying for you today, that God reminds you that He is the reason for this season, and He is all you really need!  Merry Christmas!

Posted in Joy, parenting

Is A Surprise Worth A Lie?

We have been talking a lot about telling the truth around our house lately… about what the truth is and when it is okay to tell a lie. 

The kids have asked why sometimes parents lie to their kids and why adults would lie to each other.  It has brought up a lot of hard conversations that I have tried to handle with grace.  I have been learning to share my thoughts carefully these days since my kids love to share exactly what I say with everyone they know. 

Last night they asked if there are good lies and bad lies and how to tell the difference.

First, I do not think that lying to our children is ever a good practice.  It causes them to lose their trust in us and it can even cause them to lose their faith in people in general. 

But, we talked about how sometimes parents will lie to their children to keep something a surprise… by maybe telling them they are going one place when they are really going somewhere else.  The parents mean well and don’t consider that lying, but later on the child may only remember that their parents told them something different.  Why did they lie to me? 

Do I lie?  Sometimes…

I take a different approach with my kids… and I tell them outright if I am going to lie to them… which they reminded me of during this conversation.  Whenever I take them on a surprise trip, they love to try to guess where we are going.  I tell them upfront, even if they guess the surprise, I will not tell them and ruin the surprise.  Sometimes I will even say, one of your twenty guesses was correct, but I’m not going to tell you which one. 

Telling the truth builds trust.

I think it is important to build the element of trust with my kids.  If they are going to the dentist to have work done on their teeth, I tell them that yes, it is going to hurt.  If we are going to have to face a fear, I address it head on rather than letting it be a last minute surprise. 

When their dad was sick and they told me that they were scared of him dying, I never promised them that he was going to be okay.  Instead I told them that I got scared sometimes too, but that I prayed that God would heal him and I knew that no matter what, WE would be okay.  As a rule, I never make promises that I’m not sure I can keep to them.  If I’m not sure about something, I tell them upfront I don’t know.  And I rarely say never…

Proverbs 12:22 says, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people that are trustworthy.”

I would take that verse a step further and say that our children delight in us too when they know they can trust us to follow thru on our words. 

So in answer to the kids question, no I don’t think that there are good lies and bad lies… I think it is important to speak truth to them so that they will grow up to be adults of strong character as well.

What do you think?  Are there situations when you think it would be okay to not tell the truth to a child?  Times when you think that there are “good” lies?

Posted in Joy, Travel

Houston & The Space Center

               Last spring when the school schedule was posted for the next two years on the district website, I started researching the best places to go during each of the school breaks.  I like to plan ahead and I love to think about where in the country is the best place to visit during that time of year.  Last year we spent Columbus Day weekend in Michigan visiting family after flying into Chicago! 

This year I was determined to take my kids back to Niagara Falls for the long weekend. Since they are old enough to appreciate it more, I thought early fall would be a great time to see it! I also knew I wanted them to see the Falls from the Canadian side on our next trip back. I figured if we were lucky we might get to throw in a trip to see my sister in upstate NY too.

Even without the ability to travel to Canada this time around, we considered asking B’s mom how she felt about us flying somewhere. But with the kids in school and wanting to avoid any of them having to miss school if they get exposed to any crazy germs, we decided once again to stick a little closer to home. As hard as it was to accept, we decided to pick somewhere we could drive to since it was only a long weekend.

  We debated between Oklahoma, the Texas Hill Country and the Houston Space Center for several weeks until finally E and I asked the kids last Monday to take a vote.  Apparently they have been  watching space videos at school this past week and they all unanimously voted for the Space Center.  B had been there before, but it was still his first choice.  He reflected that he was older and could appreciate it more now then the last time.  And while I had been to the Kennedy Space Center, I had not visited the Houston one and thought it would definitely be worth a visit!

We looked into Airbnb’s for this trip, but after pricing them and watching Hurricane Delta heading towards the coastline, we decided we had better book hotel rooms that were refundable. Luckily when we checked Thursday, it looked like the hurricane was not going to hit Houston with much more than rain, so we did not have to change our plans.

I have mentioned before that we have several museum memberships that have reciprocity and the Science and Technology Centers membership includes the Houston Space Center.  This meant that the only cost for this trip would be lodging and food. So we reserved our timed tickets and after a half day of school on Friday made the short (several hour) trek to Houston to check into our hotel. 

SATURDAY

We planned to arrive at the Space Center mid-morning on Saturday so after hot breakfast at the hotel we set out. One of the perks of membership is that you get to bypass the line at most museums and science centers so we skirted past dozens of people hoping for tickets to head right in when we arrived.

