Tag: vacation

God’s Valentine’s Gifts

You may not know it but I have really needed a vacation (I was overwhelmed and getting rather depressed). I need to take a nice long drive occasionally, get away, clear my mind, and do something cool with (and preferably FOR) my favorite people. I know this about myself, and Shamus knows it, and apparently God knows it and chose to arrange for it.

Rachel making a bead ninja.

On Friday I got a message from a friend (who is the closest thing to a sister I have ever had.) She needed some help over the weekend and knew that I was probably the only person she knew who could and would come visit for the weekend on the spur of the moment and provide the help needed. She offered to pay the gas and groceries if Rach and I could come for a visit (the other 2 kids were welcome but she really needed my help searching for some very important papers that she was sure she would find with my help–which we did and Rach’s help with babysitting while we searched). This was at 11 am Friday. Shamus was asleep and Rach was out babysitting and practicing piano so I prayerfully began getting things ready in case, upon praying about it, Shamus felt I should go.  (My gut is ALWASY  in favor of a trip but I needed to check it with God and Shamus as Shamus is much better at discerning in the areas I am prone to just jump in and do.)   By the time he woke I had all but the prep except for final packing done.

Rachel decided her Trader Joes cod fillets should "look" like fish. (She had to make them because we had just played "Fish Stix which made her hungry.)

We prayed about it and after some time Shamus said the coolest thing– he had been praying the night before that I would have the opportunity to be a blessing to others because he knew how important that was to me. Isn’t that so cool and sweet? And he is right, I LOVE blessing others and want to help, fix, do whatever I can to make things better for someone else and I think it is so sweet that he actually prayed for that opportunity and really do start getting mopey if I don’t have the opportunity. And then he said that that prayer was exactly what God brought to mind when he prayed. So Rach and I got to go! YAH!!!! This was especially cool because Rach had been begging to take a trip with me– she thrives on the time away as much as I do and longed to see our friends again (as well as another friend on the way that she had been begging to visit.) So God gave Rach and me a Valentine’s gift. 🙂

Rach and Kayla signing Valentine's day cards.

Rach was so excited when she returned home (loaded down with Sam’s Club quantities of the non-food items we had been out of, plus eggs–an awesome gift from our inlaws) and I finally told her what was going on. We loaded up the car and left just as Sabbath began for the 5 hour trip. We were supposed to borrow a GPS from my in-laws but couldn’t find the cord and use dGoogle maps instead. It worked out really well because it turns out Rach is an awesome navigator. 🙂 The drive itself went so smooth that we made it in record time with only one stop even needed. We listened to Rebbecca, an American Girl on the way, which was a fascinating look at a young Hebrew girl in 1914 (very cool because my Polish great-grandparents came to America in 1918.)  The weather was perfect, which is amazing for this time of year.  We actually only needed light jackets for most of the visit– a nice change from the snow and ice, and got to enjoy LOTS of sunshine!

Kayla and Rach at Ihop.

Not only did God bless the trip in amazing ways but He also blessed us throughout with gifts of money (enough to pay several bills) and groceries (LOTS– which was great because we finally have  a full pantry) and clothes (the perfect things to replace several rather threadbare items). It was wonderful to spend time with CJ and Kayla and really relax and spend time talking and chatting. Rach even kept Kayla so CJ and I could go out shopping and run some errands.

Our beautiful Kayla girl-- photo taken by Rach.

We also had enough gas to visit slightly out of the way friends on the way home. Rachel was especially excited by this as she had been saving her money for a visit with her friend, plus I got to hang out with her mom, a dear fellow homeschooling friend who has been through much of the same situation in the past, which as you can imagine was very encouraging.

Rachel after I curled her hair. Doesn't she look so grown up?

The trip home itself was … interesting.. due to high winds but we found a cheaper way home (less toll roads) and had a nice drive through PA’s mountains. The next morning we received yet another Valentine’s gift in the form of a package from a friend, containing chocolates (yummy), home canned preserves and sweet and sour squash (which the kids are looking forward to trying in the morning), and kettle popcorn (which Shamus LOVED!) All in all, for people who don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day God provided some wonderful gifts.

Rachel and Tab taking a walk on an icy field and enjoying their visit.

