DR TRIP: Day 1 – Travel day is done

Thursday, we have been traveling all day, our group from Got Questions and the staff reps from Compassion International. Since it’s already nearly midnight as I am writing this and just about ready to pass out in this very comfy hotel bed, I’m just going to list some of the things I don’t want to forget about today…

The alarm went off at 3:15 AM in Colorado, then Tom and Beth picked me up at 4:30 AM. We flew to Dallas at 6 AM and had a quick breakfast from Einstein’s Bros. bagels. Then it was off to Miami an hour later with a looooooong layover there.

After playing on the internet for a long time, reading, and chatting awhile, I took a walk with Kristi-Joy and Tom to find a Wendy’s. It was a fun little excursion. Got to stretch our legs, ride the Skytrain again, and actually did make it to our destination.

I’d seen the sun rise from the plane as we left Colorado, and during our evening flight to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, I saw the pink shades of the setting sun in the sky. It’s been a long day, but honestly, it’s been fulfilling and has prepared my heart for what lies in store tomorrow.

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This was my first time going to another country, so I got my very first passport stamp when we arrived. Huzzah! Doing the customs thing and having to go through so many checkpoints wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Of course, I was just following all the people who actually knew what they were doing, but that’s beside the point. 😉

The air is extremely humid here. It kind of sticks to you. But it’s perfectly offset by the very friendly people we have met so far. I found it both interesting and disorienting to see all the signs in the native language first with the English translation at the bottom. Of course it would be that way, but I still thought it was cool to see. How strange it must be for people to come to America and never see their native language anywhere.

I also found it interesting that they sold hard liquor and big cartons of cigarettes right where you come out from debarking the plane. O.o

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Our tour van is quite awesome, and our hosts (the ones we have met so far) are wonderful guys. We all got bottled water and a quick rundown of what to expect over the next few days on the way to the hotel.

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The hotel is really nice. The bed is comfy, and there’s AC–VERY important. XD The shower has good hot water and water pressure. It’s going to be nice to come back here and relax after the day’s adventures each evening.

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The one thing that still freaks me out a little is the fact that we can’t drink water from the sinks. In fact, they even go so far as to tell us to keep our mouths closed in the shower. So that’s a little scary. And I drink a LOT of water, so I hope that I can stay hydrated with what’s provided in bottled water. 😛

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Finally, of course, I miss my little squirrely squirrels back at home. I’m not away from them often, but I do always miss them when I am. Julie made a little packet for me with a daily note that I am keeping by my bedside to read once a day. So thoughtful!

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I am really looking forward to all we’re going to do tomorrow. We’ll get an early start with breakfast at 7:30, and the van leaves at 9:00.

On Our Way…

So it’s Thursday afternoon, and we have already been on 2 airplanes. We first got to Dallas for a short layover, only long enough for coffee, bagels, and to switch a plane. Yay for having an Einstein’s Bros. Bagels right by our gate!

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Then it was on to Miami, FL for meeting up with the rest of our traveling party and a 5 hour layover. When I looked out the window on the way, I actually got startled by seeing only water below us (the Gulf of Mexico). It was strange to me because I have never traveled over a giant body of water before. When we started our descent, I kept an eye out for the land, and silly as it is, it was pretty cool to see that coastline coming up.

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The landscape is weird here in Florida. So flat and not a whole lot of trees except where they seemed planted on purpose. But palm trees continue to amaze me. I saw them in California years ago, and they are just strangely beautiful.

We had lunch at TGI Fridays and are now just waiting by the gate and doing some various work or personal-related internet tasks. I’ll probably get back to reading my ebook, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, here momentarily, but I figured I had better blog before the evening in case I end up too tired to write by time we get to the DR.

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Flying South. Waaaay south.

Tuesday, I was so exhausted by time I crawled into bed that I couldn’t bring myself to even report the couple of things that happened. So I shall do that now, then share what’s going down tomorrow.

The day was pretty productive work-wise, which is always nice. I was able to stay focused and do the things I had planned to do. When the kids got home, Legolas helped Everest with his homework again, which was SO helpful! I chatted with Julie a bit and looked up some recipes for dinner.

We had just gone grocery shopping before my mom brought over the food from her store, so we found ourselves with an overabundance of zucchini and yellow squash. I decided to try making the French dish made famous by a movie about a rodent, Ratatouille. It is basically a stew with lots of veggies that grow on vines, such as squash, zucchini, and eggplant. I didn’t have any eggplant, so I used bell peppers, carrots, and thinly sliced potatoes in addition to the squashes.