We avoided the simulators (tight spaces overdosed on cleaning supplies) and let the kids explore the exhibits.

Solving puzzles
Learning facts about Space travel

They enjoyed listening to how the astronauts eat, sleep and use the bathroom in space and figuring out how much they would weigh on other planets. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the tram to see the Johnson Space Center and the Apollo Mission Control Center.

After a day of exploring at the Space Center, we ate at an amazing Ramen restaurant and headed back to the hotel for popcorn and a movie night.

SUNDAY

On Sunday morning, we once again had a leisurely start to the day, not meeting up with B and E until 10am. We decided to head to Galveston to see the beach and the gulf first. It was definitely a hot morning, so we didn’t beach walk. Instead, we just spent a few minutes taking in the view!

Afterwards, we decided to head for Kemah Boardwalk to see the Aquarium and have lunch. The kids got excited about eating beside the 200 different species of fish. None of them remembered eating at the Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville during our years living in Tennessee, so it was very entertaining.

The view from Kemah Boardwalk.

               After lunch we walked the boardwalk.  We let the kids each pick a ride to ride.  The boys decided to head for the wooden roller coaster while the girls and I took a leisurely train ride.  By the time we finished, everyone was ready to head to the car.

The wooden roller coaster (probably no one wanted to ride it more than Kinsey, but she wasn’t tall enough)

               We decided to drive into downtown Houston to see the Water Wall (which was off) and to grab dinner at a restaurant that I remembered from when we stayed in Houston a few years ago.  We had a fantastic dinner at BellaGreen and I learned that they even have a location in Dallas now! We will definitely be heading there soon!

               We ended the day with popcorn and another movie night before heading back to our rooms to get a good night’s rest!

MONDAY

Monday morning we made the trek back to Fort Worth after a hot hotel breakfast made just for us (no really, we were late and they were done, but they made us fresh waffles anyways… haha).  The kids learned some history about Sam Houston on the ride.  And I used the time in the car to catch up on grading graduate school papers.  We made it home in time for a late afternoon lunch and a walk through the neighborhood with friends to mentally prepare for another week of school! 

While I highly recommend the Houston Space Center, I don’t know if Houston really needed a full weekend. Since our goal was to have a relaxing, low stress weekend after six very full weeks of working, it was exactly what we needed. But if we make a trip back to see the lights at the Space Center this fall, we might not stay for as long as we did this trip!

Posted in Joy, Travel

Waco, Texas

               I have been a big fan of the Fixer Upper for the last few years. And I have wanted to make a trip to Waco since long before I moved to Texas.  The timing never seemed right, but it has stayed at the top of my to do list for a long time. E had been wanting us to head there for almost as long!  So Labor Day weekend and an extra day off school and work seemed like a good time to make the trip there. 

               We spent a good bit of time planning this trip as we wanted to make sure it was memorable after so much anticipation.  We chose to splurge and stay at a Fixer Upper house for the weekend.  After I finished teaching on Friday we drove the short two hours to Waco and checked into the house in the midst of downtown.

Fixer Upper Season 2 Episode 1

Saturday morning we decided to head to the Silos to explore. The day dawned warm and bright and we started our visit with breakfast at Magnolia Bakery. We waited in a socially distance line and made sure to take time to enjoy our meal together before we jumped in line to see the rest of the Magnolia site.

Magnolia Bakery

E decided to head to the coffee shop while the kids and I went to see the showroom. After a brief tour looking at some of the latest creations we settled back outside to wait for E to return.

We spent a leisurely morning wandering around the Magnolia grounds and then loaded back up to see some of the other sites that Waco had to offer.

Throughout our three day weekend we checked out the silos, went on a self-directed tour of some of the Fixer Upper sites, visited Baylor campus, walked the suspension and pedestrian bridges, toured the Waco Mammoth site, visited Homestead Heritage and even spent some time at our Fixer Upper house watching the season that was filmed there!

Suspension Bridge

The kids enjoyed the Mammoth site and walking the pedestrian bridge, but the warmth of the weekend made it not as appealing to be outside. Our favorite parts of the weekend were truly spent relaxing with books and watching Fixer Upper in our Fixer Upper house!

Mammoth Site

Monday we had to head back to reality, but it was definitely an adventure I would love to repeat, maybe with a few shopping purchases from Magnolia for my own house next time!

Posted in Joy, Travel

Missouri Points of Interest

              After our trip to Missouri at the end of July, I knew I wanted to make our way back up with E & B for E’s birthday and one last fun trip before the end of summer!  I did some research and decided that I wanted to visit a few places near Springfield and maybe spend a day or two in Branson, so I kept an eye out for a great Airbnb that we could rent.  We decided on one in downtown Springfield and I started planning out our drive.  I have to note, that because this was a birthday trip for E that it was our most expensive trip of the summer.  Knowing that there were several things that we knew would cost extra, we planned ahead and watched Groupon for deals on activities that were on our list (and the kids list) of possible activities.