On the road again: part 2

So it is October and I am only just now, finally, finishing this series, except that this isn’t the finish because I am just doing part of a post because I have to leave in a few minutes to take Esther to her 2 and half hour Oliver! practice (during which I will sit and paint– the project is progressing and Sunday afternoon practices have been a huge help since I get to sit there for 2 and half hours without kids hanging over me– “Whatcha doin’ Mom?  I’m hungry!  Can I …..”)

So, the second stage of our trip to Alexandria we  used our wonderful gift of the museum membership to go to the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore (which just happened to be on the way to another friend’s house.) On the way there, which entailed driving the bypass for DC, Rachel recorded my running commentary regarding the crazy drivers off DC. Mostly she just took pictures which are not nearly as funny as she thought they should be. And at this point all I remember was how silly it all was, and how silly the roads are down there with their constant attempts to remove you from the road you are trying to stay on and the GPS constantly jabbering on about staying left, stay right, take the right lane to turn left.
Me.
And this is me. No, I am not angry, just sweltering hot (100 degrees), and concentrating on the craziness around me.
Maryland Science Center
We mad eit with no trouble, except that the GPS thought the Sceince Center was a mile down the road on a bike path, which was nice. Oh, and there is no actual parking so you have to do road side (just so you know– Pittsburgh has cheap parking for the Ar tMuseum and Sceince Center– which I never appreciated until this where I had to pay $15 for 6 hour parking and had to run outside every 2 hours to pay (remember that I had to park AWAY from the Science Center entrance and it was 100 degrees outside? Yeah. Oh, and I was alone with 3 kids? Which meant at the very least dragging the youngest outside with me each time and being very nervous about leaving the older two with very strict instructions to STAY TOGETHER and call if they need me.)
Maryland Science Center
At least it was pretty.
Maryland Science Center
As usual we headed to the top first (beat the crowds going the other direction. In this case the upstairs was kind of dull though the Chesapeake Bay area and blue crab bit was cool if short.)
Maryland Science Center
The next floor was much, much cooler. We actually got to go into the chemistry lab and experiment (ours showed us how enzymes worked, which is awesome because we have to take food enzymes daily for most foods.)
Maryland Science Center
Really awesome.
Maryland Science Center
Then there was the physics section– which the kids adored. This particular contraption was after my marble loving boy’s heart.
Maryland Science CEnter
All three loved this experiment with pullys.
Maryland Science CEnter
Maryland Science CEnter
Maryland Science CEnter
Also awesome was this section– here the kids had to build an arch from these foam blocks as quickly as possible.
Maryland Science CEnter
Maryland Science CEnter
Building flying machines to put in the wind tunnel= awesome.
Maryland Science CEnter
Black lights right outside the bathroom.
Maryland Science CEnter
Obligatory “dress up as astronauts” photo for my brother, who has worked at NASA from the last 9 years and has wanted to be an astronaut since he was 4.
And about here my camera batteries died or something because I don’t have photos of the other areas– like the dinosaur dig– which Essie adored or the astronomy section. And none of the human body/cell area– which freaked out my two preteen girls to no end. (We have hit that” too much information about the human body being learned out of necessity and therefore want nothing to do with blood cells and all that” stage.)

The kids enjoyed this science center but there has been quite a bit of debate about which is their favorite so far– I think Carnegie Science Center still wins– the Maryland Science Center had some really impressive exhibits but felt too wide open and empty compared to all the awesome stuff at the Carnegie. Also, I think the exhibits at the Carnegie have more replay value than those at Maryland.

A few minutes after leaving the Science Center we were well on our way to another friend’s house but you will probably hear more about that sometime in November if current trends continue. And now I have to leave as it is work time for me and practice time for Essie.

On the road again: Part 1

This summer, due to all sorts of graduations and other activities that were planned for us, we didn’t get to go on our usual trip until the beginning of August.  Now let me just say that when you live in Western PA you forget just how HOT other parts of PA and below get.  And since we were planning on stopping by some other friends’ places and are back on the Candida diet (which by the way is making a huge difference in all of us–not a single RA flare-up for me this whole trip despite the temps and humidity and no one got sick!  YAH us!) we brought our own food.  Note to self: Make sure you keep lots of ice in that thing– 70-80 degrees temps is very different from 90-100.  And since the one friend, whom we often visit, is very near multiple Whole Foods and Trader Joes we stocked up as well–so most of our money spent was on FOOD.

