Beautiful Work

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands…. Psalm 90:17a

Family vacations November 6, 2009

Filed under: Travel — Kate @ 1:17 pm

Our family vacations are usually visiting our families (since they are both out of town!)  The costs of just getting there add up fast enough, so I am glad that they are able to house and feed us when we make it to visit.  To save on costs while traveling we do try to take along as much as we can of disposable things (snacks, wet wipes, medicines, etc) so that we don’t get stuck buying them at airport or gas station prices!  Of course it IS nice to have a treat when away from the house, so we figure a few splurges are going to be a part of the travel expenses.  One way to pre-plan for some of those expenses are by getting gift cards ahead of time.  Since there is a Starbucks on pretty much every other corner, and we do admit to being coffee addicts, it’s always nice to have one of those on hand … you can even save a few bucks buy getting a Costco pack of them, redeeming credit card points or survey points to get them too!  On our recent family vacation we were able to redeem some hotel points (that my husband had from traveling with work … at least there are some perks!) to get a FREE night at a very nice hotel when we were on the road.  It pays to plan ahead as much as you can :)

Besides the financial aspect of vacation there is always the relationship side of it.  It seems that our family can get stressed out just by being on vacation!  (Isn’t it supposed to be relaxing??)  We have found that it really helps when we try to talk through our expectations of what each day may hold (whether it’s a just a quite day with the family at the in-law’s house, or a busy day spent out in the city) before it happens.  When we actually remember to do that it really helps a lot!  Our toddler-age kids even benefit from a little pre-activity discussion too, even though they aren’t usually in on the decision making yet.  This is especially true if they day is going to be too far outside of our normal routine!  On a longer vacation we have found it super helpful to hold on to as much of a scheduling routine as possible with the kids.  While adults are able to flex a few hours later for dinner, the kids can’t quite handle it as well!  It’s also good to remember that just being somewhere different than home can be a vacation without having to plan too many special events into each day!  I love to be on the go and doing things, but especially with young kids, just being somewhere new can be a vacation :)


Learning to Vacation November 5, 2009

Filed under: Travel — Leah @ 8:00 am

I love vacation…who doesn’t really though???!   My husband is a teacher so our lives function on the traditional school calendar.  We drive each Christmas, Spring Break, and Summer to visit my family in northern California.  It’s a great adventure for our kids and is a insanely cheap vacation for us to take.   We put a little (a VERY little) bit of money aside each month that we can spend when we are on vacation.  Often this means a lunch date for Eric and I while the kids rest at Grandma and Grandpas’ house, or an afternoon family ice cream date while on vacation with Eric’s family.

Camping Beverly Beach August 2009 122This last summer we went camping for the first time, with my parents for support.  :-)  We had a great time and I am convinced it’s partially due to the prep work my mom put in beforehand.  She had several, SUPER SIMPLE, activities for the kids to do each day during the afternoon so that we could stay in camp and rest, without a couple of not-quite-four-year-olds running all over.  Really simple things like bringing army dudes from the dollar store for some good ‘ol dirt play and a glue gun for some nature craft/mobile action.  It was great and the kids ate it up.IMG_0502

We aren’t too sure what our family style of vacation will be in the long run as of yet.  Every family has their own preferences and style of vacationing.   Vacation with my family is a LAID BACK experience, whereas vacation with Eric’s family is a GO GO GO vacation full of once-in-a-lifetime type of back-to-back adventures (could it be anything else with EIGHT kids under 6 years old??).  I’m really thankful that our kids are able to experience vacations with both of our families right now.  I know that memories are being built and relationships are being strengthened with each break we take from the norm…and I am thankful for that.


I Need a Vacation… November 4, 2009

Filed under: Travel — Gretchen @ 9:00 am

This week we are talking about how we do vacations!!