THURSDAY

We left early on Thursday morning. The drive to Springfield was about seven hours, so we loaded down with snacks, lunch & dinner in the cooler so we could stop for fun, but we wouldn’t need to stop for meals. While all six of us had been to Oklahoma before, we hadn’t been together, so we did plan some stops through the state while we were driving.

We stopped to see the Praying Hands at Oral Roberts University and picnicked by the largest concrete totem pole (who knew that was even a thing).

Praying Hands
Largest concrete totem pole

We stopped at the intersection of Oklahoma, Kansas, & Missouri for another photo op too 😊 and then had a picnic dinner by Grand Falls in Joplin!

Intersection of Oklahoma, Kansas, & Missouri
Grand Falls in Joplin, Missouri

Our Airbnb was amazing. It reminded me of a house right off of Fixer Upper and the kids enjoyed that there were plenty of rooms for everyone to spread out (and I appreciated that I got to have my own room instead of sharing with the girls for a change 😉)!

FRIDAY

On Friday, we headed towards Branson. One of the things all of the kids agreed they wanted to do was visit the National Tiger Sanctuary. We timed it right in ordering military discounted tickets and ended up there when they were starting a feeding tour, so we got to tag along without paying the upcharge. Despite the hot morning, the hour-long tour was incredible. The kids got to see all the tigers up close and watch them eat. They heard stories of how they were rescued and how they are cared for. We got to see some lions and a few other animals they have taken in as well.

After the Tiger Sanctuary, we stopped at the Creation Experience Museum. The museum is on the small side, but free. Even though we have visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky and the ICR Discovery Center in Dallas, we still really enjoyed this stop. We got a private tour and bought a few dvds for the car ride. Our tour guide told us they are working on moving to a larger location that will allow for them to expand the exhibits that they have in the future!

The next stop was one that B requested, and all the kids agreed with. We bought tickets on Groupon for the World’s Largest Toy Museum. This was fun for all of us as we saw toys that we grew up with and that we remember seeing in our grandparents houses as well while we were growing up. The kids enjoyed seeing the massive collections of Jurassic Park toys, matchbox cars, Barbies, and pretty much every McDonald’s toy ever made.

From there we made our way to the Snowflex Park at Wolfe Mountain. While we did lots of sledding when we lived in NY, and played in lots of snow in Ohio, I had never taken the kids snow tubing. While this wasn’t exactly the same thing, it was a blast (even at 90 degrees outside) and everyone wished we could have stayed longer!

SATURDAY

Our second full day was supposed to be spent in Springfield and Sunday in Branson again, but as a last minute surprise E’s brother decided to fly out for E’s birthday and we decided to head home a day early.

So when E and I were talking about how to spend Saturday, we both decided we wanted to head back to Branson. While searching separately, we both came up with Dogwood Canyon and decided it was a sign that we should head there for the day. We had originally planned to do some hiking, caves, and an animal safari so when E found the tram ride through the Canyon we decided that it combined all the things that we were hoping to do in one and went ahead and booked it.

We packed a picnic lunch and made plans to explore and picnic before the tram ride. Dogwood Canyon is breathtaking. Pictures do not do it justice.

We spent the morning doing some hiking, exploring and then ate lunch outside of the nature center underneath the Treehouse Masters Treehouse (from Animal Planet) before boarding the tram for our tour.

The 2+ hour tour took us through the entire canyon. We stopped by waterfalls, the Wedding Chapel, Glory Hole and numerous bridges and stone crossovers.

The tram then crossed over into Arkansas entering Bison-Elk Country where we were able to see American bison, elk, whitetail deer and Texas longhorn. The animals walked right up next to the tram and the kids were able to see them up close and personal!

On the way back, the tram stopped crossing over a waterfall so that the kids could see the fish swimming right up next to us. The beautiful clear water was definitely something to see!

Upon arrival back at the Nature Center, we were able to see some animals up close and personal, like a couple of tarantulas and snakes!

We finished the evening with Hibachi Grill and packing up to head back to Texas!

SUNDAY

Our trip home was uneventful since we wanted to make it back in time to visit with family! If your travels and budget allow, I highly recommend a visit to Dogwood Canyon in Branson! Everyone agreed that while Missouri was not our most “affordable” trip of the summer, we can’t wait to go back to Branson again!