Some highlights of our trip, educational and otherwise:Read More

Finding education in vacation or Learning, Learning, Everywhere

In July, Sandra Dodd hosted Learn Nothing Day.  Our family, after a bit of discussion, decided not to take part, not because we didn’t feel that we unschoolers didn’t need a break, but the kids decided that there was no way they could learn nothing all day.  They figured out that even if they were lying in bed all day or staring at the wall their minds would be full of ideas and figuring things out and that spending a day learning nothing would mean being in a coma or something equally undesirable.

And so, as you can imagine, even our vacation was full of learning.  I had originally intended to do a slew of posts on the subject with pictures but life got in the way so instead I will share the condensed version.

I have already mentioned how we stayed with friends ( a former missionary to Ecuador and private school principle, my dear friend–his daughter, and her 2 year old who is bilingual.)  Lots of learning went on there on which I already touched briefly.  After spending a few days with them we headed to the beach to stay with my dad, stepmom, and baby brother for 3 days.  In that time the kids and I…

discussed how waves work, why the ocean is blue/green, how the tides work and why, how undertow works, how storms affect the ocean, how erosion works, and what lives at the bottom of the sea.

We saw dolphins and pelicans, as well as numerous other small birds that follow when the fish run (silverfish –I believe) were running and many animals were feeding just off the coast.  We also got to watch a fisherman catch a sand shark, a stingray (and get stung), and another kind of shark that I can’t remember.  We got to see the animals up close and had the opportunity to pet them (um, no thank you?)

(Above is a dolphin swimming in the sunrise, they were hard to catch but we saw enough that I got a few photos.)  We also got to experience many sand creatures and learn about biting flies that come in due to a storm at sea (ouch.)

We learned what sand is made of and how rocks are formed.  We scavenged the beach after high tides to sea what the waves had grabbed the day before.  We found a pair of flip flops, 2 boogie boards, several shovels and rakes, and a few shells plus a jelly fish.

We road the bus and road bikes on the board walk which led to a much needed reminder about bike safety and the rules of the road.

We discussed how magnifying glasses work, watched fishing boats go by , learned the difference between an island and a penninsula.

The kids made friends with another family and got braver about going out in the waves.  Issac hung out with the girls older brother and dug huge holes in the sand.

All three kids spent the moments before high tide digging deep holes and trying to find ways to keep the incoming tide from washing them out.  They learned about different sorts of barricades, erosion, and how quickly the ocean can fill in a hole.

We also visited a shipwreck museum and saw items from the Titanic, the Edmund Fitgerald, and other ships, learned how sea divers recover items from shipwrecks and clean them, learned about and bought some hermit crabs (their first ever pets due to hubby’s animal allergies).  We walked miles and miles, saw a lighthouse, visited our friends again and learned about cryptography, did a scavenger hunt, took a new way home, learned about how to save gas while driving, visited our friends at As We Walk, and saw all that God was doing around us–there was a ton of character developing going on that I am not even getting into.

We are still processing all we learned several months later.  Discussions are still going on about various ideas and concepts that were gleaned from our trip.  The kids now want to go back and visit both our friends in DC and Deb’s family–they have plans for DC now that they have been to the area and are figuring out what they want to see (I think a few museums at the Smithonian are the plan for this next trip).  This has led to discussions of all that is available there and planning and organizing on their part (I try to stay out of it except to limit the cost and number of places).  And I, like my three crazies, cannot imagine a day without learning.

Vacation

Still on vacation.  Have a short time of internet access while visiting my friend’s work (thanks CJ!)  Have TONS of photos to share!  The beach was awesome, now we get to hang with friends and have a nice relaxed weekend before heading home.  (Can’t upload the photos here so that will have to wait.)

Have a great weekend all!

Another Update

Update Wednesday: Yeah!  I am home!  God is good.  It was a good trip and now I am thoroughly exhausted.  I have TONS of emails in my inbox to answer plus stuff to do and all I want to do is sleep.  So, off to bed.  Thank you all for your prayers.  Please continue to pray for my friend, things are not all in place yet and she still has some concerns.

