Posted in Joy, Prayer

Is This Really My Life?

(A repost, but in light of Covid, I couldn’t resist resharing)

There are days when it seems I can’t get over the fact that this is not the life I signed up for…

I signed up for a marriage that was going to last forever…

I signed up to be a crunchy, homeschooling mom of a half dozen or more kids who respected their elders, said please and thank you and NEVER talked back.

I signed up for the house with the white picket fence and enough rooms for everyone we know to visit.

I signed up for kids who wouldn’t know heartache and pain and who would grow up being empathetic without having to go through tragedy to get there.

And I signed up for all that planning to do it with the same man for the rest of my life…

the man who affirmed me every day of our marriage and who without sometimes I don’t know how to survive this parenting gig…

BUT somehow that contract got lost in the mail and what I got instead was a quiet house with too many empty rooms,

kids who have been through more then their share of pain…

(And talk back every chance they get…)

Kids who have had more than enough sugar and processed food the past two years to make up for the five years of deprivation,

And who went to public school last year so that I have time to work to pay the extra bills that come along with being a single mom…

And now, in the midst of a pandemic, we have come back around full circle and I am having to pray and trust God all over again with every decision and every move that I make…

I didn’t sign up for this!

I’m Making the Most of It

But this life that I didn’t imagine… the one I didn’t expect or think I deserved… has forced  me to trust God more than I ever have before…

I have learned to bathe every decision I make in prayer and faith.

I got the kids that talk back so I would remember to ask Jesus to help me with them every single day,

I got the empty house so that I will have quiet nights to pray and seek God’s help daily…

I got the kids who have truly suffered a loss so that God could show me how to handle pain, both mine and theirs, especially now.

This is not what I signed up for, but because it isn’t the life I wanted, I have to trust the Lord to bring about His purpose and plan every single day. 

Momma, if this isn’t the life you expected or deserve, I’m praying for you… that you will be able to let go of what you think should have been and make every minute of what is count too…

Posted in Joy

The Blessing of Family

When I chose to marry someone in the military I knew it was going to be hard… I knew it would mean missing out on important events and time with family… it was one of the reasons that I said for years I would never do it. My dream was for my kids to grow up down the street from their grandparents where they would have unlimited spoiling and I would have all the free babysitting I could possibly need.

But I fell in love with someone in the military and we started married life 12 hours from my family and 6 from his. Despite our desire to travel the world, we made a commitment to put family first and that meant at least 2 trips a year to visit each family and splitting the holidays between them! It wasn’t long before we started convincing my family that those visits should consist of family cruises for Christmas so we could get family time while seeing the world.

Then babies finally came along and even though it was hard, we continued our commitment to making a trip to see all of them as many times a year as possible with 2 (and then 3) babies in tow (and with only one driver after Ben’s diagnosis).

We could have stayed home and expected everyone to come visit us. Especially after Ben got sick. People would have understood, but family was important and we wanted them to know that!  We wanted them to know we would make the sacrifice to come to them as often as we could so that if it got to the point where we couldn’t, they would know it wasn’t because we were choosing to stay away. 

When Ben got sick, family stepped in to help as much as they could.  And when there was more than they could physically do, they offered finances to help us make it day to day without struggling.  Even when the days were long and lonely, I have always known I was loved by my parents and that if I needed something all I had to do was ask and they would do their best to provide it.

The other big decision we made when we got married was that we would always have a guest room… we would settle into a new house and I would post pictures and invite all our friends and families back home to come visit. Some of them saw every house we ever lived in and others never saw any of them. We made sure to throw a big birthday bash for all four January birthdays every year to give people a reason to make a trip out to visit… and our parents made it almost every year! 

There have been times the past few years when I have felt upset because people have not made a point to see us since losing Ben.  But I realized that I can look back and reflect on the times they didn’t come, or when they sent money because they had other important things to do… or I can make the choice to remember the good.  And to be honest, I don’t remember the times they didn’t show up, because I make it a point to focus on all the times they DID show up, which is more times then I can count.