The base is supposed to be a seasoned tomato sauce, but I had some homemade tomato soup that I used instead. Sprinkled some salt, pepper, thyme, and Parmesan on top, and viola!

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I made some chicken and rice to go on the side with it, and I have to say, it was very tasty! If/when we ever get a garden going here, I definitely want to plant yellow squash and zucchini. Those are veggies that we buy a lot to roast as a side. How convenient it would to be to have them growing right in the backyard!

After cleaning up the dishes and kids and getting them all tucked into bed, I found myself utterly spent. It had been a busy day mentally, and we had a good, filling dinner. I decided to take the night off from freelance work since I knew it would be my last really free night for a little while. Legolas and I ended up watching a few episodes of House, M.D. (now on Netflix!) before calling it a night.

Wednesday, today, after I got the kids off to school in the morning, I have done a few things for work, but I technically have the day off to prepare for a 5-day trip to the Dominican Republic with my fellow co-workers at Got Questions and Compassion International.

This will be my first time traveling out of the country. (I had to get a passport and everything!) I admit that I am a little anxious and apprehensive about the whole thing, but I honestly feel that this is where God wants me.

The trip is not about my comfort or relaxation, rather it is about learning more about what God is doing through Compassion in the DR and allowing Him to shape my heart. Certainly, there will be some character growth too, as this is a strange place, and I am traveling with people who I really only know through work (with the exception of Tom and Beth).

So the rest of today is going to be spent mending the skirts that I want to take, packing, prepping the family with muffins to eat for breakfasts, and probably running out the store to get things I have forgotten. Oh yeah, and we have AWANA tonight, which I cannot skip since we skipped last week.

Our first of three flights leaves at 6:00 AM on Thursday, which means that we will have to be there by 5:00, which means that we have to leave my house by 4:30, which means I need to get up by 3:30, which means…well, I guess I’ll go to bed at 9:00 PM. Eek.

I plan to journal throughout the trip, and we should have wi-fi at the hotel. So hopefully I will be able to keep a record and upload pictures and stuff each day. If you pray, please pray for my health during travel and while in a country where the water isn’t safe, and that I will recognize what it is that God wants to teach me. Many thanks!

A Productive Start

Monday has been a pretty good day overall. I got lots done this morning and afternoon for work, then after the kids got home, Legolas helped Everest with his homework so I could start on dinner. We had a Thai feast because my mom dropped off a bunch of veggies and noodles from the store so they wouldn’t go to waste while my parents went on vacation for a week.

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I made Pad Thai, Yum Neur (Thai beef salad), and garlic rice. Sadly, the garlic rice didn’t turn out so great, but everything else was well received. :) Legolas tried dried mangoes for the first time too and loved them.

The kids actually went to bed really easily. Everest was super tired and fell asleep before 7 PM. It was so nice that that all went so smoothly! Legolas helped me out with the dishes too. She was such a huge help today!

I worked on some freelance stuff this evening, then we watched the original 1980s, Tim Burton Batman because Legolas had never seen it before. So many memories! I forgot how much I liked that reporter guy and how incredibly creepy Jack Nicholson was as the Joker.

Probably Batman Returns will be on the list for watching tomorrow night. That’s one of my faves. No one does Catwoman like Michelle Phieffer.

There went the week…

Not sure what happened last week other than an attempt to avoid sleep deprivation. I found myself at the end of some late nights and decided that sleep was far more important than blogging. Of course, now I remember barely anything from the week!

Tuesday, is a total blur. No idea what happened that day, and I took no pictures, so I’m lost. That might have been the day we went to the library.

Wednesday, we ended up skipping AWANA because everyone was very tired and still sort of hungover (sleep wise) from spring break.

Thursday, I was able to move my doctor’s appointment to the afternoon, so I got that out of the way. Nothing’s wrong; I just had to get a physical for a medical release for my international travel this week.

Friday, Julie, Legolas and I watched the Hobbit since Julie did her part in reading the whole book. We did have her cover her eyes for some of the fight scenes and scary bits, but she enjoyed the movie overall, I think. I was thrilled to get to share it with her. :)

Saturday, the kids and I were on our own because Heath was gone camping for the weekend. We did cleaning in the morning (yes, everybody; I bribed them with quarters). Then the kids watched a movie while I had a meeting in the afternoon.

Afterward, we went out to run some errands, then came home for dinner and a movie. It was actually a pretty nice day. I ended up going to bed shortly after the kids had their lights out. I took a shower, read for an hour, then turned out the lights myself.

