Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where we have been

Everyone on Facebook is doing it, and I thought it might be kind of fun to look at our family maps so that we can plan accordingly.

Bret's map... only three states to go

Erin's map.. missing the middle (and Maryland and Delaware)

Combined Kids (Grant has the most with 21; Trent the fewest with 14)

Monday, November 10, 2014

National Adoption Month

In light of National Adoption Month, I have to share this sweet, sweet photo of our dear Grace.  My friend (Dawnelle--I love you!) alerted me to a research website that happened to have uncovered this gem of a photo.  As you can imagine, our photos of Grace from the first 14 months of her life are minimal, and any picture-- any chance of adding to our collection--is an absolute miracle.  

This little picture, taken just about a month before we held her in our arms, is coming my way... and it feels like it's Christmas morning!

But, I would be remiss in light of National Adoption Month not to point out that there are almost 18 MILLION orphans in the world.

That sentence is enough to want to make me vomit.  For real.

That staggering reality makes me want to curl up in a ball or throw my hands up in the air--claiming defeat.  

But, I am here to say that we must--we MUST--be about helping the fatherless of this world.

This truth is especially relevant to my Christian comrades.  Adoption is the ultimate reality for us: we are adopted--it's the very center of the Gospel message. 

We must prayerfully consider if adoption is our call--even if biological children come easily.  Adoption cannot be the "back up plan."  It can't be reserved for those who simply can't have bio kids. We need to pray the scary and often terrifying prayer: "Would you have this of me?"  

And, if the call isn't to adopt--the call to help the fatherless, the orphans still remains.

We need to support other families, often financially, who are choosing to adopt.

We need to support organizations that are actively sponsoring children in need.

We need to pray for the orphans of the world.

This is not an option, my friends.  The call is clear, and it is a call for all of us.  

Sunday, November 02, 2014

My Favorite Halloween Picture

Sums up how we adults felt about Halloween this year!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Halloween 2014

So cold.  Even the kids begged to head back in after about 10 houses.  Then, it was off to our local police station for a haunted house and the fire station to drive the trucks (which was the highlight of the night for Trent).  I feel like enduring one such Halloween is a midwest right of passage.  But, oh, it was so miserable.

Harry Potter, Elsa (complete the singing, light up dress) and our little train engineer (who was too miserable to even try trick or treating!).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Successful Christmas Photo Shoot!

I still like 2012's cry picture better... but, nonetheless, Trent likes to keep traditions alive.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hershey and Home

One of our last days of vacation landed us for two nights in Hershey, PA--home of Hershey chocolates.  Much of Hershey can be kid heaven and parent nightmare, but we managed to squeak some great memories out of our time there.

We started off at Chocolate World, where you can spend a small fortune on various activities or take the free tour.  We opted for the free option, thinking it would be an actual tour of the factory.  Rather, it is an animatronic ride with singing cows that quickly walks you through the candy making process.  The kids loved it, and they especially liked the free candy at the end.  As parents, I felt extremely short changed... it moved so quickly and any real knowledge was drowned out by the constant singing of those cows... that, in the end, I'm not sure I know any more about chocolate than I did prior to my two spins on the ride.

We walked around the candy store forever.

Then, we actually did something interesting.  We visited the Milton Hershey school, which was actually very informative.  The school, founded eons ago, was founded to help orphan boys.  It has since evolved into an amazing campus with over 1,400 students, all of whom have been orphaned or are "socially" orphaned by extreme poverty. Every need is then provided for these kids: from travel to entertainment to a world class education to food and shelter.  It was very touching and awe inspiring.

Then, after lunch (my cute lunch date below), we headed to Hershey Park After Dark.  The Hershey amusement park was opened from 5-10pm, and we eeked out every single possible second of that time riding rides and having fun.  Bret and Grant rode too many coasters to count, and Grace patiently rode some rides with Trent (who is a ride junkie) until her time came!  It was a great evening with lots of fun memories!

Getting ready to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl.  Let me tell you how fast you can spin when you have one plump adult on one side and two little kiddos on the other!

A kiddie roller coaster...

We opted to come home a day early for a variety of reasons.  First, we stopped off at the Flight 93 memorial.  It was humbling to remember those brave men and women aboard that flight.  Grant and Grace didn't really understand, but they were quietly respectful nonetheless.  Afterwards, we made a several hour stop in Pittsburgh to eat and to scope, but instead of stopping for the evening, we headed home.  

This vacation ended up being one of our favorite vacations in awhile.  It was a great mix of culture, city, fun and family.  We have made some lasting memories...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Our Last Day In Montreal

After a late start this morning, we were up and out and around Old Montreal.  We decided after a brunch of fish and chips (Bret's choice, not mine) to rent some bikes to trail around the waterfront.  Trent loved it; Grace loved it, and Bret and I endured it.  Grant, poor Grant, just couldn't get the hang of having a bike with multiple gears and hand only brakes.  But, we muddled through and had a fun time.

We stopped for ice cream and some quick shopping on the way to Notre Dame, but to be honest, by the time we got there, we had a pretty cranky toddler on our hands.  We had planned on going back all week, but when the time came, we couldn't quite it figured out.  We opted for some final swim time, which I am sure the kids would have preferred anyway.

For dinner, we hopped on the Metro and headed out to some Italian restaurant farther out in the city.  It was great... and it was fun to watch Trent ride "Thomas" as he called the train and the older kids learn some Metro etiquette and some new navigation skills. Even with the language barrier, Grant was able to navigate our stops for us, which was great.

We are in the car for most of the day tomorrow with a big day in Hershey, PA on Friday.  More to come!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Another Day, Another Blister (or two!)

This morning was yet again another gorgeous day!  The weather here has been absolutely and unseasonably fantastic.  We start off with sweatshirts until about 10 am, and today, we all would have been in shorts if we could have been!

The day started with a visit to the one of the highest rated French bakeries in the city.  Simply put: to die for good!

Then, it was off by car to the Biodome, Insectarium and Botantical Gardens.  The Biodome is in an old Olympic venue, and it has been converted to a sort of an indoor animal exhibit based on a variety of climate factors.   The Insectarium speaks for itself, and the Botantical Gardens, while beautiful, proved to be a highlight solely for it having a playground!  Bret slept on two different park benches (not creepy at all), and Grant and Grace made a little French speaking friend, proving once again that language isn't a barrier to seven year olds!

We tried Candian fast food for lunch.  Let's just say that Chic Fil A and Zaxby's have nothing to worry about if this place comes into town.

Then, on the way back to the hotel, we all fell asleep.  Bret took that to mean "let's go explore this mountain village an hour away."  But, in the end, we had a great time walking around the shops, looking at the fall colors (no, really, I have NEVER seem leaves like this!), and checking out both an ice cream shop (complete with French cartoons) and a chocolate shop.

After a stop in Montreal suburbia for new tennis shoes for Grace and some Lebanese food, we were in for the night.  
Tomorrow: a lazy day around Old Montreal, Notre Dame, and maybe a bike ride down along the river!