My parents are rockstars… and while the kids and I will never get to see them as much as we would like, I make sure that I tell them how amazing their grandparents are as often as I can.  We tell stories and pick up the phone to Facetime when I remember (which isn’t often enough, because I’m not as good a daughter as they are parents).  And my kids never ask when are they coming to see us… instead they ask when can we go see them, because they know the road works both ways, and they have been brought up to understand that it’s our job to make people know how much we love and appreciate them.

So because I don’t say it nearly enough, and my dad’s not on Facebook, but he follows my blog… I just want you to know that I love you all bunches and can’t wait to see you really soon, but not nearly soon enough!    

***And I’m really sorry that I didn’t do a great job of remembering Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year, but I love and am thankful for you both every day 😉

Posted in Travel

Travel: Arizona Points & Kanab, Utah

Our trip to Utah was probably my favorite trip of the last few years, and was planned in only 24 hours! We typically spend every 4th of July in Maine with family, but this year even first class plane tickets didn’t give me a peace about flying. So, I made the decision at the last minute to spend the holiday somewhere else. The kids were prepped and ready to leave on Friday, so I started researching places we could drive to for the fourth that still had fireworks and a low amount of covid cases. I mentioned Utah to a friend, and she immediately started telling me about their trip there a few years ago. I was sold! I booked an Airbnb only 24 hours before we set out on our way and I researched what to do along the route, planning to play it by ear once we got there!

This truly was an amazing trip and I wish we could have stayed longer! We got on the road Friday morning and stopped for a picnic lunch and dinner before stopping the night in Gallup, New Mexico, just short of the Arizona border. (Due to the 14 day quarantine and state parks being closed to out of state visitors, there were not many options for things we could do in New Mexico. There were even places that would not allow us to use their restrooms due to us being from out of state).

On Saturday, we set out for Kanab, driving through part of the Petrified Forest and stopping in Winslow, AZ at the Meteor Crater. The kids enjoyed seeing the crater, but it is not something I would recommend paying the money for if it isn’t something you are really interested in. There is a small museum and you can take a tour, but it was expensive for only spending 30min to an hour there!

Meteor Crater in Arizona

We got back on the road and made our next stop in Horseshoe Bend, AZ. It was mid-day and hot (100+ degrees) when we set out on this hike, but it was so worth it. We took water and made sure everyone had sunscreen before we set out. There is a new path here that has covered benches on the pathway so we could stop for some shade on the way out and back. The walk took us about 20 min each way, but we did let the kids sit in the shade of some rocks while we took pictures of the view of the bend. The pathway takes you right to the top of the bend and depending on the time of day, the coloring of the bend can vary. Because it was mid-day we saw kayakers and rafters resting below when we got there. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be at sunrise and sunset!

Horseshoe Bend in Arizona

Our next stop was in Kanab at our Airbnb. We unloaded and settled in for a little bit, and then grabbed pizza outside at Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Grill. The pizza was amazing (and provided my breakfast for a couple days 😉). The neighbors at the Airbnb told us that we would be able to see the fireworks right from the house so we settled in to play a Washer Toss game and Uno Flip while we waited for them to start. We were able to see fireworks in all directions once they started, to include at the neighbors house, right next door. It was a fantastic way to enjoy the fourth! Before the kids went to bed we had them look through printouts of all the places we could go and they picked where they wanted to go on Sunday!

Fireworks from our yard!

Sunday morning our first stop was the Belly of the Dragon. The Belly of the Dragon once served as a drainage system for the highway it runs under, and we walked the full length of the tunnel to the dead end on the other side. There are points in the tunnel where you need a flashlight to see where you are walking, but the lighting varies as you travel through it which made for some fantastic pictures and videos! The path continues for another ¼- ½ mile past the tunnel and at the end there is a shaded alcove area where people had built towers of rocks. We stopped here for a snack and for the kids to build their own towers/designs before turning around to head back.

Belly of the Dragon
Belly of the Dragon
Rock creation where the trail dead ends off of Belly of the Dragon

From there we set out for the Moqui Caverns (also known as the Sand Caves) near the Moqui Cave tourist spot. For these we parked on the side of the road and made the climb up to caves in the side of the rock. This gave all the kids an opportunity to act like monkeys, and me a chance to face some fears and have a few small panic attacks. J/k. It was a lot of fun as long as you didn’t look down while you were climbing! The caves were amazing and there were several little tunnels the kids could crawl through. The sand in the caves was nice and cool and we enjoyed exploring through these. The kids read the writing on the wall and were even able to find a couple of their names already carved into the walls when we arrived. After a short stay, we scaled our way back down and back to the car!

