Four Tickets to Ride – Up Pikes Peak

One site in Colorado we were set on seeing in January was Pikes Peak. I had imagined we would simply drive around and look at it because of all the snow, but then we learned about the little cog railway that takes passengers up the mountain. Sold! Anything that remotely resembles a train is an instant win in our family. Sam is absolutely in love. So after we had all acclimated to the elevation, we booked our tickets and hit the mountain!

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As we waited to board the little, red train car, Sam excitedly signed train over and over. Day. Made.

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There are just two, little, connected cars that make their way up and down the mountain. Big windows, vintage pictures hanging inside, and a fantastic tour guide all added to the fun of the trip. An added bonus for me? The guy on the speaker sounded exactly like Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation. Who knows Ron Swanson? Made me laugh the entire trip!

One very excited little boy!

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His big sister was pretty thrilled, too.

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Winter trips up the mountain don’t go the complete 14,000 feet because of the snow. The 12,000 feet we did travel, however, offered incredible views. Like here at Inspiration Point.

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I’d love to see this again in the summer.

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I get to see these boys every day! Lucky me!

On the way back down, we made a half-hour stop to get out for photos and such. You know what wasn’t available at that stop? Food. And guess what Mom forgot to pack? Food. And you know what time it was? Past lunch. Amateur move, Mom. I did, however, have this little packet of salmon in the bottom of my bag, so we ripped that pouch wide open and ate it with our fingers. (PS My girl is so quick to pose these days. My little actress. All the heart eyes for this one, I tell you.)

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Sam was all about the salmon.

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Our dear Nikki joined us on the trip up the mountain. We met Nikki at training and instantly connected. She is an amazing young woman who also has an enormous heart for children with special needs in Kenya. She’s already been working for a while in Nairobi. We can’t wait to hug her again when we all meet up in Kenya in just a few months!

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So glad we got to take on Pikes Peak! God did a pretty incredible job creating these majestic mountains.

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Have you been to Colorado? What’s your favorite place? We could have explored her sites for weeks and weeks!

 

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A Weekend in Denver

I’m backtracking a bit to make up for not getting all the photos up following our month in Colorado! There was just so much each week, I didn’t have a lot of time to get it all posted, and returning to Minnesota hasn’t been much better. But we’re settling in to our routine again and finding a happy rhythm. So off we go…let’s catch up!

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Our last full weekend in Colorado was spent with Pete’s sister, Kathryn, in Denver. We first met up at the aquarium where we simply could not resist sitting down for lunch beside walls of fish. I’m pretty sure Sam has signed for fish at every restaurant we’ve visited since being at the aquarium! (He’s signing it here.)

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Our table was right next to this amazing tank, but we gave in anyway and pulled his chair right up to the glass. This was certainly his happiest meal out EVER.

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Following lunch, we made a slow walk through the aquarium. Sam could have watched this tank for days…

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…even with this creepy guy swimming back and forth with his mouth wide open. I mean, look at those chompers! And the eyeballs! What do you suppose he was thinking??

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The most memorable part of the aquarium was that we got to see REAL mermaids! REAL, you guys!! Check out this video. I had two very happy kiddos.

Denver Downtown Aquarium from The Mango Memoirs on Vimeo.

Of course our climber wanted to scale the palm trees on the way out of the aquarium.

IMG_1355 After spending the entire middle of the day at the aquarium, we headed back to Auntie Kathryn’s condo, which is in a pretty cool part of the city. While the boys took naps on the sofa, the girls walked to Trader Joe’s and a local pizza place to bring dinner back. That’s one thing I love about bigger cities. You can walk all over! And so many cities have a Trader Joe’s. Someday, Duluth. Someday.

The day after being at the aquarium, I got to meet up with a beautiful group of my mama friends! I had only previously met these moms on Instagram, but we certainly didn’t feel like strangers. I’ve been connected to these moms for more than a couple years. Lacey and I first found each other shortly after Sam was born. Her little guy, Ari, isn’t much older than Sam. I am consistently amazed at how we can feel like family with those we’ve never met face-to-face, but with whom we have unique bonds. Like these mamas. We are all raising a child with Down syndrome. This was definitely one of my favorite experiences in Colorado!

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How on earth did any of us catch a photo of the four kids together? We tried to convince them all to hold hands, which we though might keep them in one place for the photo. I don’t know who thought of that trick, but…genius. Sam wouldn’t hold hands, though. He just wanted to point and show everyone else where to look for the picture.

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But look! We got one! All looking in different directions, but we’ll take it. What would I do without such incredible mama friends through Instagram to share this journey? I so treasure the evening I spent with Lacey, Crystal, and Bethany.