Sunday has been a really good day too. We made it to church on time, got Kangaroo Coffee, stopped for lunch, then went to Walmart, where I picked up some things for my trip, a few summer toys for the kids, and a new vacuum (MY new toy!).

When we got home, the kids played with their new stuff while I put the vacuum together. We started getting some graupel, and the kids went to play in it until they got too cold. Then they moved into the sunroom to play awhile, but before we knew it, the sun had come out, and they were back out, playing in the yard.

I got the vacuuming done, and by that time, Heath had gotten home. We reconvened as a family, and once the kids were in bed, Heath and I worked on the taxes together. Ugh. Not the best choice for a date night, but oh well. It had to be done.

I did some freelance stuff in the evening, and now here I am at almost 1:30, trying to get back into the habit of blogging because I do have something blog-worthy coming up within just a matter of days.

Recovery 101

Monday has been a good recovery day after the week of busyness and spring break. I spent most of the work day tweaking and exporting and testing and re-exporting the GQkidz video. I think we are just about there!

The kids were OK after school. Julie was thrilled to be back with her friends. Everest had a little harder time; I think school really tires him out. We need to make sure that he’s getting enough sleep at night–even if that means putting him to bed at 6:30.

After homework, we went to the library to look around because it has been a long time since we’ve been there, and Julie wanted to look for some specific books in a series she started. Everything went really well there, so I decided to treat the kids to Subway for dinner.

Back at home, we watched a movie we found at the library, Monsters University. It was really cute, and a fun partner movie to Monsters Inc. Unfortunately, with all the stopping and starting we had to do for various reasons, the movie didn’t finish until about 8:00.

Bedtime went really well though, so that helped make the evening easier. I took care of the dishes, juiced a bunch of citrus fruits we had leftover from the weekend (since they’ll be getting replaced tomorrow anyway), relaxed a bit with a ridiculous show, and finally caught up on emails and some freelance work. After a hot shower and a blog post, I’d say that I’m going to bed feeling pretty balanced, all in all.

Family Weekend Whirlwind

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were three days full to the teeth. Friday, I went to see the movie Noah with the GotQuestions staff. It was actually quite a good movie with excellent acting, compelling story, and neat CGI. Even though much of it was far from truly biblical, as an entertainment piece, it was fantastic.

I know a lot of people are all up in arms because it doesn’t follow the biblical story of Noah, and it’s true that it doesn’t. Noah is to biblical history as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is to Civil War history.

But the important thing to remember here is that this is entertainment; it is not meant to be a true gospel message. It never claims to be that. And who can say that this movie will do no good for bringing glory to God? To say that it couldn’t is to say that man has more influence and power than God. Yet nothing is beyond God’s power.

Okay, off my soapbox on that one…

When I got back from the movie, an extraordinary thing happened: everyone went on a walk, and it was left all alone in the house! Stranger still, I actually got to eat my lunch and read at the same time. Weird!

Mike and Kate had planned on making us dinner that night, so I sat back and relaxed until dinner time. It was very nice to have a night off from cooking and to still get a delicious, home cooked meal. After kids were put to bed, Kate and I went out to Panera to just get out of the house for a bit.

When we got back, Mike, Kate, and I chatted for awhile, but then decided to turn in early and plan on playing games the next day. It was nice that they were visiting for an extra day so that we didn’t feel so rushed.

Saturday, we had breakfast burritos in the morning since we had lots of fixings leftover from the the lentil tacos Mike and Kate had made on Friday. We then headed over to my parents new condo to hang out.

Soon, we started making runs to their storage unit to help them get it cleared out since they are now officially moved in. We pretty much spent the rest of the afternoon making runs to the storage unit and back. It was hard work but very satisfying because we were really helping out our parents. I think they really appreciated it too because they were pretty sure it was going to be another two weeks before they could get it fully emptied.

By time we stopped for dinner, there was really only one load left, which we all agreed could easily be done Sunday after church. My parents took us out to dinner, though it was super super late for my kids. We didn’t even get to the restaurant until 7:30, and that’s the time Everest would normally be drifting off to dreamland. Julie did OK because she usually stays up reading until at least 9:00-9:30. But by time we got home after 9:00, Everest went straight upstairs and actually put himself to bed immediately.

Once all the kids were down to, the four of us managed to play a few games before succumbing to the need for sleep. Of note is that I believe I am finally sold on Settlers of Catan. :) Munchkin was incredibly fun too.

Sunday has been another full day, but in a different way. We got to church early since Heath was serving in Everest’s class, so that gave Julie and I about 15 minutes to sit and chat before service started. It was kind of nice to just get to hang out for that time.