View of the sand caves up above the trees
View from the caves after the climb

It was another picnic lunch day before we set out to drive around the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We did not schedule a tour due to covid, but we were still allowed to drive around, hike through the property and see some of the animals. The views here were also amazing and this is where we saw the turtle rock!

Turtle Rock At the Best Friends Sanctuary

We called it an early evening and picked up takeout from Vermillion 45 in Kanab before having a movie night at the Airbnb. This meal was amazing and is another highly recommended restaurant if you ever find yourself in Kanab.

Monday morning we set out on what we expected to be the hardest of our ventures. We made our way to Wire Pass Slot Canyon; a part of the Paria Canyon, Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. The parking for the Wire Pass was 8 miles down an unpaved road that was slow going even with a 4wd, but we eventually made it. The Wire Pass dead ends into Buckskin Gulch which is noted to be the longest slot canyon in the world. The route to the Wire Pass from the parking was a little over a mile and was the least rewarding part of the trek, but the views were still beautiful and we enjoyed seeing wildlife along our walk. We passed quite a few people on our way to the canyon who warned us that we might not be able to make the drop down into the canyon with kids, but we were not going to give up so easily after making it that far. We waited on a couple with dogs to give up and turn around once we reached the canyon and then we jumped right in to try. Another couple recommended putting our backs against one side of the canyon and our feet on the other side to lower us down, so I started out trying that first. I ended up deciding to put one foot on either side and dropped down with no trouble! E helped all the kids over the rock and they dropped down to me with him following at the end!

One of the narrowest parts of Wire Pass
The end of Wire Pass and the start of Buckskin Gulch

The slot canyon was such a fun adventure. The temperature in the slot canyon was cool so we took our time walking through. The end of Wire Pass opened up into a nice cool large opening before joining with Buckskin Gulch. We walked part of Buckskin Gulch and then made our way back to the large opening to sit and eat our picnic lunch. We made our way back to the opening of the canyon and climbed up the 8 feet out with E and I helping the kids. The mile walk back in the heat of the day was the hardest part of the hike, and because we had had some water casualties along the way (kids dumping it over their heads, and two spilled water bottles) everyone was out of water by the time we reached the car! We grabbed drinks out of the cooler and settled in for the slow drive back out to the highway. We took it easy the rest of the afternoon, had dinner at Wild Thyme in downtown Kanab (I highly recommend the salted caramel cheesecake), took the kids souvenir shopping, and loaded the car to start home Tuesday morning!

Tuesday, we checked out of our Airbnb and headed for Lake Powell in Arizona. We spent the morning at Lone Rock. This is a fantastic beach where you can drive right down the sand to the water and can even camp out right on the beach. It was gorgeous and we could have spent a whole day tubing or floating here if we had had the time! Next trip we will definitely plan to spend more time here!

The beach we drove down to at Lone Rock

We spent the night in New Mexico again on the way home, drove past the Route 66 Auto Museum in the morning and then finished our drive home!

*** The Kanab, UT Visitors Center is fantastic. I definitely recommend stopping there if you are planning to spend anytime in Kanab. The staff are super helpful and can tell you the conditions of all of the canyons on a given day, they can also set you up with tours or guides for any of the trips that would require extra help. There are several canyons that can only be reached by ATV or canyoneering. I have already started planning our next trip back here since there is so much more we want to experience there!

Posted in Joy

Change Brings Unexpected Blessings

               Ask any widow and they will tell you that there is a sometimes subtle change that starts happening after they lose their spouse.  They grow and adapt and learn new skills, and while it doesn’t change the heart of who they are, there is definitely a transition that takes place.  And those changes can be for the better.