Update Tuesday: Yesterday we had a huge storm which knocked out all the electricity, including all the traffic lights, AND my car battery died (car has some issues).  All is good (definitely all God’s timing) but decided to stay another day, make sure the car is all right, and hopefully the electric will be back since all the traffic lights currently have traffic cops guiding the cars and with 6 lanes things are pretty crazy.

It is amazing seeing all God is doing here.  Lots of stories when I get back.

Monday: Well, things didn’t go as planned. My friend broke down an hour and a half out and ended up turning back–very long story. So, instead, I left hubby and the kids and headed to Virginia. And here I am, with no internet access (until just now), having the first vacation away from my kids ever, visiting with my friend, her two year old, and her dad.

Not sure exactly how long I am staying but it is amazing all that God is doing, not to mention how much Spanish I actually understand and remember. (She goes to a bilingual church and has many Mexican friends.:)) Lots of pictures–my camera is full but I can’t upload till I get back to my laptop–which I left at home.

If all goes as planned (planned is a very loose term here–God willing and God’s timing) then I will be heading back to PA on Tuesday morning, if you all wouldn’t mind praying that my car has no trouble (the radiator seems to be having issues but I have lots of water and coolant and all seems to be working out.)

A Frugal Vacation with Kids

The only time my husband and I ever went on a vacation where we did things even remotely “normal” was our honeymoon–and that was because it was a gift from our families.  In the 11 years following our only vacations have been cheap because we, in that time, have never had money to spare for extras like eating out let alone actual travel.  With vacation season upon us and gas and grocery prices sky rocketing, more people are trying to figure out how to do similar frugal vacations.  Most of it has been said better elsewhere but I thought I would share what has worked for us.

  • Research the trip (the internet makes this SO much easier–not only can you research travel prices but you can actually look up towns you will be passing by).  Figure out the cost of driving versus plane, train, or bus and travel accordingly.  The only time we have ever traveled by plane was when my husband’s company paid for it.  Even bus is usually more expensive than driving yourself.  Also, have you tried to deal with a layover with 3 screaming, whiny kids, or dealt with lost luggage with a baby who exploded her diaper, the clothes you packed in the carryon are suddenly too small, and the only store in the town you are staying only sells $50 baby clothes which is more than your budget for the entire trip?  No?  Well it isn’t fun, believe me.
  • Another benefit of research is knowing gas prices along the way (when I traveled the 12 hours between home and Mass. with my then two kids we knew every rest stop and how far I could go on one tank of gas, and where the cheapest gas was), knowing where scenic views and rest stops are.  You can even check for the towns with the lowest cost of living in the area you are going (for instance when we lived in Mass. there were several towns within a few miles of each other–three were tourist traps but one was MUCH more expensive than the others.)  Knowing where all the rest stops are is also a big plus of this.  When I traveled with the kids when they were small we kept a potty in the trunk for emergencies but seldom needed to use it sinc eI knew where the stops where and always let the kids stop and walk(run) around at each stop.
  • Visit friends and family.  Only twice in our married life have we traveled and stayed in a hotel–one was our honeymoon the other was when my husband’s company paid because they were moving us to the area.  Every other time we have stayed with someone or camped.  For instance, one set of friends lives in Mass. near where we lived, another lives in Washington DC, another in North Carolina, and my brother lives in Orlando, Florida.  Last year we traveled to visit my dad, who was renting a cottage on the ocean, and we stopped over with our friends in Washington DC.  The only costs we dealt with was food (which bought at the grocery store) and gas (which we had a yard sale to pay for.)    You can also take a tent and camp out-cheaper than a camp site and gives them their space.  Keep in mind–keep it short.  As my dad used to say, “Fish and company both start to stink after 3 days.”  Of course it depends on the friend (I have some I would LOVE to keep here when they stayed, others though, well 3 days is plenty.:))
  • Travel with friends or family.  We seldom travel alone.  Well, back when I was a homesick mom of two I traveled with my two babies the 12 hours to get home unless I could find a friend traveling the same direction, which I did on occasion.  Sticking together means that you both get to travel AND you split the cost, not to mention have help with the kids.  A note of caution however, make sure the person you are traveling with is not going to get horribly sick of the kids during travel–even grandparents can be affected by this. This can be VERY hard on relationships.
  • Traveling with friends.