After church, they dropped me off at home while Heath took the kids to my parents condo to meet up with them and Mike and Kate. They would all do the last storage run while I got lunch prepped–French bread pizzas, cheesy garlic bread, fruit salad, tossed salad, and broiled asparagus. I think I may have ODed on gluten. 😛

They didn’t get back til quite late in the afternoon, so lunch became a kind of early dinner. All the kids went to play together while the adults played a game of Munchkin and Settlers of Catan. Legolas was able to join us just as we got started, so that we really fun.

After Mike and Kate took off for home, Legolas went with me to Walmart to pick up a few things for the house and also my upcoming trip. We got a late dinner to go and brought it back home. I realized by time we reached the house that I was far too tired to get anything done tonight, so I allowed myself the luxury of relaxing after a very, very busy but very, very wonderful weekend.

Spring Break, Day 4: Productivity!

Thursday started out pretty well, I think, because I had a game plan from the beginning. As soon as everyone was up and dressed, we headed out to run an errand and pick up breakfast. After we returned, we finished our breakfast just in time for my coworker friend to arrive.

Rebekah was coming over so we could work on the promo video for GQkidz that Julie recorded with her friend J. It was super fun, and we did actually get the video mostly edited together before she had to leave. As I was finalizing it, Mike and Kate arrived with their kiddos for a long weekend visit.

Thankfully, the kids had heeded my instructions to clean their rooms and the upstairs bathroom while I was working. Win! We still needed to fix up the futon and put out bed with sheets and blankets, but it didn’t take long.

We had a quick dinner of two different kinds of stew, fruit, salad, and some thick cut Italian bread that I buttered and toasted in the oven. Delish! Mike and Kate had brought with them a few pies for desserts, so we enjoyed cherry pie afterward.

We played a few games with with the kids, then Heath took ours up for bed. Julie was allowed to get up after Everest was asleep, so she came and joined us in the sunroom, where the rest of us were relaxing and looking at the stars.

After a couple more games in front of the fireplace, the kids went up to bed. Then Mike, Kate, and I watched Now You See Me, which is a great heist movie with a team of performing magicians.

As usual, we stayed up way too late talking books, movies, and actors. Tomorrow is going to come quickly.

Spring Break, Day 3: Sanity Mostly Dead

Wednesday has been a challenge, but thankfully it at least ended well. The kids were rollercoastery in their moods once again–one minute giggling best buddies and the next minute mortal enemies. But I guess that’s how it goes with siblings… Having to be around each other 24/7 isn’t helping them much.

When they weren’t raucously playing or at each other’s throats, they were talking constantly or making noise or asking questions every 5 minutes. Needless to say, it was difficult to concentrate on work and stay focused. Kind of makes me dread the long summer break that’s coming…

Heath rescued me when he got home around 4:30. I got to shower uninterrupted and headed out to run errands and work on freelance stuff at Panera for a couple hours. By time I got back, the kids had been fed, washed, and were tucked into bed. Huzzah! I honestly have no idea how single moms retain their sanity without someone to help give the a break sometimes. Kudos to those ladies. Good Heavens.

I spent the rest of the evening watching a horrible 80s movie, which I am surprised I was even allowed to watch as a teenager. Not mentioning titles here because it was that bad.

Mike and Kate and the cousin crew will be here tomorrow afternoon to stay for a long weekend. Looking forward to having an extended visit with them!

Spring Break, Day 2: Conquered

Oh, 2 AM…why do we keep meeting like this? I really need to figure out what it takes to regularly crawl into bed by 11:30.

Tuesday has been an OK day. We had a rough start to the morning, but things looked up as the day went on. The kids needed to be separated by around noon or 1:00, which sent Julie to her room and Everest out to the sunroom.

Eventually, the love of arts and crafts brought everybody together as they gathered in the sunroom to paint.

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For dinner, I made mashed potatoes, chicken stew, GF biscuits, and roasted squash. The kids did just barely earn their movie night, so Legolas joined us for dinner and Charlotte’s Web (2006). It was actually a peaceful bedtime routine too, so the day must have been at least satisfactory.

Angel came by, and I got some queso going in the slow cooker. Then Legolas put on The Hunger Games to be followed by Catching Fire. I worked on some freelance stuff during the first movie, but since I hadn’t seen the second, I had to stop and pay attention. It left quite a cliffhanger, as most middle movies in a trilogy do. Very well done though!

Since it was so late when we finished, Angel ended up spending the night. I’m about to turn in myself since the clock has turned past two in the morning.