               This week in my Bible study I was asked to reflect back on who I was a year or two ago and how I have changed since then… and what is so significant about that change.  I sat down with a pen and paper to start thinking about the me of today compared to the me of two years ago.  And this is what I came up with:

  1. I’m more independent then I have ever been before.  I have learned that I can do many things on my own, and whenever possible, I choose to do them alone, even when I don’t have to.
  2. I’m more of an overachiever than I have ever been before. I set high goals and I strive to achieve them.  I want to be successful at whatever I undertake and I want to do it all, and do it well.
  3. I’m less focused then I have ever been before.  It takes me twice as long to complete anything these days.  Call it mom brain, widow brain, or whatever you want, but I have the hardest time sitting down to complete any task on time and without distractions. 
  4. I’m more outspoken then I have ever been in my life.  While you won’t get me on a soapbox about politics and my other strongly held beliefs in the public realm, you will definitely see them if we are friends.  If I’m not happy about the way you are treating someone or handling something, I am way more likely to tell you then I have ever been before… but I will try to tell you kindly.
  5. I’m less of a people pleaser than I ever was before.  I still want to please people, but I am not going to sacrifice what I think or believe in order to make you like me.  Instead, I have learned to stand up for myself and refuse to be treated badly.  I have learned that being a Christian doesn’t mean you have to repeatedly let others hurt you just so you can be friends!
  6. I have learned to say no. If there is something that I don’t want to do, I am more likely then ever to just say no.  I have turned down opportunities for higher paying jobs and better benefits, because it wasn’t something that I thought was best for my family in the long run.  If it isn’t going to bring me joy and peace, chances are I am going to walk away from it!
  7. I have learned to do a lot of hard things.  Burying my husband and raising my kids alone is just the start.  Navigating being a mom and making all the hard choices for my family and myself in the midst of grief is still a struggle.
  8. I have learned that the only person who can measure my success is ME.  And if I am happy and living the life that God has called me to live, then I don’t have to answer to the masses of people who surround me.  All I have to know is that He holds me in the palm of His hand and He guides me.

As an educator, I have always argued that we never stop learning.  That once we become satisfied with where we are in life, we should keep looking for new ways to grow.  I am excited to see what the me of two years from now looks like, and how the Lord will continue to grow and change me in light of all life sends our way.   What about you?  Have you gone thought something that has changed you over the last few years? Are there ways that you are praying you will keep growing and changing?     

Posted in Travel

Travel: A Weekend in Colorado Springs and Great Sand Dunes, CO

               As much as I would prefer well planned and well thought out vacations, I have enjoyed the ability to go on several last minute trips this summer!  The first was to Colorado.  The weekend we returned from North Carolina we found out that B’s mom was taking a last minute trip there.  We were expecting a last minute trip to somewhere, we just weren’t sure where it would be to!  Since it was within driving distance, we jumped at the opportunity to tag along. 

               We knew we would be picking B up in Breckenridge to meet E and I started messaging friends in Colorado to ask the must dos!  We settled on meeting up in Colorado Springs for the weekend so that we could catch up with friends if they were free and could do some fun things that they recommended!

It had been a long time since I had taken my three kiddos on a road trip on my own and I started looking for fun things to do along the way! We knew we needed to be in Breckenridge on Friday so we left first thing Thursday so we would have time to stop. We stopped to picnic lunch in New Mexico and at a hotel for the night near the Great Sand Dunes once we hit Colorado! Friday morning we got up and headed for the Sand Dunes. The kids had a great time playing in the sand and as much as I wanted to take the Suburban 4wheeling through the Medano Pass, I decided to save that for a trip when I wasn’t the only adult! It was a warm day, so we spent a couple hours playing in the sand and then had a picnic lunch before getting back on the road to Breckenridge!

Starting our hike at the Great Sand Dunes!

               We made it into Breckenridge mid-afternoon and explored the town by walking through the closed streets.  We took votes on where to eat dinner, and ended up eating outdoors at Downstairs at Eric’s.  The kids enjoyed watching all the tourists walking through the streets with their dogs and riding bikes while we ate.  The food was fantastic and we decided it was worth a trip back to on Sunday if there was time!  We even wrapped up some food to go because we didn’t want to leave anything behind!

               After we met up with B and E we headed for our hotel in Colorado Springs.  We had decided on a hotel near the Air Force base since it was close to friends and the activities that we were planning to do!  We knew that B had been to Colorado Springs before, but he couldn’t remember anything he had done there so we figured whatever we chose would still be fun!  Our splurge activity for this trip was a jeep tour of Colorado Springs on Saturday morning.  We wanted to fit as many activities as we could into our 48 hours with B, so we got started first thing Saturday!    