  • Be prepared.  Pack for the weather but only take what you need. If you take too many clothes it is very easy to leave something behind.  We plan a few outfits per person that can all be mixed and matched.  One bag per person.  You can always wash something out in the sink and allow it to dry overnight.  Thi seleminates a lot of the mess that occurs when traveling.  If the kids only have 3 pairs of shorts and shirts they are less likely to strew them about the room or tent.
  • Stock up on what you will need before you go.  DO NOT travel light.  Okay, travel light in the clothes department but not in the needs department.  Take all the food and body care you will need with you if at all possible.  Have a cooler with drinks and non-messy foods (fruit and cheese and ready made sandwiches are good.  I also take a thermos full of coffee so I am not tempted to stop.  Unless you are traveling to a non-tourist place that is cheaper than your home town this is important.  If you don’t want to carry it all with you then stop in a small town before you hit the tourist trap.  For instance, last year we visited my dad in Ocean City–before we finished our trip we stopped at a Safeway and picked up all the food we would need, even getting their discount card so we got the best price.  This saved us a ton since Ocean City, Maryland has tons of little touristy shops but no big, normal, cheap grocery store in site, especially none that carry the specialty foods the kids need.  In other words, shop like a local but not necessarily locally.
  • Budget for “I am sick of the car and car food and want a hot meal and a rest”. We usually plan for a quick meal towards bedtime at an actual restaurant.  I try to choose a place where we can get a few cheap things to supplement our car food instead of whole meals as well as a place with a climbing play area and good bathrooms so the kids can change into pj’s if need be.  I usually let each kid pick one item on the dollar menu, get water, and let them run around and let off some steam.  This does a lot for everyone’s sanity.
  • A quick walk to pappap\'s house to jump on the trampoline is a favorite break.

  • Plan your souvenirs. Souvenirs are expensive, though if you plan ahead with the kids there are some cheaper things you can get that will remind you of your trip.  Magnets used to be a cheap souvenir though now at $5 a piece, well, no thank you.  If you must collect magnets stop at the local Walmart–they usually have local ones for much cheaper than the souvenir shops.  We usually stick with post cards and brochures.  Postcards are nice because you can keep them in an album and collect them at each stop.  We also found that brochures work well.  We collected them at every stop over the past few trips–they make fun reading material for the kids while driving and are a perfect way to record all the stops you made.  In fat, we kept ours in a photo album after our North Carolina camping trip and the kids still love to look at them to remember all we did.  My kids also love to pick up maps at the rest stops so they can keep track of where they are and where they have been.  This is also great for future home school activities–my kids learned a ton from all those brochures.
  • Plan around kids sleep schedules. When my littles were babies I would plan my trips around their nursing schedule.  Later I planned around naps.  Since my kids slept well in the car I would leave on my 12 hour trek right after an early lunch.  This meant the littles would sleep for a few hours at the start of the trip.  Then they would be awake for a few hours and then asleep for the rest of the trip.  It worked out really well.  Nowadays we leave after breakfast (one less stop) and listen to books on cd the whole way.  Investing in some Adventures in Odessy ($5 for the travel set) made all the difference traveling 9 hours each way last summer.  It kept the kids entertained and kept squabbling to a minimum.  I also do what my mom did when we made the same trip growing up–I keep a stash of stuff up front and have the kids keep a stash of things in back.  Each has books and activities they enjoy doing as well as a pillow for naps.
  • Finally got them to sleep.

  • When all else fails stay home.  When my husband takes his vacation time each August (for our combined birthdays) we don’t travel.  He HATES traveling so we stick close to home and plan a few fun activities locally.  We usually stay within an hour of home.  The kids also like to go camping at the pond where I grew up.  It makes for a nice change and if something happens we are only 4 miles from home.  You can also check out local campgrounds or go swimming at a local hotel (ours charges about $5 per person.)  Miniature golf, gocarts, or the local farm show or fair are all cheaper mini vacations than traveling.  Just think–for $100 you can get a pass to the local museums for the whole year instead of just the price of gas to one vacation spot.