Seeing the World: Kids in Tow

This year has been a whirlwind!

In addition to doing day to day life, we’ve had many opportunities to travel, that we have taken advantage of to the fullest extent possible. So much so, that I’ve had a lot of people ask me to start sharing how we do it. Based on this, I thought I’d share a few lessons (most of which we have learned the hard way) that we’ve picked up traveling by plane, train and automobile – seriously – with the kids in tow.

Before that though, I wanted to share why we do what we do.

I think that this world is an amazing place. But, I think when we stay in one place, our view of the beauty that is “out there” – both natural beauty and cultural beauty – becomes limited. I think that when we think how we do things is the “only” way to do things, we lose a feeling of connectedness that brings people together, that helps us to appreciate day-to-day life, and so much more.

As such, I think one of the best gifts I can give my kids – even if it’s at the sacrifice of how I’d like to see the world – is the opportunity to take it all in. Sometimes that means a road trip a state or two over. Sometimes it means a trip across the ocean (we took on Spain with the twins a few months ago!). Sometimes it means leaving our bubble of comfort and going down town to connect, learn and show a little light to someone who could use a pick me up.

At times this sounds better in theory than in practice. Sometimes it means massive breakdowns that leave people staying. Sometimes it means seriously questioning my ability to parent after I lose it for the 10th time in a day. Sometimes it means tired kids who are off schedule and unable to cope (through no fault of their own).

But for us, the challenges are worth the reward. I love the discussions we get to have as we travel. I like getting to share history with my kids while watching them interact with it in person. I enjoy watching curiosity and comfort grow through nothing I’ve done, but rather, through experience.

Full disclosure: this does not mean we live a life of extravagance by ANY means. I am a bargain shopper. I look for deals like crazy. During our last trip we probably made 50 or more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We find ways to travel in a way that fits our budget and means…which is part of what I’ll share a little as we go along.

Pulling off my last post, I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had lately, even when it feels like we are barely keeping it together. I’m learning that a little travel leads to a great desire for more, and I hope we can continue to find ways to see the world as a family. I also hope that by sharing some of our experiences and lessons, that we can make others feel a little more confident in taking that first step or two out into the world…with a kid or two along for the ride.

Next stop: travel bucket list. Have one? Please share!

Advertisements

Ready to Settle

kids

For those of you who have been following along with our adventure…whether it’s been for the past few months, or the past few years…THANK YOU. Your support has meant the world!

We have some excited changes coming! We are excited to announce that our house has gone under contract. We received an offer on Thanksgiving Day and have been pushing forward since then! We’ll also be settling on our new home next month.

It all sounds SO exciting..and it IS. But, I want to share a little more about why it’s so exciting…and that starts back awhile ago.

John and I got married young. We went through a few bumps and figured things out, fell short more than we didn’t but eventually found a good life pace. I’ll have more to share about this time period in the future! But, then, in June of 2014, John received an offer for a great job in Asheville, NC with his company. It was an amazing opportunity.

We were terrified to leave, but felt like it was right for us. We knew the move wouldn’t be permanent…to move up within the company he’d have to come back to Harrisburg. If you’ve read the posts, you know our time spent in Asheville was amazing. We grew our family by two, we learned to make it on our own and we developed a new love for an amazing active, outdoor lifestyle. We also developed deep friendships, quickly!

Fast forward a bit…starting back in June of this year, we learned we’d be coming back. We didn’t know exactly how it would look, but the process got underway. Once again, the process had many ups and downs and big decisions, but it was right. We listed our house and hoped for the best! After listing, the election, a gas crisis, wildfires and a number of other events all took place that changed how we thought it would go. I like to think the wait is what led buyers who will make the most of our home to us!

We moved back to PA knowing where we’d end up…but without a way to  make it happen until we had a better feel for our home sale. We moved our 4 kids into a hotel (a great hotel! but, a hotel none the less!). And we waited! We are still waiting, but an end is in sight!

That’s obviously a Cliff Notes version of everything…but, the past few years have felt like a whirlwind…but it has been filled with a lot of waiting as well. Waiting to decide what was right for our family. Waiting for kids. Waiting to feel at home. Waiting to move to new locations. Waiting.

It’s also been filled with lots of movement. Of literal moving between homes (this purchase will be home #3, in addition to the hotel and an apartment back in the beginning of our relationship). Of growing our family. Of running after those new family members. Of trying to stay in touch with everyone back home.