               We did a jeep tour with Adventures Out West and our tour guide was fantastic.  We started out with a trip to Helen Hunt Falls, seeing the Broadmoor, and then driving through Cheyenne Canyon and Manitou Springs.  The highlight for the kids was off-roading through the old railroad tunnels that were a part of the original Shortline Railroad.  We ended our tour at the Garden of the Gods where they got to see the Visitors Center and pick out souvenirs from the largest trading post in Colorado.  We did a couple of short hikes to see the Balanced Rock and views of the Colorado Mountains where we were able to take some gorgeous pictures and videos.

Helen Hunt Falls
Short line Railroad Tunnels
Garden of the Gods
View from Garden of the Gods

After an outdoor lunch at the European Café we headed for Pike’s Peak. We weren’t sure if we would have to shuttle to the top, but because we had kids in boosters in the car, we were able to drive all the way to the top. There was some construction being done, but we were able to go up to the edge anyways to see the surrounding views. We stopped for the kids to play in the snow and climb rocks on our way back down the mountain! Dinner was sushi at an outdoor café before we ended our day back at the hotel!

Pikes Peak view
Some of the winding roads on the drive up to the Peak

               Sunday was a little more lowkey.  The girls and I took our time getting up in the morning while the boys played on ipads in the living room of our suite.  We grabbed breakfast to go from the hotel and headed to the Dinosaur Resource Center in Colorado Springs.  We spent an hour there (mostly in the gift shop) and then made our way to Edelweiss for another outdoor lunch.  E and I recalled childhood German learned when we lived there and the kids practiced the German words that were on the back of their menus.  Everything we tried was amazing, if you are ever in Colorado it would be worth making a trip here just for the food! 

Edelweiss Restaurant

                 After lunch we started making our way back to Breckenridge so that B would be able to make the drive back to Texas with his mom Monday morning.  We dropped him off, went to do a little sightseeing on our own and then started the drive back to TX with E helping drive this time.  We made it home on Monday and everyone determined that it was a last minute trip success!  This was the shortest weekend that B had with us this summer, and how good was God that we got to spend 48 hours in a new state without having to worry about the travel time!?  It marked the 32nd state I have taken the kids to, and the 24th that we have been to with E & B.  Another travel success and we have determined that once facemask laws are lifted we will definitely make a trip back! 😊

Posted in Travel

Travel: Franklin, NC (roadtripping through LA, AL, MS, GA, TN, & AR)

After we returned from Palo Duro, I had the itch to get out of Texas and knew we needed to find somewhere a little further away to travel to. I knew I wanted to be on the road Father’s Day weekend just like the last several years for the change of scenery and I went back and forth with a friend about meeting in the mountains or at the beach. We finally decided on a trip to the mountains of NC. We found an awesome AirBnb that we could share and loaded up to make the 14 hour drive there! Cooler loaded down and car filled up with snacks, we made the trek across the lower southeast USA.

               Since my three kiddos had not been to Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama; we planned some strategic stopping points along the way in order to mark them off of our family United States map (this trip marked states 28-30 for the kids and I, and states 19-23 that we have visited with E & B)!  We stopped to picnic in Louisiana and visited the battle grounds in Mississippi.  Our Alabama stop consisted of a short mountain hike and drive as we made our way to Rock City on the border of Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.  There we wound our way through some twisty roads in order to see views of 7 different states at once (however, I couldn’t tell you where one begins and one ends).  The views were beautiful.

Battle grounds in Mississippi

Chickamauga National Military Park

We also made a stop at McKays Used Books in Chattanooga. If you ever find yourself passing through Tennessee, you don’t want to miss out on stopping at one of these warehouse sized bookstores. They are worth putting a mask on for and my kiddos enjoyed browsing and picking out a few new books for the road trip! It was our first trip into a store in 3 months and was worth the wait!

Since we shared an Airbnb in NC, it was by far the nicest place we have stayed to date, and happened to be located right on a small waterfall. Limited phone and internet service for the week made for some excitement, but once again we came prepared to cook our own meals and enjoy our time with friends.

