Wednesday, September 30, 2009


To this guy.
Not only is he a fantastic husband and loving father-
he's also an all around great guy.
We've chosen to only have one vehicle, so this guy has been biking the 12 miles to work and back every day. And he has an amazing attitude.
Thanks, Love. I really appreciate it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Traveling With Little Tykes...Take Three

OK, we’re going. What do I do now?

Make lists.

Well, maybe you don’t, but I do. I start making lists as soon as I have tickets bought. I write down the clothes I’m going to need, and anything important that I may forget later. I usually write lists down on paper and keep in by the fridge, but I also keep a hard copy on the computer. If it’s on the computer, I know that even if I lose one (or if a pair of little hands gets a hold of the lists), I can always print off another.

I pack differently for the type of transportation we’re taking. If we are flying, I make a list for each suitcase we are taking. Now that Tate is three (actually, starting at two) we have to pay for all of his flights-therefore he gets to check a bag. Children under the age of two can sit on your lap free of charge for domestic flights, but for international flights there is a charge for infants, regardless of whether they have their own seat (it’s not much, but you do have to register them). Because of this fee, they usually get to check a bag, but check with your airline. If you have to take a domestic flight first, it won’t matter anyway. Also, be sure to check the weight limit on each segment of your flight. If you’re taking a little plane for a leg of your journey, the weight restriction is likely much less than the usual 50 lb. limit.

So, here’s my list of lists for a trip by plane:
1. Master list of what we are taking (Including which suitcases, carry ons, etc).
2. List of what is going in each checked suitcase.
3. List of what is going in each carry on.

*If you don’t like to make multiple lists, go ahead and color coat which item is going in which suitcase. *

Having these lists makes it a lot easier when you’re unpacking, looking for a certain item. You’ll at least have some general idea of where something is. Before this system I can’t tell you how many times we’d be looking for our toothbrush in the dark. We’d end up tearing open our three suitcases before we found whatever we were looking for.

If we are going on a road trip, I’m much less organized (as evidenced by my recent trip to BC. I forgot a stroller. Seriously. A stroller. I am a mother of two small boys and we go on walks nearly every day. How could I have forgotten a stroller?!)

Here are the boys with the umbrella stroller I bought. Thank goodness for umbrella strollers!
I digress.

Yes, I am much less organized in the car. And usually I take more bags because it’s easier to pack each boy individually. I still make a master list, but I’m not as concerned about knowing what is in which bag. Usually we aren’t in a do or die hurry, and with small children we inevitably make a few stops. Or, a lot of stops. It depends on the trip.
OK, now onto the age old question.
“How in the blazes to I fit all of this crap into these tiny suitcases?!”

I have a very simple answer that you probably won’t like.
You don’t.
Yes, that’s right, you don’t.
I hear you, stop shouting…here’s the solution:
You get a bigger carry on.
I realize that seems like a cop out; and probably very obvious. But, since airlines imposed the tax on families, oops, I mean the second bag fee, there is very little else to do. I always max out our carry on luggage for two reasons 1. It costs more money to check a second bag and 2. I’ve had stuff stolen out of my luggage and I’m wary of putting valuable stuff in there…and along those same lines, who wants to have their bag lost on their way somewhere remote? Not me. I pack most of our clothes in carry ons.
Seriously-Max out the carry on luggage!
So, what do you do if stuff still doesn’t fit?