It’s been quite an experience…we’ve grown. We’ve learned. We’ve figured out what really matters. We’ve developed a level of gratitude and living in trust that we never could have imagined in the past!

But now, I’m excited for a change. Obviously, this life isn’t based on our own plans; that is one of our big lessons of the past few years! But, for the foreseeable future, it looks like we’re moving into a period of settling. Of moving into a home that we hope is our forever home. Of moving into the molding our children stage of life instead of starting over. Of getting closer to friends and family here. And, of finding a new routine.

I don’t think we’re meant to feel comfortable in this world…to feel completely settled; so please don’t read this as a “we’re going to sit back and do nothing,” message. We will be starting up Friday night dinners again soon! We will be following where we feel led!

All of that to say…thanks for sticking with us, for supporting us, for listening, for praying and for being available on so many levels! We are very ready to settle!

We’re Coming Home

mt-mitchell-2

We’re coming home. We’re also leaving home.

When we moved to Asheville, we had no idea what was in store. We knew we likely wouldn’t be here forever, that it was a part of our journey, probably not the destination…but something happened that we never expected…Asheville became home.

Coming to this beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and the most natural beauty I’ve seen in one place was exciting…something we thought would feel like an adventure; and it was. But, that adventure became a part of our lives, and slowly, it just became our life.

We doubled our family size (as far as kids are concerned). We gained lifelong friends. Our children gained friends that they can run around the neighborhood with whenever they feel like it. Our oldest started at a brand new school that feels like something out of a story book (it’s that amazing!). Hiking and exploring became a part of our routine. We’ve learned to appreciate amazing restaurants and breweries (something this city is known for!). It’s been an amazing, amazing adventure.

We left our family behind and truly learned to rely on each other (it happens SUPER fast when you move a few states away from everyone you know!). We learned to deal with issues before they became issues and it made us grow closer than ever before. We grew up and we grew together.

This was something we never imagined.

And now we have a date. October 8, we will be moving home.

John has received a promotion that includes a relocation package back to PA!

It’s exciting…another new adventure that has a hint of familiarity to it! We’re looking forward to weekends at Hersheypark…to everything fall in Pennsylvania has to offer (hello corn mazes and hayrides!). We can do family dinners whenever we want. We’ll be close to our parents and siblings, to aunts, uncles and cousins…we’ll get to reconnect with friends without having to start over again. We’ll get to actually connect with our nieces that we’ve been watching grow through photos and videos!

We’ll get to feel settled. To (oh my goodness) go out to eat together with family around to help with the kids (we have not left the kids except when family has visited from PA!). We’ll get to spend Christmas in our own home without having to travel the country to see everyone. To spend weekends at our favorite vineyard shooting the breeze with friends we have dearly missed.

We get to reconnect. This is huge.

This all probably sounds very factual, but it is, in fact, very fueled by emotion!

We are SO, SO, SO excited to come home. But, we are also extremely sad to leave this place that became our unexpected home, the place where our family has become a family! It’s a crazy set of emotions to try to put into words!

When you can…think of us! We are praying for the sale of our home. Currently, there’s not a lot of action happening on the market because of the Labor Day holiday and start of school…but we need our home to go under contract as soon as possible. I don’t do well with unknowns…getting a few of them checked off our list will help with the moving forward business. Please pray!

There you have it…our latest update. We’re coming home!

Tomorrow my Baby Enters the World

20160815_113056

Just thinking about it all brings tears to my eyes and a million feelings I didn’t expect! But, as the title implies, tomorrow my baby enters this big world on his own two feet…tomorrow, my boy starts kindergarten.

Saying those words makes me think back. I think back to the months we waited for his arrival, to the long delivery that we never thought we’d get through…to the first time I held him and smelled him and cuddled with him. To milestones…to his first steps…to a funny dance he did over a gift at his first birthday party that had us rolling with tears…to the day he became a big brother and beamed brighter than any other time in his life. To his first soccer game.

I think of our times together…reading book after book because one is simply not enough. To his questions…to the million “why’s” and “how’s” and other engaging thoughts that show me how his intricate mind works. To the feel of his hair when it rubs against my face. To the way he smiles in his sleep, always cuddled with a stuffed animal, dreaming dreams I can’t imagine.