We made a couple of day trips to see local waterfalls that were only a few miles from our house. Cullasaja Falls can be viewed from the road as it’s a bit of a dangerous hike. Bridal Veil is a waterfall that you used to be able to drive under, but is now blocked so you can only walk through. Dry Falls is a fantastic waterfall that you can hike down to and walk under, ducking into caves to stay out of the spray of water! Dry Falls was by far the kids favorite to visit as they loved the caves!

Bridal Veil Falls
Dry Falls

We even took the kids gem mining at a local shop just down the road from where we were staying. And one day we drove into Bryson City to do the train museum scavenger hunt and have lunch outdoors in the little town. The middle of the week we took all the kids on their first white water rafting trip and they got to experience one Class 3 rapid which made for a lot of excitement!

On our last day we drove to Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia to do some hiking and see the waterfall there! This waterfall was down about 20 flights in elevation and was not nearly as exciting to see as the others we had visited, but the exercise was good for everyone!

The view from Black Rock Mountain State Park

The rest of the time we spent playing games in the house and enjoying the waterfall.  The kids enjoyed skipping stones and jumping rocks around the fire pit almost every day of our trip!

Our trip home consisted of a stop in Nashville to have another picnic with friends who are stationed at Fort Campbell and then a stop in Arkansas for dinner! I love getting the opportunity to travel with friends and family and having friends living all around the country who we can stop and see along the way is a huge bonus to traveling! With family in NC this is definitely a trip we will making again in the future with new stopping places along the way!

Posted in Travel

Travel: A Weekend at Palo Duro Canyon

               I love taking the time to plan out a trip, and research the best things to do with kids to both make it memorable, and affordable.  Because of the pandemic, our plans have changed so much this summer, that I have just been learning to go with the flow.  And in many ways that has turned out to our benefit.  During the Texas lockdown, I had lots of time to research and make lists of all the places I wanted to visit!  We have a goal to hit all 50 states before the kids are in high school and we are well on our way.  But Texas is a BIG state and there are so many places I have wanted to explore that are good weekend destinations… so I started making plans and booking refundable trips and praying that at least some of them would work out!

The first trip of this summer was to Palo Duro Canyon. Now, I have been to the Grand Canyon and it is for sure a sight to behold, but in light of the pandemic and this being our first trip away, I decided to stick closer to home this time around! Palo Duro is only about 4.5 hours from Fort Worth, and perfect for a short trip when you don’t want to do any stopping with kids!

Because the canyon was still closed (with no published reopening date) when I started planning, I was able to get an awesome deal on an AirBnb that was located right on the canyon! We knew we wanted a kitchen for this trip and since we had friends traveling with us, an AirBnb was more cost effective than staying at a hotel. Since we already have state park passes for Texas, all we had to do was reserve a spot in the park when reservations reopened (added bonus, when the park opened up they were only letting in a limited number of people, so less people on a holiday weekend at the end of May was a huge bonus).

We drove down on a Friday and stayed thru Monday evening. We spent the first night at the AirBnb on the deck watching the wildlife climbing through the canyon. The good thing about staying at an AirBnb with a kitchen is that we could load a cooler down with food and snacks for the whole trip and cook our meals just like we are at home. So once we checked in, we could stay put for the afternoon/evening.

Sunset views from our AirBnb

Whenever we make plans to travel, the first thing I do is make a list of all the things we would like to do while we are there that would cost extra money and determine what our budget for the trip can handle. Whenever possible, I like to find free activities and plug in one “bonus” thing to do that we think is reasonable to spend the money on! Because we had several out of the country trips for the spring/summer rescheduled ☹, our travel budget for the summer allowed for us to do two splurge things on this trip! The first, which was my favorite, was horseback riding in the canyon on Saturday morning. I love horseback riding and other than riding a pony at the state fair, my kids had never ridden and I thought it would be a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the canyon for the first time! We got there early and met our guides and the kids got to meet their horses for the morning. We loaded up and went on our first adventure through the canyon.