We have done vacations a number of different ways, so I will list them and then comment on which way worked best for us so.  I hope you all can learn from our trial and error :)

1.  We have family in Arizona and Montana and Washington State and so we have flown out to visit them and we have driven out.  All of these trips have been quite costly, exhausting and quite an undertaking.  We have also had vacation wrapped into family events such as weddings and reunions.  These are good and necessary but have not been the best for our immediate family.  We have found it hard to really relax when traveling with kids anyway and when visiting family there are always lots of people to see so this can also be taxing especially if you are an introvert.  Also most of these trips have involved moving sleeping locations several times which is challenging with young kids.  During these trips we have experienced extreme sickness (vomit, burst ear drums, high temps, strep throat), being snowed in, car break downs, awkward family drama, and little sleep.  This has just been our comical experience with traveling to visit extended family and for us with family far off and 6 people to transport these trips often become our “vacation.”

2.  Staycation – When I was 8 months pregnant with Francesca it was summer and we wanted to somehow vacation before the new babies arrival so we stayed at home and planned day trips around Minneapolis.  We visited zoos and water parks and little towns.  This was a lot of fun and a vacation the girls still remember fondly.  Not quite as much of a break for me because I still had all the cleaning and cooking to do, but a little less stressful than packing everyone up.  We also put a ban on computer/phone contact during our break just as if we had been out of town.

3.  Short trip – We often venture over to Chicago which is about 6 hours away.  This is probably another one of our favorite spots to go.  We really like going to cities as opposed to quaint little towns :)  Our Chicago trips have been some of our favorites.  We like to walk around and explore new cities and there is so much to do in Chicago.  Usually our trips to Chicago have been combined with work for Lukas so our lodging has been dependent on where we get put up.  Generally the best times have been when we were able to stay in some kind of suite or campus housing (Lukas has filmed conferences that were held on college/seminary campuses).  We have all stayed together in one very small hotel room which was quite hilarious.  Even if we are cramped I still enjoy not having to clean or cook :) so this is a real break for me.

4.  Time share quaint town – These trips have been such a blessing for us too.  My parents have let us use their time share condo which is located in a small, quaint town.  This is really ideal for a family because it has a kitchen and two bedrooms and laundry!!  We are not generally big fans of small towns but there is something nice about not having to go anywhere.  The only downside for me has been the fact that we still have to cook and clean and do laundry :)

In summary I am sure you have picked up on my favorite vacations but really we just take each year as it comes.  Usually we save each month for some type of vacation but some years this has been hard.  My only piece of advice is to do what you can afford.  There is nothing worse than having to pay for a vacation after the fact :)  It is fun to save up for a vacation but not so fun to have to pay for it once it is  over.  Some years we have used our tax refund or been gifted some type of vacation and we just go with what we can.  We find ourselves wrapping a vacation into a big family event or work for my husband to help defray costs because traveling with 6 people is hard to stay in budget.


One Pot Pasta- perfect for the great outdoors! July 7, 2009

Filed under: Meal Planning,Recipes,Travel — Leah @ 6:00 am

Here’s a recipe that is perfect for camping:  it takes ONE POT, uses easily packed ingredients, and takes less than 20 minutes to make.

One Pot Pasta

(2)  16 oz cans diced tomatoes

(1) 10 3/4 oz can chicken broth

2 T. oil

1 1/4 t. italian seasoning (measure out at home and avoid packing measuring spoons!)

(1) 12 oz package spiral pasta

Optional:  (1) can  shredded chicken (you know…like tuna…but it’s chicken!)

Bring to a boil tomatoes, chicken broth, oil, and seasoning.  Add pasta and simmer 16-18 minutes (or according to package directions).  Stir in chicken, if desired.  Serve with some crusty bread and enjoy!


Five things to de BEFORE you go on vacation June 18, 2009

Filed under: Mothering,Travel — Leah @ 6:00 am

Thing No. 1: Give your kids a “practice night” (from the comfort of their own room) in the sleeping bag or tent or ??? that they will be sleeping in on vacation.  This can help ease the strangeness of a new sleeping arrangement that first night away.

Thing No. 2: Let them make decisions about the snacks/meals that you pack along for the trip.  For example: if you are buying some kind of special cracker/juice/cereal  give them three options you are willing to buy and let them pick the one they’d like to take along.

Thing No. 3: If you are headed to a sunny destination and have children who easily burn, here’s a way we have found to end the “please wear your hat- no, I don’t want to” battle-  We wait to buy our children’s head covering for the summer until right before we leave for the trip.  Letting them pick the hat, and having it still be NEW on the vacation gives the hat-wearing requirement a new exciting angle!  (I have found that buying hats at end of the season sales doesn’t work real well for our family…my kids have big heads…that grow in unexplained patterns over the winter).