But now, it’s time for me to step back. To be there for him, but behind him…not right by his side as he takes those big boy steps into his new school.

I worry. Not because he is worried, because I can tell you with certainty that he is not. But, because I’m putting him into someone else’s care. The only people in the world that have watched him are his grandparents, two aunts, one uncle and Miss. Carol. That’s it. I can count them on one hand. These people have loved on him like no one else, but, kindergarten is different.

I want his teacher to see him for who he is…and after meeting her, I know she will! Not because he is “special,” but, because all students are special. I hope he listens and absorbs all there is to absorb and that he remembers his manners, his pleases, his thank yous, his hand raising and his turn waiting.

I hope the other students are kind to him. That they all want to be friends and that no one is excluded. That his “let’s be friends!” comments are met with “yesses” a games of tag and make believe. That his day is filled with laughter and adventure.

I hope his school is safe. I fear, deep down inside like every other parent, because of news stories and the scary world that we live in, that seems so much more scary when we are separated from our children and when they are left to their own devices.

I hope he thinks about me. Not that he misses me, but that he remembers how much I love him while we are apart and that he smiles because of it. That when he gets home, he’ll share with me about his day, about his new friends, about the craft he made, the books he’s read and the things he’s learned. I pray that if something hurts, he’ll share or if he needs a cuddle that he’ll remember that my lap is always open for him!

When my mind starts to roll, I think. I remember that children are a gift from God and that he’s given us the responsibility of raising them to be who he wants them to be, that they are a loan from him, designed for his purposes. I pray that he remembers what we’ve taught him and that we’ve raised him for this day, that he’s ready for the independence he’s about to encounter.

I cry, tears because I’ll miss him, but also because he’s so ready. And I know that’s a gift.

I know I’m not alone…that there are millions of other parents thinking the same thing, ready to send our babies out into this big world. I’m with you all in spirit. We can do this. We can take this first baby step in letting go. Here we go!

World…be kind to our babies!

Sometimes the World Spins

Remember all of that positivity I’d stored up and shared, about how it was so exciting to be a part of something new, something bigger…to start over? Before I address it, I want to start by saying that all of that still holds true. I’m thankful for the opportunities our family has been given. I’m excited for what we’ve accomplished here so far, I can’t wait to see what’s still in store. But boy oh boy, lately there have been challenges!

We thought we could work on those challenges by spending some much needed time back home and on vacation – this was great, a time to reconnect with those we’ve known our whole lives and some of our most cherished friends! But it was also hard, a look at what we sometimes feel that we’re missing out on and, a whole new level of homesickness when we left.

During our time home…and on our first night back, we made two trips that we didn’t expect…one to urgent care for Colin, then a second to the emergency room for a second, completely unrelated incident. He’s fine, but, there’s nothing that makes you feel like you have less control over a situation than feeling completely helpless to help your child when they need help. Again, I’ll reiterate, he is fine and by the time we left the ER last night he was running around, complaining about being hungry, making jokes with doctors and blowing bubbles all over the unit.

This pregnancy has been different than my others – thank goodness! I can eat! But, it’s also been plagued with uncertainty, pain and straight-up fear over what’s to come. Being a planner who feels most secure when life is going according to that plan, this has been a hard thought to swallow. When you go into your third pregnancy, whether you’re high risk or not, you are pretty sure you have it together. You’ve been through the ringer, you know your body and you feel competent to face the 9 months (and lifetime!) that lie ahead…it’s exciting! However…it just took one ultrasound and one tiny (beautiful!) little extra heartbeat to send things spiraling in an unexpected direction. This was compounded by the fact that we’re so far from so many loved ones!

This probably sounds like life to most people! And, I’m the first to admit that it really is. Life is full of uncertainties, of adventures and of unexpected events…that’s what makes it exciting and thrilling. But it’s also what gives that feeling of spinning, which I know is not unique to me or to my family. Sometimes, the world just spins a little faster than normal, or than what we anticipated!

I guess I’m just throwing this out there to be honest. I blog to share what’s happening, to give others something to relate to and to be honest. And honestly, that’s where we are right now.