Riding through the canyon

When we finished riding we went back to the AirBnb for lunch and then loaded back up for our second adventure which was ziplining over the canyon! Not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this one, but luckily we had enough adults to outnumber the kids who would need to zip tandem and most of them were braver than I was! 😉 Ziplining required us to climb a steep ramp while tethered to each other and the railing and then after ziplining, crossing a swinging bridge back across the canyon!

The climb up to the zip line

This was the kids favorite part of the trip, and while it was quite exhilarating, I was not as ready as they were to jump back on again. It was definitely worth the money we spent on it and everyone agreed the views were amazing!

Coming off the zip line

We grilled out Saturday evening and Sunday morning we hiked several miles through the canyon. Being the end of May in Texas, we didn’t go as far as we would have liked to, but fun was still had by everyone. We celebrated with snowcones and did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the AirBnb for dinner and smores over the firepit!

This is definitely a recommended trip, even if you only do free activities and camp out in the canyon! We would definitely go back, as there are quite a few things we didn’t get to do because of the pandemic! And while it isn’t the Grand Canyon, there is so much more accessible to you here, and the smaller crowds can’t be beat!

If you have ever been and have recommendations for future visits, we would love if you would share them in the comments!

Posted in Travel

Tips for Flying with Kids

I still remember the first time we flew with three kids.  We had just moved back to New York and were heading back to Tennessee for the twins to be in their babysitter’s wedding.  We agonized over whether we should drive or fly because three kids under three require a LOT of stuff.  We were lucky to have friends in TN who were willing to meet us at the airport with carseats and pack n plays so that we wouldn’t have to fly with nearly as much as we thought we would.  Our biggest navigation that trip was two 2-year olds who needed regularly bathroom breaks on the airplane!

The twins may have been two before they took to the skies the first time, but before the pandemic hit, my kids were getting to be quite seasoned in the flying department.  The kids have clocked in over 24 flying trips apiece and have been the proud recipients of a first class trip home from Ohio last winter. They consider themselves to be pros and absolutely love that they are seasoned travelers.  However, we have come a long way from those first tentative flights with car seats and luggage over the last few years!

Flying might not be on your radar for awhile (it’s not our first choice right now with a pandemic and so many regulations), but here are a few things we have learned in our travels!  I’ve broken it down by age as I have learned that their needs have changed somewhat over the last few years, and this is what I have come up with! 

Toddler Travelers:

  • If you can get a trusted carseat/booster on the other end of your travels, do it.  It makes travel so much easier to not have to drag it through the airport (especially if it ends up being thrown under the plane).
  • BRING SNACKS!!!  This is a good one for any age.  Make sure you have something for them to chew on when you are going up in the air, and plenty to keep them for begging for food during the entire flight.  I will usually bring one special treat along to give them part way through the flight.
  • At this age they didn’t have their own electronic devices, so I would bring plenty of games, books, and LeapFrog readers to keep them entertained.  They also loved the reusable sticker books and would enjoy sticking them to the windows and anything else they would attach to while telling stories all around us!
  • I also would download a kid friendly movie to my ipad and would bring along headphones and a headphone splitter so they could all watch something together on the second half of a longer flight or in the airport if we had a flight change.  It helped to give them something to look forward to and made the minutes fly by a little faster for all of us!

Elementary School Travelers:

  • Now that my kids are a little older, and have their own tablets, our travel looks a little different.  We still download some movies to the tablets, but they carry their own backpacks with tablets, headphones, games and books.  They have to earn electronic time just like on roadtrips, but they all love reading so this usually isn’t a problem! 
  • I’m still in charge of rationing out the snacks and always make sure I have a backpack full to keep us well fed!  This makes flight attendants happy especially since my children will tell everyone they are hungry every five seconds if they can 😉

Two things I always try to warn people of is:

  • Kids sound really loud on an airplane!  We try to practice whispering before we get on and I try to remind them that they are much louder on the plane then on the ground.  Maybe it is because their ears are doing crazy things in the air, but be prepared for them to shout a lot to get your attention especially if you are sitting across the aisle from them!
  • Some kids have anxiety about flying.  Luckily even my motion sick child does well on airplanes and none of them get nervous now that we have flown so many times.  But we always talk about the plan and where we are going and how many flights and what we are going to do when we land so they are well prepared for every step of the journey!