Simple. You don’t take it.
Nearly everywhere I’ve been sells diapers. I bring enough quality diapers for each night (the better quality ones hold more stuff) and then I buy the rest there. I’m boosting the local economy, and even if it costs more than diapers in the states, I doubt it costs $50 more (or whatever the stupid fee is for an extra bag these days). Ditto for baby food, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, hair spray, body wash, diaper wipes…you get the idea. I realize you're taking a risk here, but most people, especially in foreign countries I've visited, are really very helpful and accomodating. They want to help you find what you want. I have yet to not be able to find a reasonable replacement for something I've left at home.
Bottom line: if you need more than a trial size or two, get it while you’re there. I promise it’s worth it. Plus, you’ll have room for all your souvenirs if you don’t have to take your toiletries with you!
Alrighty, since I’ve probably completely bored you with my talk of list making…here comes the best part-practical advice. Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel insanely unorganized when I’m living out of a suitcase. I end up not matching AT ALL because I get overwhelmed when I look at the mess of clothes the suitcase seemed to vomit all over the floor while I was sleeping (Yes, I’m talking a lot about vomit lately. We were just sick so I’ve got a lot of vomit muse). I was talking to a good friend of mine about this problem a couple of years ago, and she shared her secret with me.
And I was never the same.
For Tate, I include underwear, socks, shorts or pants and a tee shirt. If he needs a sweatshirt I’ll pack that separately, because usually he can wear those for more than one day. Since Theo’s in mostly one piece outfits, I just throw his in along with Tate’s clothes. With this method, the only ‘free floating’ items in the suitcase/carryon are PJs and extras. I do bring two extra outfits just in case, but I let them float and don’t put them in a bag.

What’s her secret?

Seriously. This miraculous little bag makes all the difference in the world when it comes to organization and packing. It’s this simple: Set out clothes you want to bring by outfits for the kids to wear each day rather than grouped by item. Put a complete outfit in each ziplock bag. That way, when you get up in the morning you only have to grab a bag instead of digging through the suitcase to find each little piece-and, they don't get dirty!

A sample of a Tate bag ready to go!

So, that’s my tip for today. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Kelly G. for passing it onto me a couple of years ago!

Take care,
Click here and here for the first two installments of this series.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Wee Little Update...and a Tate Quote

Background: Tate's been giving 'long kisses' lately. I'm sure you know the ones...he smacks his lips and just lays one on ya. And stays there. For a looooong time. Kind of awkward.

Setting: Our hotel room in Vancouver, B.C. I am laying on the bed resting after completing a 7 hour drive with the two little ones. Tate approaches and climbs onto the bed.

Tate: "Mom, I'm going to give you a kiss."

Me: "I'd love a kiss, Tate. Thank you."

Tate: "I'm going to give you a looong kiss, Mom."

Me: "Tate, I love your kisses, but I really only like long kisses from your daddy."

Tate: (holding my cheeks between his hands, with his nose almost touching mine)

"Mom, it's ok. I can give you a long kiss. I'm a doctor."
For the record, I have no idea where this came from. I very rarely go to the doctor, because I have so much anxiety about it. I think he must have just made this up.

Again, I am sorry for the lack of posts last week. It was a long week with a very nasty cold bug taking up my entire week. I accomplished practically nothing. I say practically because I did somehow manage to keep our kids safe from any real and permanent danger...and that's saying quite a bit considering where we live.

Speaking of where we live...sigh...we may be here for a while. We are having a house built, but I kind of think we may have jumped the gun there. I am not really at peace about this right now, so we're praying and waiting.

And trying not to puke when we think about losing our earnest money.

It's just money, right? I'd rather lose a little bit of money and feel like I'm following where the Holy Spirit leads than keep the money and be out of the will of God. Still, after working so hard to get out of debt, it's hard to think about losing that money. I think it's good we're having these feelings now, versus in December after we bought the house. If we do go through and buy the house it will be because we feel peace about it, and I'm glad we'll already have worked through buyers remorse.


Well, that's all for today. I'll get the travel post up tomorrow. I know you're all (all 5 of you!) are waiting on the edge of your seats!

Happy Monday!


Friday, September 25, 2009

Been Sick

Feeling a little better every day but still not near 100%. We're headed out of town again this weekend (Mark has to drill in Tacoma) so I'll be back later!

Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I will not be posting my traveling with lil tykes today. I haven't the presence of mind to do the final editing and I don't want to have to fix everything when I'm finally feeling better.

So, instead, I'll leave you with my current dilemma...

Is it abuse of the system to go to the gym, drop my kids off in the childcare room and then go take a nap in the locker room?

Monday, September 21, 2009

An apology

To my dear readers...all five of you.

I am sorry for being MIA for the last week. It was a crazy one.