Thing No. 4: Buy your milk and bananas before you go.  These silly things are a standby for so many families with young kids and the vacation spots know it!  I’ve never seen bananas and milk priced so high as I have while on vacation.  Save yourself some moola and pack it in the car with you.

Thing No. 5: Toss a small fan (or white noise machine if you already have one) in the car.  If you are sleeping in the same room as your kids, it will be a lifesaver for Mom and Dad.  Drowning out the cute little noises of my children sleeping is essential for me to sleep in the same room with them.

Oh, and Tylenol PM helps too.  :-)

Happy Vacationing!


Finishing the Road Trip series: Long Trip with Toddlers April 9, 2009

Filed under: Books,Travel — Andie @ 2:29 pm


I promised a friend that I would write up my road trip post before she embarks on one. So, here it is, my Ultimate List of LONG Road Trip Suggestions. We traveled 3,685 miles in our Honda Accord with our 3 1/2 year old and 21 month old…. without a DVD player. We could have accessed one. However, Andrew felt that if they had it, they would just whine whenever it wasn’t on. This is probably true. If you are brave enough to go without, it actually weans your children off TV quite effectively to be in the car for days without it. So, here are my lists. The first one is the “non-negotiable, do whatever you need to do to have these items” list. The second one is full of helpful suggestions that you may be able to replace with something else. 

List One: Non-Negotiables

-AAA membership (for those drive-in-a-blizzard-and-run-off-the-road-into-a- snow-bank times… when you have to be towed. If you have good car insurance, you may be able to just use that to be reimbursed for the tow truck. However, check beforehand to understand your coverage. I’m speaking from experience here, people.)

Earplugs-  It just takes the edge off of the screaming children. Trust me.. get them BEFORE you need them. They will be much more comfortable than the Starbucks napkins we balled up and stuffed in our ears.  Sadly, even Flying J doesn’t carry earplugs!

Small cooler- Stuff it on the floor behind the driver’s seat so the passenger can access snacks (string cheese, apples, drinks to put in spill-proof cups…)

Books on tape/CD/ipod– We enjoyed several of the Narnia Series books. Listening to them was delightful- a highlight of the road trip. Make sure you choose things that you will enjoy along with your children. Mrs. Pigglewiggle is a funny one Ruth and I  are loving lately, too. You can also buy audio books on itunes, in case you didn’t know.

-Tylenol & Ibuprofen Adult and Children varieties.

-Window Shades for Back seat (come in two-pack in baby aisles at Target)

List Two: Recommended, but not Essential (can be substituted with other stuff)

-Cheap cookie sheet to function as tray- This will minimize the losing of toys and books and markers.  You can put fun magnets on it. It worked well with the 3 1/2 year old. It didn’t work so well with the 21 month old. He just used it as a weapon…. or instrument. Occasionally he was entertained for long periods by driving a matchbox car on it.

Cheap new toys and a plastic bin to keep them in.  Pipe cleaners to make shapes, letters, chains, etc. $1 Matchbox cars. Library books (bonus if they match the book on tape… but be careful, it’s easy to lose them!).  No mess clear Crayola markers that color on special paper to make a color (this is a splurge). Sticker  book with LOTS of pages and stickers  (even more worth-it than the markers and found in Book and/or Toy section). Mini Suction-cup covered balls (found with party favors, a BIG hit.)


-Costco size snacks to keep in trunk- We used two big shallow storage containers in the trunk. In one we kept bulk diapers and wipes. In the other, we kept snacks from Costco. We had crackers, Asian pears, apples, string cheese (which didn’t spoil b/c it was cold outside), fruit snacks, Lunchables, drinks and copious amounts of plastic baggies. This made it nice because we had some fresher options when fast food and gas station snacks sounded gross. (Note: SuperTarget has a lower fat 10g Lunchable available now, as opposed to 18g)

-Plastic Placemat Map & Dry Erase Marker This is something I wished I could have given Ruth while I looked at the big Road Atlas (also essential). I couldn’t find one at Target.

To save money, ask around and borrow what you can, but only if people are okay if it doesn’t come home….