The most important thing is to have fun!  Enjoy the time and don’t let all the delays and inconveniences stress you out!  We have missed a lot of flights; had a lot of delays and reroutings.  It’s never pleasant, but you can make the most of those extra moments too!  Just try to make an adventure out of it!  And don’t forget the snacks!!!

Posted in Travel

Why we travel…

               I can’t think of a better way to embrace every moment of life then to spend it enjoying travel with family and friends.  During the first five years of our marriage (when we were just waiting for our family to begin 😉), Ben and I spent every holiday and graduate school break traveling the world.  We knocked off 46 states together and countless countries in Europe, North America, & South America.  We encouraged our families to join us on cruises rather than buy presents, and tried to travel to see family and friends as much as our schedules (and finances) allowed. 

               When God finally blessed us with children, we determined that we would spend as much time showing them the world as we could.  We didn’t let brain cancer and treatment schedules get in the way of that travel, and were able to knock off every state on the East Coast with our kids before he passed away.  The summer he separated from the military, we spent two months on the road, exposing our children to as many new and exciting places as we could in an effort to making lasting memories.

               I took a break from travel outside of visiting family and friends for about a year.  Making the nine hour trek from home to visit family in North Carolina with three kids five and under was enough for me for a little while, but road trips to Texas and Maine the summer after losing Ben put the travel itch back in me and we haven’t stopped since!  My kids love to travel.  We embrace long trips (even though they still ask why I won’t drive through the night) and we love getting to travel with our best friends! 

               Travel brings us so much joy and whether it be Disney, or staying with friends and family, we embrace every moment of these adventures that bring us closer together and allow for us to truly enjoy every moment!  Before our national pandemic I had friends request that I share some travel tips, and about how I plan and pay for our trips, and I am finally getting around to posting some of what I put together!  I hope you will enjoy hearing about some of the adventures we have been on the past few years and the adventures to come!

Posted in Grief, Joy

Are You Really Living?

               If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I write a lot about fear and refusing to live in fear of the unknown.  I try to embrace each and every day the way that Ben would have wanted us to, without being afraid of what may lie ahead. 

               The other day my daughter asked if the coronavirus was done spreading yet and when we were going to be able to leave our house and see our friends.  I sat reflecting on the last time we had spent so many days in a row at home.  I could immediately recall when it was.  It was at the end of the summer of 2017 after we lost Ben.  In those days we stayed home because it was my safe place to hide.  My heart had been torn out and shattered.  I never knew when I might implode, so I needed to be in a place I could trust to protect me from the outside world.

               In those days, I wasn’t forced to stay locked away from the world, but I chose to.  I needed to be locked inside myself to heal so that I could return whole again (or as close to whole as I could get). 

               Being able to pick myself up after a loss like that was a challenge.  It was a challenge that I was not ready to face right away.  But, one day I woke up and decided I wanted to embrace living head-on.  I have prided myself the last two years on learning to live again, truly living!  I wake up every day looking for the next great adventure that will allow me to truly live life!

               I don’t know about you, but I have not really felt like I have been living the last few weeks.  Being locked away, told who I can and can’t see, being unable to plan for the future; makes me question my definition of living fully.  It’s made me wonder whether people, things, and places are what I really long for and whether I truly know how to be happy for myself. 

               And this is what I have learned.  We get to determine how happy we are in our circumstances.  No matter what put us in this place, we have a choice every day to make the best of it.  Just like everyone else, I want to see my family, and I want to see my friends.  I am disappointed in all the plans that have been cancelled and all the plans that won’t come to fruition because of this pandemic. 

And this is what I have decided to do:

  1. Keep Living.  Keep waking up every day and making the most of it wherever you are. 
  2. Keep embracing the ones you love.  Whether that is those you live with or your close circle of people that you are riding the storm out with, find a way to be close to them as much as you can.
  3. Keep making memories.  Try something new.  Learn some new games and watch new movies. 
  4. Keep sharing joy.  No matter how hard your current storm is, there are others who are struggling just as much or more.  Find them and figure out how to share a little joy with them.

               1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is the will of God.”  I encourage you to keep on living life in spite of all uncertainty and doubt. Make plans and put them on the calendar.  Find a way to look forward to waking up every single day.  You won’t regret a moment spent looking for the good!