I'm not sure I'll have a bunch of posts this week, either. I was going to write my traveling with little tykes post, but I'm pretty sure that I lost all qualifications to write a series about travel after our trip to BC. Oh, it was in-we completely forgot our stroller-bad...and-our bank account was frozen due to suspected fraudulent activity-bad...and-my back went out in the middle of Vancouver when I still had to walk a half mile back to the hotel carrying a screaming 35 lb. three year old who had a golf ball sized goose egg on his head-kind of bad.

But, we still had fun. We got to see some friends who live in the Bellingham area. They are gearing up for the arrival of their daughter, and it was so much fun to get to see them. Tate is very excited about baby Abby coming, and has asked me several times when we get to see her again.

We also got to celebrate the wedding of some other friends! I was honored to be a brideslave...I mean bridesmatron on Saturday. It was a beautiful wedding, and the weather cooperated at just the right time!

And now we are back at home, safe and sound. I'm battling a cold (I think) but for the most part, we're doing well. But I think we'd be even better if Theo would give up and fall asleep.

Such is life.

Ok, enough rambling. Go make today a great one!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Traveling With Little Tykes...Take 2

Tate napping on the fly at Yosemite Nat'l Park, June 2008
Where should you go?
Well, that’s easy? Where do you want to go?
To help decide this, it’s important to ask some questions to really know what location and type of trip you’re looking for. Before I share the questions we ask, I’m going to explain about the three types of trips.
  • Kid Centered Trip
    * This is a trip that is centered on what the kids want to do. This type of vacation is a lot of fun! Kid’s need and wants are more easily met, and your children will cherish the memories for a lifetime. When I think of a Kid Centered trip I think of Disneyland, or something similar. That said, I know of several people who go to Disneyland for an adult trip, and there is nothing wrong with either one.
    * One of the main advantages to a kid centered trip is that the kids are nearly always entertained!
    * Kid Centered Trips are usually based around some type of event or a special thing. It could be a soccer camp, water park, theme park, baseball tournament, etc.
    * The disadvantage to a KCT is that usually it’s more expensive during peak times, and there are usually long waits to get to where you want to go during the peak season. You must plan ahead in order to get the best deals, and budget in a little extra money for souvenirs, food, and lodging.
  • Family Centered Trip
    * This trip is centered on the needs/desires of the entire family. This type of vacation is also a lot of fun! It takes a bit more work to find a location that everyone will enjoy, and make a schedule where everyone will succeed, but it is well worth the effort.
    * When I think of a FCT, I think of a more educational type of vacation, such as a trip to Yosemite. FCTs are usually centered on a place with a lot of opportunities to do different activities together as a family.
    * FCTs usually require more planning for things to do-you can’t just show up and go as you can with Disneyland. Hikes, day trips, and such must be planned, as well as down time activities, such as card games, swimming time, etc.
    * Kids must also be prepared for this kind of trip. I always talk up where we’re going and what we’re doing so that Tate (eventually Theo, too) will be successful.
    * Family centered trips require a give and take. As a parent, you may not necessarily get to go on the 12 mile hike to the top of an amazing waterfall because your kids can’t handle it. On the other hand, you’ll have a great excuse to not stop at every toy store and/or children’s attraction.
  • Adult Centered Trips
    * I don’t think I need to explain much here…adult centered trips should be for adults and children should be left at home with family or trusted friends.
In this series we are going to focus on KCTs and FCTs, primarily with a focus on FCTs. Just about all of the tips for a FCT can be used for a KCT.
So, back to the original question, where should we go on a FCT?
And, back to the original answer…where do you want to go?

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single location that I would not bring my kids. That said, there are several trips I’d love to make (Machu Piccu in Peru is on the top of the list) but I am going to wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate it. I know that we COULD do Peru now if we wanted, but as I said earlier the boys wouldn’t be able to appreciate it, and I don’t think we would appreciate it either-we’d be too busy hauling the boys up the mountains to really appreciate the view. So we wait.
Here are some things to think about when deciding where to go:
1. Is there enough to do in the area for everyone?
When we were in Guatemala and went to Tikal (which was a 9 hour bus ride away) we planned an extra day in the area so that we could go to the local zoo with Tate. While Mark and I weren’t terribly interested in going to the zoo, we knew that in order to make sure that Tate also enjoyed himself we should go. And we all had fun. Tate talked about the animals at the zoo for the rest of the trip, and we were really glad that we took the time to do something that he loved.
Tate at the zoo in Guatemala...a mere 2 feet away from a crocodile...don't worry, the rusty chain link fence was reinforced by chicken wire.