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Such a fun weekend, but this isn’t all! We also managed to make a trip up Pike’s Peak! Check for that post coming up next. 🙂

 

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Digging In

This month has been so full of amazingness that I really shouldn’t be surprised how quickly it’s passed. But here were are at the end of week three! We have a little catching up to do here…

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Sammy’s new sign for pasta looks just like this…minus the actual pasta. This kid and his signs. I need to make a video of them all.

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Week two saw the end of the language learning portion of our training. Phonetics and lip formations and non-English sounds, oh my! We’re really looking forward to our language learning once we get to Kenya after everything we learned out here.

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Dwight was one of our favorite language teachers. He has lived in many places around the world, including with a tribe of people in Vietnam during the war in order to learn the language and translate the Bible for them. I haven’t asked how many languages he knows, but he is a fountain of wisdom. Last week we had the privilege of celebrating his 80th birthday with him and meeting his beautiful wife. Such an incredible ministry they’ve had!

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Post-lunch cuddles with my boy.

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Week three began a more focused time of learning about transitions, new cultures, and self-reflection.

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Seemed like this guy was doing a little self-reflecting, too.

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At the same time, this girl built a fire pit with her friend, Fern. It was a private project until they came to ask for matches. That’s when we started asking questions. 🙂

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This past weekend we packed in lots of exploring and new adventures before jumping into our last week of class. It’s hard to think about leaving this place and the deep friendships we’ve made this month, but we’ll be doing just that on Saturday. Time sure flies when we’re really digging in and getting ready for all that’s ahead!

 


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Say What?

We’ve made it through our first week of training out here in Colorado! Oh, what a week it was. We arrived at our training center just outside Colorado Springs on Monday afternoon. I had mentally prepared myself to have all of us in one room for the month, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn we are actually in two adjoining rooms! (Translation: we don’t all have to go to sleep when the kids do and wake up when they do. Magical.) After we got settled in our space, we took the kids to meet their teachers and explore their classrooms. The awesome thing about the COMPASS program out here at MTI is that, while we’re in class everyday, our kids are learning a lot of the same materials in kid-appropriate ways. And they love it. The kids met their teachers and then we got together with all the trainees to introduce ourselves and get an idea of what the month will look like.

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There are roughly 35 adults and 20 kids in our program. Some have already been in their respective countries for a bit, but most of us are getting ready for our first longer-term move. And we’re heading all over the world. Seriously, all over. Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Lebanon, South Sudan, Kenya (represent!), India, Papua New Guinea, Japan, China. And the list goes on. It’s been amazing to hear the stories of how people have been led to their future home and what they’ll be doing when they get there.

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This first week we focused a great deal on language learning. But we’ve got a whole list of languages we’re needing to learn between everyone in our group, right? Tricky! We’re actually focusing on how to learn a language rather than the details of specific languages. We spent a good deal of time learning the sounds of the phonetic alphabet, which I thoroughly enjoy. I took enough linguistics classes back in college that I was super close to minoring in it, so now it’s all coming back. Kinda cool to see something like that come full circle and be so helpful now. We’ve also spent hours and hours in the last few days practicing how to make all the phonetic sounds, particularly those we don’t use in English. Our jaws and tongues were pretty sore by the end of each day. Then, on Friday morning, we were broken into groups to meet with native speakers of various languages to work through some really cool ways to learn language that are pretty different from what we’ve done in the past. There was no memorizing of vocabulary lists or starting with the alphabet. Instead, we asked specific questions to our language helpers and then worked from there. I spent the morning working on Russian and Pete worked on Mandarin. Not quite our future language of Swahili, but we are both really excited to apply the skills we picked up in the last week when we get to Kenya in a few months.

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Out here, we don’t have class on the weekends. Such a good time to rest our brains and our language-learning lips. Saturday morning we went as a family to the local YMCA to workout. Then Ella and Pete went on their weekly date to a movie while Sam and I took naps. It hadn’t been my plan to nap, but, you know, sometimes it just happens. It was great! All of our meals are together during training (like at camp!) and last night was pizza and ice cream sundaes followed by a movie for all the kids. And lots of the grown ups. Because yes, some of us did end up watching The Secret Life of Pets along with the kiddos.

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This morning we got ourselves dressed up and joined my dear friend, Bryn, and her family for church nearby. (More on that later, since it deserves its very own post.) After brunch with them, we drove down to explore Garden of the Gods. A fairly perfect Sunday afternoon drive. Now we’re back at the lodge, the boys are napping, and I’m here. Ella is up practicing with the worship team, which about makes my heart explode. After participating in our morning worship sessions for the last week, Ella asked if she could be a part of the team. They joyfully said yes and invited her to practice today. I think she’ll be playing something percussive. I’m so excited to watch her gifts start to pour out!

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We’re excited to jump into another week of training!

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