Posted in Joy, parenting

So Many Choices, But No Clear Answers

               It’s the first day of school for this bunch… and my first day for my online students as well.  It’s a day I have both looked forward to and dreaded for the last six months.  The number of decisions I have been responsible for during this pandemic sure have weighed heavy on my heart. I don’t know about you, but I crave options and hate them all at the same time.  No one likes being told what to do, but at the same time, I abhor making decisions.  And I am notorious for second guessing everything.

               The past two years I really struggled with the decision about where to send the kids to school.  Two years ago they attended a University model school, and last year they attended an amazing public school in our district.  Both years the Lord blessed my choice so much that I knew that the decision I had made was from Him.  And I never regretted it.  Despite all my fears about public school, all three of them had the teachers that I prayed for, that were what each needed and I could not be more thankful for the environment they were in.  And as a bonus, I got to work at their school a couple hours a week all year while keeping my university job!

               But now we have come full circle.  I decided early last year that I was going to keep them at the same school this year.  I was so excited about the options for the teachers they could each have, and then the pandemic hit.  My decision making/stressing started all over again… which leads us to today…  the first week of four weeks of remote learning before we return to in person learning in September.  To say I am sure about my decision would be a lie, but I know that when I have followed my gut in the past, I haven’t regretted it… so in the words of a dear friend, “I’m doing it scared…”

You Don’t Have to Have All the Answers Right Now 

              If you are like me and questioning your schooling decisions for this year… here’s what I want to tell you.   There are very few decisions in parenting that I have been 100% sure of.  Some of my greatest successes and my greatest failures as a parent have come from making choices I wasn’t totally sure about.  Sometimes there aren’t great options, and the choices aren’t ones that we would ever have chosen for ourselves.  It really is okay to “do it scared.” Bathe it in prayer, then live life, jump in with both feet and see where things go.  If you realize down the road you need to switch things up, that’s okay.  That may be the only way we get the confirmation that we are doing the right thing. 

               So we are starting out this school year with Philippians 4:6 as the verse for us to remember, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

               My days will be a little busier than I planned the next few weeks, but I am embracing every moment, and while I’m at it, I’ll be praying for you too!  Whatever decision you made for this year: homeschooling, in person, or remote… I’m praying you get the confirmation you need that you are doing the right thing! 

Posted in Joy

Three Long Years Have Gone So Fast

Psalm 23:4, NIV: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Three years ago, I woke up in a hospital room to nurses and doctors rushing in to tell me my husband was struggling to breathe. So much changed in a matter of hours and I was not prepared for the day ahead, especially not calling family to come and say goodbye.

I don’t know if you can ever be prepared to say goodbye to someone that you love. 

I still remember being in a daze two weeks later when I shared this post about losing him:

I was not ready that day, nor was I prepared for all the days to come in the last three years, but in reflection this is what I can tell you three years later:

  • Grief does not end.  Finding happiness can not replace the years that you were supposed to have together.  I will always feel a pain in my chest when people talk about how many years they have been married and what anniversary they are on.  I got 11 years and then the counter reset to 0.  You never stop wishing for those years back.
  • Pain does subside some.  You can find joy again.  Every day will not be riddled with pain for the rest of time.  If you choose to keep living and find a way to push through the pain, one day you wake up and realize that you having been crying a little less and smiling a whole lot more.
  • I will always grieve what my kids lost.  Nothing can ever replace the loss of a parent.  Nothing.  No one.  While I am thankful for those who have stepped in to share in loving my children alongside me, I will always be sad for the days and years ahead that they didn’t get to have their daddy there as a part of it.
  • God provided everything I needed.  He provided even when I didn’t realize He was providing it.  Friends who would chat in the middle of the night.  Neighbors who mowed my yard for me.  A new home and a fresh start with a strong support system to help lift us up when we needed it.
  • God is still a good God.  I do not know why Ben had to get cancer.  I do not know why he had to die.  He was one of the healthiest people I have known in my life.  But I do know God is still good.  I do know He is still on the throne.  And I do believe that He still has a purpose and a plan for my life and that of my children.  And maybe, just maybe that purpose would not have come to fruition if he had been able to stay here with us.
  • Ben prepared us in ways I didn’t even realize til recently. He taught me how to embrace life in the midst of hard times.  He taught me that cancer and death can’t win if we don’t let it.  He made me realize the importance of living every day to the fullest and surrounding ourselves with people who love us.  And most importantly he reminded me every day to trust God with the outcome.

I would like to believe Ben is looking down from heaven on us now.  I am sure he is proud of all that we have accomplished and overcome in the last three years.  I believe he would be smiling about the fact that we have kept on living life.  I know he would be incredibly proud of our three beautiful kids.  And I hope he knows how much we love and miss him even now, three years later.