2. Do you have time to take things slower than you would by yourself?
If you want to have a trip worth remembering, it’s important to realize that you’re just not going to get to do as much as quickly as you did without kids. It’s going to take you longer to get out and about in the morning. You’ll have to take more frequent potty breaks. You’ll have to stop for snacks more often. You’ll walk slower because little legs just can’t keep the same pace as you. You’ll need to decide if you want to have naps on the go, or if you want to return to ‘home base’ every afternoon for a nap. If you choose to have a nap on the go one day, you’ll probably want to plan to have down time the next afternoon. I can tell you from experience, about the second day of missed or poor naps; it really starts to get ugly. The third day is nearly impossible. Since part of the fun of vacations is remembering back, I have come to believe it’s best to plan in down time and nap time in order to negate grumpy attitudes.

3. What are your priorities?
Do you really like to hike? Do you like going to the beach? Whatever it is you like to do, your kids will most likely embrace that as well as a part of their family heritage/identity. Decide what is important to you, research when is the best time to do it, and go from there. It’s always best to decide the most important events/trips/attractions, and schedule those first. From there plan in naps, down time events and extras. Remember, spending a down day playing in the hotel pool or in a nearby lake or river is a thrill for kids…it doesn’t take much to make their day.
It’s hard to know what’s the best method when it comes to deciding where to go and what to do when you get there. Some people prefer a family meeting and voting on the preferred location and activities, others prefer giving kids a few choices and then letting them choose the activity from there. Our kids are young enough that they don’t really mind just coming along for the ride, so we don’t have a lot of experience with this. That said, I think we’ll prefer to ask our kids what they’d want to do on vacation, take their suggestions into consideration and then offer them choices after we’ve researched the area. As kids get older it’s fun to include them in on the planning…it encourages good behavior when they are in charge of certain aspects of the trip!

4. Talk it up!
Whatever it is you plan to do, talk it up! Talk about what is going to happen, how excited you are about it, what you’ll be seeing and doing, etc. Anticipation is a bit part of the fun of vacation, and if you start talking about what you’ll be doing early your kids will begin to share in your excitement, even if they have no idea what a hike is. Also, it’s important to prepare kids for things that aren’t necessarily going to be fun. If there is a long car ride involved, tell the kids. Prepare them for what is going to come, tell them the behavior you expect out of them, and encourage good behavior by talking about the fun stuff coming up, or distract them by talking about the neat stuff they’ve done.

5. Pick a location, and then pick a date.
Unless you have to pick your vacation dates ahead of time, I think it’s much easier to decide where you want to go, and then research to see when is the best time to go. There’s nothing worse (vacationally speaking) than buying tickets to Costa Rica for a long weekend in April, then finding out that it’s Labor Day weekend, so you’ll have to pay a premium price to go anywhere or do anything. Plus, if you’re flexible with your dates, you can usually score a pretty good deal on tickets and/or lodging.

I really believe you can take kids just about anywhere. With a little thought and a lot of preparation you can have a great vacation with your kids-and not just at Disneyland.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lessons from a 3 year old

#1. Assume everyone is your friend, and more often than not, you'll be right.

I would like to think I'm a pretty friendly kind of lady. But I don't hold a candle to my son. It doesn't matter where we are, Tate makes friends. Lots of them. To say that Tate has earned himself a special place in the hearts and lives of several friends, acquaintances and family members would be an understatement. Even Theo prefers Tate's company to anyone elses. I really believe it's a gift that most children have, and now that Tate's at the age where he is very, VERY verbal, I notice it even more.

I was thinking about it on the walk home from the gym this morning. What is it about Tate that makes people respond and love him?

Almost instantly I found out.

