Category Archives: Travel

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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First Day of 2017…On the Road

Happy 2017 from Colorado! Last night we rang in the New Year in a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, and today we drove, drove, drove to the edge of Colorado. It’s been quite the week of car travel. This is our fourth hotel! First it was Christmas in Pequot with my family, then a night in Rochester for travel shots at Mayo, then last night in Iowa and tonight in Colorado. So glad we’ll reach our final destination for the month tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be at Mission Training International near Colorado Springs for four full weeks. We’ve been told really great things about the training, so we’re looking forward to getting there and meeting everyone in our session. Just two and a half more hours of driving, which seems like cake at this point.

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The kids are rock star travelers, which I have been endlessly thankful for since the day they were born. I would likely be at my wits end if they didn’t travel well. I mean, we’re a traveling family, so thanks, God, for putting that in them! We’ve definitely learned a few things about car travel since having kids. Like a DVD player is the best invention ever for trips, and non-spill snack containers and cups are a must. I’ve also realized that it doesn’t take a whole bunch of different things to keep them busy. Instead, a few simple things can keep their attention for long enough. Then we rotate through each item. The car stays cleaner, the kids aren’t overwhelmed with options, and they can work on focusing their attention. This trip I bought them each a pencil box and put their name on the front for a place to keep small things together, like markers, pieces of clay, and stickers. Sam loves buttons, so I gave him a cheap calculator he uses like a phone. He is seriously joyously happy each time we hand it to him. He also has a small tractor and a motorcycle he got for Christmas. He’s just starting to enjoy coloring, so the Color Wonder markers and color pages Luke & Hannah gave him for Christmas are perfect. (The markers don’t color on anything but the paper!) Ella enjoys projects and workbooks, so I ordered this fantastic lap desk for her a week ago and it has been a dream in the car. She spent today working through a paper doll book from Usborne and creating felt creatures in this Melissa and Doug set. Of course, snacks are also pretty helpful. Our snack of choice on this trip has been popcorn. We have a few little baggies of gummy worms for the kids, too. Something we can easily pull out and hand to them.

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Here’s a trick we’ve picked up that some might say ruins a movie, but we do it anyway: We turn the sound off on lots of movies the kids watch. They don’t seem to mind! This is especially true if they’re working on or playing with something at the same time. This way, Pete and I can listen to audio books up front. I do the same thing when it’s just me on longer trips with the kids. Last night and today we listened to The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper. So good! We totally relate to their love of dreaming together and going after big things that seem a little impossible. And every time Joanna said she wouldn’t have tried some of what got her started in design and sales without her husband, I could absolutely relate. Pete is the one who hears my secret, little dreams and encourages me like none other. The little bake shop I had for a couple years? I never would have done that without him, and I loved it! They also talk about marriage, another topic Pete and I are really into. Plus, Chip & Joanna read the book. It was such a great way for us to spend five or six hours of driving time.

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Tomorrow we’ll get to the MTI lodge and settle into our room for the month. Yes, we all get to be in one room for the whole month. We’re praying this goes well. I’m so glad Sam still wants to sleep in a portable crib when we travel. It seems to bring him comfort. Otherwise, I have no doubt he’d be all over that room in the night.

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Oh, it’s a new year. With everything going on right now, I feel like that has slipped right by me. I need to spend some time reflecting on the last year and all that happened. You guys, I had a word of the year and I actually thought about it all year long! Maybe tomorrow I’ll start praying about a word for this year. And if I get a chance, I’ll share the word and verse from last year. But for now, we’re all going to cuddle into the king bed in this hotel room and finish watching The Polar Express.

Happy 2017!

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San Diego

Last month my handsome husband was invited to teach medicine in San Diego to a group of 300 doctors from all around the world. He’s an incredible doc, but he’s also an incredible teacher. He really is! Pete has been teaching a course called CALS (Comprehensive Advance Life Support) to medical professionals all over Minnesota for a few years. Not only was he asked to teach at this conference in San Diego, but a few months before that he was also selected as the capstone speaker at the annual CALS conference. Am I proud of him? Gushingly so. Will you ever hear about any of this from him? Not a word. So, good thing I can tell you about it here, right?! He’s my favorite.

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Following Pete’s week of teaching in San Diego, we took the opportunity to spend a weekend away together. At the time, he was still working long stretches at a few hospitals in New Mexico, and we weren’t getting much time together, so we jumped at the chance to hit the beach without the kids. I flew out the afternoon the conference ended and we drove up the coast to a little surfing town where I had found a small studio vacation rental away from the noise of the city. I really knew I was on vacation when I woke our first morning to the sounds of Pete making me coffee. A man who doesn’t drink coffee making an early-morning cup for the wifey? Big points in my book. (Side note: It wasn’t actually early morning. It was 10am. Vacationing without kids!)

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We spent a lot of time exploring local towns and checking out some very cool beaches. Of course we had to eat plenty of Mexican food being that close to the border. So, so good!

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La Jolla, where we found lots of (really stinky but cute) sea lions!

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A sunset hike at Torrey Pines State Reserve

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To the beach!

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All day at Pacific Beach in the glorious sunshine.

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There’s just something very cool about a real surfing scene.

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While at the beach, I got to start this amazing book, The Capture, written by the very talented Tom Isbell. Tom was one of my acting teachers in college. I have been inspired by his acting, directing, and playwriting for years. Now I add fiction novel writing to the list. This is the second book in his young adult series The Prey, released in January. If you like YA dystopian books like The Hunger Games or Maze Runner, this is a must read. Or listen! The audio version is very well done. I can’t wait for book three! (Disclaimer: I was not given anything at all for writing all this goodness. I just honestly really, really like the book.)