When life gets here, I try – and am trying still! – to focus forward. To think about all the amazing blessings that have been literally poured into our lives. To look past the chaos to what’s ahead and to trust in the fact that this is all going somewhere amazing, somewhere I cannot fathom or imagine on my own. I remind myself that having control over everything is no way to live, you’ve got to leave room for some spinning, for some surprises! If it weren’t for that, how boring would this journey be?

Where are you at today? What’s spinning in your world? What can you grab onto to remind yourself that something beautiful is in the works?

Beach Family Photo

This is something I hold onto…the amazing family I’ve been blessed with and the adventures we get to share!

 

Way Beyond Me

I’m back!! As many of you have taken notice to (thank you for the messages!), I’ve been a bit…absent…for the past month. That’s because – for those who follow me on Facebook – I had some news that was taking up a whole lot of my thoughts and time that would otherwise be devoted to trying to find new ways to be fit and that was hard to keep under wraps. But, now that it’s gone public, I can get back to doing what I love and sharing some of that with you!

For those that missed it, John and I shared some exciting news yesterday:

announcement

To make it just a little bit clearer:

twin_ultrasound

We are doubling our family by adding a set of twins to the mix! This is exciting and we feel beyond blessed by all of the support we have received from those close to us and those who we haven’t had a chance to be with for a long time.

But, before the excitement, and under a lot of it, we’ve had our own process that has had ups, downs, moments of shock, fear and excitement all thrown in together. I want to share with you how we got to yesterday’s big announcement, and what’s helped us focus on the (very exciting!) big picture.

Rewind a bit. Many of you know that in general, I’m not great at being pregnant. My first two pregnancies were challenges that never went quite according to plan until the moments that our two little guys made their perfect appearances. For awhile, we decided we were happy with our two, blessed that everything turned out and ready to move on.

But, the desire to have more never quite went away. I truly believe that God puts specific desires on our hearts for a reason; mine has always been to have a family full of children. After my second pregnancy, I focused on myself for awhile, put effort into fitness and getting into shape and leaving our plans in the hands of the one that knows and guides our steps before we take them.

A whole lot of life changes happened all at once: health struggles that resulted in surgery last October, a move across country to North Carolina, away from everyone that we know and love, a new job for John, a new life as a stay at home Mom for me and a lot of other things that we never could have dreamed up on our own. It was a crazy year!

In the end of March and beginning of February, I started feeling off. Eventually, I broke down and took a pregnancy test. To our surprise, it was positive. We were apprehensive because of the journey of the past year, but excited! I had an early ultrasound around 5 weeks to date the pregnancy and we saw a single microscopic little one in there.

The strangest part about all of this, is that during this time, I started having dreams about twins. This is something I only shared with John. We thought it was strange because we’d clearly seen one baby, but in my heart it just felt like something else was going on. We had the ultrasound…there was one! I felt silly that I couldn’t shake the feeling. Certain blood levels were a little high, but we saw one. I let it go.

A few weeks later I went back in for another appointment. As the doctor did the ultrasound, the words “yep, there’s two,” came out of his mouth…”two…babies?” I asked? “Yep, look…one…two,” he said matter-of-factly (he’s a play it straight sort of guy hah). Even with the dreams I had, I was completely shocked.

Stepping back from that moment, I wonder if I should have been less shocked. How many times has something been made clear to us, something that we chalk up to impossible? During these times, at least for me, I tend to cling to the rational knowledge that “I” have on my own, ignoring something that maybe I’m supposed to listen to and trust. This has happened many times in my life: the day I felt led to search for my own name online, leading to finding my birth family, the day it was clear that moving to Asheville, something I saw as completely beyond me, was the right thing for our family and so on.

After that big “surprise” we started to tell those closest to us, with apprehension. Twin pregnancies are inherently high risk…from vanishing twin syndrome (yea, I never should have looked this up) in the early weeks to complications later on like pre-term delivery, growth restriction and risks to the mom, we were filled with excitement, but also with the feeling that this is something much bigger than us. We are here on our own. We are still figuring out how to live as a family of four on our own. We have the gear and energy for one baby…but two?

Doubts have run rampant. But, through it all, there’s been this still, calm voice saying “trust me.” We don’t know what the future has in store…we don’t know how we’re going to do this on our own, but those fears and doubts are being answered with truth and realistic applications. We’ve grown closer to new friends in our new home. We’ve found a medical practice that understands my situation and is ready to meet each surprise with experience. The trials of my last pregnancy have not been as severe this time around. Each need has been met and we are going to trust that it will continue.