As we were walking, two goth teenagers, probably about 19, were skating by on their skateboards.

"MOM!" Tate yelled, "Here come my friends!" He waved frantically at them, and yelled "Hi Friends!"

In complete contrast to their black makeup and clothes, they laughed, waved, and said, "hey Buddy," to Tate as they passed.

After they had gone, Tate looked up at me with his big grin "Mom, did you see my friends? I like my friends."

Yes, Tate, I saw your friends. And yes, God, I get the message. I'll try harder to assume that everyone is my friend and maybe, just maybe, I'll be right!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fat Burnin' Friday

I've been following for a while-I LOVE HER! She's encouraging, fun, and very helpful. Anyway, she does a weekly fat burning post, and I thought I'd join her to keep me honest.
This is Mark and my second week of doing Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover, and WOW! It's intense. I'm so very sore. Last week was a shock for my system (basically, you work out 6 days a week, it's pretty hefty) and I lost .2lb. I was a little surprised that I didn't lose more, but a loss is a loss, so I was pretty stoked about it. Well, my body made up for last week this week, as I lost 3 pounds! That's a bit much, but the book said that the first week you may even gain a little as your body is getting used to being pushed, and the second week you'll have a bigger loss. Next week will probably be in the healthy 1-2 pound loss range.
As of this morning, I have 8 pounds left to reach my weight when Mark came home from Iraq, and 14 pounds to reach my ideal goal (which Mark says is too little, but we'll see).
Pounds lost since 8/18: 8.2
Pounds to go: 14
How you doin'?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This guy...

Has a 'tude.

And is stinking adorable.

He now rolls over and...

Army crawls to get into Tate's stuff.

Oh, and he let's us hear all about it when we move it out of his reach.
Yep, this one's a keeper!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I did not dress Tate today

I am going to take over where a very dear friend's mom left off, and make myself a button. The button will say
(When I was young, the button said "Miriam", but I digress)
But why? You ask.
Please, allow me to demonstrate:

Exhibit A
Why yes, that is a purple Vikings shirt with army pants and no shoes. And messy hair (he got it cut today). I think the look of shock is because I had just showed him the picture I took prior, and he saw how silly his clothes combination looked.

Exhibit B:
I have no explanation for this. He did not go to bed with those on, but did manage to fall asleep with them on. He learned this trick from his hermanos, and apparently he found Mark's sock drawer.

Exhibit C:
Lest you think he wears the same pairs of chonies multiple days, be assured that this is one area that I take charge. He has three sets of the same chonies, so he does not wear a pair more than once before it gets washed. Geez...I do have standards.

Exhibit D:
Notice a) The crazy hair
b) The dirty shirt
c) The nice shoes.
And, he only wants to wear his nice shoes. Every day. Or his "Rining McQueen" sandals with socks. Yes, he's from Washington.
Anyway, I encourage him to dress himself so that he'll actually get dressed. Otherwise, he'd prefer to stay in PJ's all day. Plus, I think it's good that he learns to express himself (he's learned, maybe I should stop?). There are a few days I reclaim my right to dress him...those being picture days, church days, and any day I deem important. For those "important" days I usually give him three choices and he chooses one of the three.
The other days are a free for all.
Well, now you know why my son looks like a ragamuffin.
And knowing is half the battle.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Traveling with Little Tykes...Take 1

Jenni and the boys on the way to Guatemala 04/09

I've decided to do a series on traveling with little tykes. I plan on posting a related topic every Tuesday until I've exhausted the resources. Today I'm just going to share my "credentials", and after reading them you can decide if you think it's worthwhile to continue with the series or not. I get a lot of comments about how crazy we are to take kids along on our travels, so I want to share some things I've learned...and maybe after reading some you won't think we're AS crazy as you once did.
So, in case you're interested, here are my credentials:

-I took Tate on 5 round trips from Virginia to Washington State (mostly by myself) before he was 4 months old. His first flight was when he was 9 weeks old.

-At 7, 9 and 10 months old we flew down to California. Just the two of us each time (Mark was leaving on his Iraq deployment, then for a family get together, and then to visit friends and meet a new baby).