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Sunset at the beach. It was a very cool, unexpected experience. Just about everyone along the beach and the boardwalk stopped for a good ten or fifteen minutes to watch the sun until it dipped beyond the horizon. A rare time when it seemed we all wanted to soak in the beauty of it. No one was too busy to sit. And as soon as the sun was gone, all movement picked up again. Just a still moment in time together.

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We had three glorious days together at the beach. We ate good food and read good books, stood with our toes in the chilly ocean and watched the sun set each night. It felt like we got to stop time for those three days and remember who we are, me with my Pete. Some days and weeks and, yes, the last few months, have been hard, but when we get to take just a little time to escape and reconnect, everything feels manageable again. We can pick up and head back into life. And the coolest part? It always feels like God ends up speaking big things to our hearts during those times together. So not only do we get to move back into life, but we get to move back in with new dreams and motivation. I could not be more thankful for time away together.


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Ella’s Magical Surprise: Disney World!

When we packed our bags for Florida last month, we had swim suits, sunglasses, and sandals, with no intentions of leaving the beach. After a few days on the coast, however, Pete and I had an idea. A very exciting idea. One that even surprised us! We decided to take our dear Ella to Disney World.

Most families I know plan a Disney trip months in advance. We had three days. But we were in Florida with a six-year-old who is magically in love with princesses. And Sam, who might have a hard time making it through a whole day in the Disney crowd, could spend the day at the beach with Hannah & Luke. So we booked a room at one of the budget hotels on the Disney grounds and purchased our one-day park passes. Oh, and we kept it all a secret from Ella! (Side note: Did you know there are budget-priced Disney hotels?! $100 a night! Not crazy fancy like the other Disney hotels, but fully decorated with Mickey and Donald, so it still felt super special.)

We woke bright and early and took the shuttle to the Magic Kingdom for the 8am park opening show.

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Ella was mesmerized seeing her first characters in the opening show. (Okay, I admit. I was a little teary. It was all so magical from the very beginning!)

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Being at the Magic Kingdom the first week of January meant we got to see the giant Christmas tree and hear Christmas songs playing throughout the park. Even more magical!

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We made our first walk through Cinderella’s castle as soon as we entered the park. We were on a mission to beat the crowds to a few very important places.

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Our first stop: to meet this Frozen queen.

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And her sweet sister. Ella and Anna had a cute moment together.

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We went straight from Anna & Elsa to Ariel’s grotto. Ella had her Ariel doll along for the occasion.

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Ella adored meeting her favorite princess before going on Ariel’s Under the Sea journey.

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We took a short break for breakfast at Gaston’s Tavern.

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A magical view from our table outside Gaston’s.

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Who other than Gaston himself made an appearance while we were eating! We only observed from afar so we could continue to the next attraction on our list.

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It’s a Small World. I’m sure it hasn’t changed in years and years, but it is so sweet and full of joy.

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At the end of the ride are these colorful signs. We loved seeing kwaheri, Swahili for goodbye.

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I remember the Jungle Cruise from when I first visited Disney World when I was six. The same age as Ella!

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Swiss Family Tree House! We watched The Swiss Family Robinson with Ella a few months before visiting Disney, so she thought this was pretty great. I kinda want to live in it for a while. Maybe without the Disney crowds, though.

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By the time we made our Disney plans, all character meals were full except for lunch with the crew from The Hundred Acre Wood. They aren’t currently Ella’s favorite, but we knew it would still be fun. And it was! Ella was in a little parade around the room with the characters and then hopped around with Tigger. Afterward, each visited our table for a personal hello. Ella seemed to have a new love for these guys once we finished our meal.

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Ella was beyond excited to see the characters she hadn’t already met in the afternoon parade. As a life-long lover of parades, I was in heaven!

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We had a full afternoon of rides and shows and treats! Pirates of the Caribbean, MonstersInc Laugh Floor, the Disney Railroad, Goofy’s Barnstormer, Tomorrowland’s People Mover. Just after it got dark, Ella and I hopped in line for the Dumbo ride. Pete doesn’t like anything that spins in circles, so just the two of us took on Dumbo, Prince Charming’s Carrousel, and the spinning tea cups.

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Later in the evening, we had the sweet pleasure of meeting Rapunzel, who happened to match Ella!

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How adorable is this Cinderella?!

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She’s probably my favorite Disney Princess, so I was just as excited as Ella to meet her. Only I acted very adult to avoid an awkward encounter. I’m so mature. 😉

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As we emerged from meeting Rapunzel and Cinderella, we heard the pop pop pop of fireworks!

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Ella danced as we watched them near Cinderella’s castle, draped in frosty lights.

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Just before park closing, when lines were very short, we experienced Enchanted Tales with Belle, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. We began in Belle’s house but were soon transported through a magical mirror into the Beast’s castle! There, a few little actors in our group were selected to help tell the story. Ella was over the moon when, after a pretty ferocious roar, she was chosen to play the Beast!

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She was instructed to walk into the library and frighten Belle with her powerful roar.

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Belle was not happy with The Beast.

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Later, The Beast returned to dance with Belle.

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Our little actress took her role very seriously. We were so proud of her!

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I think this photo pretty much sums up our entire Disney experience.

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Our day at Disney World was a truly magical experience. I had no idea I would love it so much as an adult! It was quite possibly one of my favorite days as a parent, watching Ella soak everything in. Someday, we’ll return with Sam. Can you even imagine?!

Have you been to Disney World? Disneyland? Did you stay for multiple days? I think that would be amazing. Perhaps next time we’ll be able to visit more than The Magic Kingdom!


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