This past weekend, we were given the opportunity to travel to Nashville for the Country Music and St. Jude Half Marathon and Full Marathon as part of Team Toby Mac and Run for Hope, thanks to SO many of you for your amazing generosity. While I was unable to complete the half marathon, I jogged and walked the 5k. I did it for the kids at New Hope Academy and for those supported by the efforts of St. Jude.

But, I also was able to take something away for myself. You see, two Toby Mac songs have really spoken to us over the past few months. The first is “Beyond Me.”

“It’s way beyond
Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown.”

Right now, we are in our own great unknown. We are optimistic and excited for what’s ahead, but once again we’ve found ourselves in that place that what we thought, dreamed and planned has become something much bigger than we could have come up with or devised on our own…something beyond us. But, as we found with our move…it’s a pretty amazing place to be.

The second is “Steal My Show.”

“If You wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch You go
If You got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need You to steal my show, can’t wait to watch You go
So take it away”

Sometimes we have great plans. We know what we want for tomorrow, the next day, next year and beyond. But, sometimes, we’ve gotta sit back, let go and watch what happens.

We got to see Toby perform both of these songs and I was filled with this amazing calm…”see, I’ve got you covered. You may not have this on your own, but you’re not on your own,” is what I felt. How amazing is it when we think we’re doing something for others, that it turns out to be just as big for us?

Thank you all for following along during all this, I’m sure I will have excitement to share as this journey progresses! Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers and just for surrounding us with love during everything. We’ve never really felt so blessed and are excited about what’s to come!

10 weeks

Kids Can be a Part of Fitness Fun Too!

FighterMoms are busy people. From making sure their jobs are done if they work outside of the home to ensuring the house is running smoothly, the family is happy, healthy and fed and spending time with everyone, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or to feel like you’re just not sure of how to fit anything else in. Usually fitness comes in somewhere at the bottom of this list.

I get it. Prior to our move, my kids were in daycare part time and near family the rest of the time. When I needed a workout, I scheduled it around the times that someone else could watch them. The thought of integrating it all together? Nope, I didn’t think it was possible.

Then we moved. We decided to keep the kids at home for a little while with no family nearby. We had no idea what would happen. This is when I started to look for other options. We invested in gym equipment for the home – which was a great start and can be done on a relatively low budget with monthly payment plans, providing your commitment to using that equipment is strong.

I also discovered the world of at-home workouts on networks like Amazon Prime and Netflix and even better, on Pinterest. There are so many ways to stay fit without the equipment, fitness instructors and memberships. I also met women who are trying to figure it all out too. Something we’ve learned? The kids don’t have to be an obstacle to fitness. With the tools that are available, working out doesn’t even have to be a “naptime” activity. It can all be integrated…here’s how.

1. Let your excitement show.

If your kids see that you’re excited to workout, they’ll pick up on it and likely want to know more, watch or even participate! Talk about what you’re going to be doing and tell them why – as much as you can for their age level. The important thing is that they’ll learn that fitness is part of what should happen on a regular basis, that it’s fun and that you do it to stay healthy. Simple and fun.

2. Get them in on the Process.

Your toddlers may not have burpee potential or the ability to crank out pushups, but they can still play a role! Let them count what you’re doing, watch the clock for you and shout encouragement. Chances are you’ll be distracted enough to enjoy your workout a little more and the kids will feel like they’re helping you.

3. Give them a Distraction.

If you have a 30 or 60 minute workout plan, you can’t expect the counting and encouraging to last throughout the entire process. Give them a distraction. Set up a healthy snack station, bring in a few toys that they haven’t seen in awhile or allow them to work on a craft within eyesight.

4. Take it Outside.

We all need a little Vitamin D. If you’ve got a yard that’s suitable or a nearby playground, bring the kids with you. Do your workout while they play. They’ll love to have some fun and will expend some energy while you do your thing.

5. Find a Group.

You’re not the only mom looking for a way to stay fit. Find a group of women or a friend or two. Make a commitment to workout at a certain time on set days and stick to it. Having a work out buddy keeps you accountable, gives your kids some extra playmates and provides an extra incentive to get out there!

Working out can be fun and encouraging for the whole family. Follow the tips above to get started!