-At a year old, Tate and I (along with another friend) took a two month long trip to Guatemala for the last two months of Mark's deployment. While there we decided to take a 102 hour round trip bus ride to Panama. It was fantastic.

-We've been on several road trips, the longest being about two weeks when we went from Seattle to Lake Tahoe, then over to Yosemite, San Francisco, and then up the coast back home (Mark was here for this one!)

-Theo, not to be outdone by his older brother, took his first airplane ride at 7 weeks old (down to Guatemala).

-While in Guatemala we took two long bus rides. One that was 18 hours round trip and another that was was 38 hours round trip.

-Both the boys came with me to Nicaragua again right before Tate's third birthday and Theo's six month birthday. My mom came with us.

-Since Theo was born we have made about 25 trips to and from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, WA. Each trip is about 4 hours long.

Also, we have had several mini road trips to various locations...hiking Mt. Pilchuck, Marymere Falls, Multnomah Falls, etc. We also have another Nicaragua trip in the works for November (Mark will be coming, too!) and I just heard that Mark has a 3 day conference in BC coming up, so we'll be heading up there to look around, too.

All this to say that even though I hardly consider myself an expert on travel with youngsters, I have learned a thing or two along the way. I am going to do my best to share my wisdom to hopefully help make your future trips just a bit easier.

Happy Travels!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Being a Nica

"Eres Nica." He says.

"I'm Nicaraguan?" I say, assuming he's just trying to make conversation to avoid studying. Either that or he must not notice the sweat pouring down my face, the green-blue color of my eyes, or the 37 bug bites that cover my pale white legs.

"No," I respond, "I'm not Nicaraguan."

"Por qué no?" He asks.

I'm not really sure how to respond.

"Well, because my passport says I'm American," I say, taking the easy, most obvious answer.
He shakes his head, disagreeing with me.

"Tu pasaporte, no me importa," he says, "es tu sangre," he responds, pointing to his veins, "y tu corazón," he continues, pointing to his heart.

"Es cierto," he says, looking into my eyes, "eres Nica."

I look into his eyes, seeing all the pain that's compounded there during his mere 15 years. Yet, behind the pain, I see hope. And love.

"Sí, mi hijo querido," I say aloud, "soy Nica."
Yes, my beloved son, I'm a Nica.

Friday, September 4, 2009

La Familia Vargas

Meet the new Directors of Casa Bernabe!

Don Jorge, Yamilett and their family has taken over daily operations at Casa Bernabe. Previously Yamilett was the director of Verbo school, and while she will continue to teach math until the end of the school year (November) she is no longer the director of the school. Jorge works at the newspaper, and I'm not sure exactly what the plan is there, but I trust that it will be in the best interest of the Orfa.

The boys are terrified of Jorge. He is a very disciplined man, he fought in the Nicaraguan war for five years. He loves the Lord with all his heart, but the boys have only seen the disciplinarian side of him. Well, they had only seen that side. While I was staying in the Posada, Jorge came and spoke with the boys and was so respectful, honest, open and really very pleasant to be around. I have great hope for the future of Casa Bernabe, and great hope for the new directors as well.

The few days after they took over, Jorge made himself a regular presence in the Posada. Just coming by to say hi, see how things are going, and bring newspapers. He was really stepping out and trying to reach the boys where they are at. It was very encouraging! Hopefully the boys will continue to grow in their trust of Jorge, and things will continue to get better at the Orfa.

So, if you think of it, please pray for Jorge, Yamilett and their family. Also pray for the boys in the Posada, that they may be able to see the good side of don Jorge, and not be overwhelmed by his disciplinarian personality type. One thing I've observed is that a lot of these kids shut down at any sort of conflict, so they really need someone to earn their trust before there is any sort of chastisement.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quote of the Day (from yesterday)

Me: "Tate, stop throwing your underwear around the livingroom."
Tate: "Mom, I wasn't throwing them. They were flying."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Just in case you're thinking about it, now is a great time to join swagbucks.

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A $5 giftcard only costs 45 swagbucks, so you're well on your way!

Just thought I'd let you know in case you were on the fence about joining.

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